Southeast Asian fashion group FJ Benjamin opened five new online stores for recognised international fashion labels, with more to come, as it pivoted online in the wake of trading restrictions during the Covid-19 crisis.
Brandowners typically grant distributors only brick-and-mortar rights and prior to the pandemic, FJ Benjamin had e-commerce rights for only Superdry, the British streetwear brand. So when stores were shuttered due to government social-distancing measures, the Singapore company could not immediately turn online to compensate for suspended in-store sales.
However the company has since sealed deals with Guess, Casio, Pretty Ballerina and Anti-Social Social Club to sell online. FJ Benjamin’s IT staff worked around the clock to develop stores for the brands and get them up and running as permission was granted by brand owners.
Further sites are imminent for US Polo Association, Rebecca Minkoff, Moby, Lancel, Axel Arigato, Barbara Sturm, and “a well-known European lifestyle cosmetics brand,” said FJ Benjamin Group COO Douglas Benjamin.
Superdry launched online in Singapore in June last year and in Malaysia last January. “The results were very encouraging,” Benjamin said.
When the pandemic hit, FJ Benjamin-run stores in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia were shuttered for the much of the past two months. So Benjamin quickly pursued e-commerce rights for other brands.
“We are pleased that we are now able to offer the convenience of e-commerce to our customers for five brands, and will be able to do so very soon for at least seven more, including some new labels which will make online debuts only,” he said.
“In the future, we may consider opening brick-and-mortar stores if it proves to be a viable option depending on the Covid-19 situation, performance of the brand online and future rental expectations,” he said.
Benjamin said overseas brand principals understood the challenges faced by the group amid the pandemic and readily agreed to releasing the online channel rights in its markets.
He says a new focus online will not see less attention to physical stores, although the closure of some non-performing outlets in the three markets is inevitable.
We will definitely be culling stores that are not performing to expectations, where we cannot be profitable either because of high cost or low volume.”
However, he believes physical stores will always be relevant in the fashion industry.
“People still want to go down to stores to touch and feel, but there is a new comfort that has emerged among consumers with regards to shopping online.”
FJ Benjamin has adopted a click-and-pick omnichannel approach to its online stores which allows customers to buy online and collect or return items in physical stores, where they are available.
Benjamin expects consumers will continue to shop online once the pandemic passes as consumers have got used to the channel.
“We believe this shift to online shopping, although hastened by the Covid-19 pandemic, will be sustainable and scalable.”
Those advantages include being able to shop 24-seven with different access points to their preferred brands.