Chemmie Squier | Acting Fashion & Beauty Editor | Thursday, 28 January 2016

How To Set Up A Successful ASOS Marketplace Boutique, From The Girls Who Have Done It

How To Set Up A Successful ASOS Marketplace Boutique, From The Girls Who Have Done It

The Debrief: Been thinking of setting up your own fashion shop? Now's the time to do it.

We have no doubt that you're au fait with ASOS proper, but do you ever do the old tab switcheroo over to ASOS Marketplace? If not, why not? Some of the best buys around – we're talking suede-fringed jackets you'd pay £300 for at Topshop and grungy cotton mini dresses you can only find viscose versions of in 2014 – can be found there. 

Pretty much the best thing ASOS have done since, er, opening, was launch Marketplace five years ago. Unlike Etsy and eBay though (brilliant though they both are) Marketplace is a lot more relevant. Whereas the search process on excessively large auction sites can be as arduous as it is bonkers, the fashion-focused Marketplace is run by young designers and vintage sellers who are aware of trends and the demands of a girl in her twenties.  It's currently home to 1000 boutiques from over 45 countries and counting, with the biggest boutique being run by 24-year-old entrepreneur Spencer Lyon who runs GullyGarms which has made over £1 million since launching. Sorry, what? And, he has over 10 employees, one of which is his mum - cute! - and has a sister boutique for womenswear called GullyGurls. 

The beauty is that there's no huge commitment and you can do it wherever you are. Sounds pretty ideal, right? To give a helping hand if you are thinking about it, we spoke to the owners of some already very successful and very cool boutiques to get their top tips for becoming a fashion entrepreneur.

But to help you navigate the site even more easily, we tracked down the top sellers on Marketplace to find out more about selling on the platform – and their top buys. 

Stick To Your Own Style

It’s all well and good cramming your shop full of seventies clothing because you know it’s A Thing right now but if you don’t like it, it makes little sense. Customers will be able to tell if you're simply trying to hit all the 'trends', rather than selling stuff you like and are passionate about.

‘Keep to your style. I like to pick things I’d wear rather than just “oh this is from the 70s so I’ll buy it”. If you see some people doing sports wear and sports wear isn’t what you do, don’t go down that route and don’t think about what everyone else is doing. That way you’ll go the way you want to go,’ says Hailea, owner of Dirty Disco Vintage.

Rebecca, founder of KirikO The GaNg, agrees. ‘I kept really true to myself and what I would wear and how I would put things together.’

Know Your Brand

This leads on from the previous point: if you know yourself, what you want from your brand and where you want it to go, you’ll inevitably build a strong identity so make sure you think about these things. 

As Rebecca says, ‘You need to have something authentic to you because that’s what will make you stand out in the long run and you can build a really strong customer base by doing that. If you dip in and out of too many things, I think it can become confusing. I also think it shows that you really believe in what you’re doing if you keep it consistent.’

To be honest, it is a bit of a balancing act between appealing to as many people as possible, but also being passionate about what you create and produce. ’Do research and know your market, but also go on your gut instinct,’ Johanna and Felicity, who are sisters and owners of Fan-Club and Thrift Store

Aluna, owner of Aluna Mae, backed this up saying, ‘I normally go with my gut feeling. I have spent hours designing and making something but sometimes it just doesn’t feel right and so I won’t sell it as it would not be representing the brand. I consider myself as the type of customer I aim my pieces to so if I don’t like it, chances are my customers wont either.’

Use Social Media

Excuse me for stating the blindingly obvious but social media is kinda a big deal. Rather than purely relying on ASOS Marketplace, feed customers through to your boutique by utilising other platforms. Instagram is an obvious choice of course,  but don’t neglect others like Pinterest. 

Rebecca, for example, uses Pinterest to build her brand as a whole by creating different mood boards. ‘I would like to think of the brand as being a lifestyle brand not just clothing. It encompasses bigger things like travel and home and your home decor and stuff you’re interested in generally.’ Plus, when people share your images and model shots, it will inevitably lead people back to your shop.

Photography Is Key

Shitty, grainy pictures aren’t going to encourage a customer to click on your product, so putting effort into how you showcase your stock is paramount. Rebecca agrees, ‘One of the biggest things when selling online is the imagery. It was definitely a trial and error at the beginning, working out the kind of direction I wanted to take things and I looked on Instagram for some really cool photographers and I approached somebody on there. Have a look around on social media for people you really love and inspire you.’

Having great pictures could lead on to other things too. ‘ASOS Marketplace notice great photography which could lead to them using your image for campaigns or reposting on social media,’ says Aluna.

As well as the quality of pictures, how you style the product is important too because it's helpful to know how to style a piece you're about to buy. ‘How I put things together is very editorial and I think my styling background helps with that. I wanted to inspire people in how they can wear things,’ Rebecca told me.

Keep It Up To Date

It might be difficult to keep on top of it, but don't go weeks without updating the stock or responding to customers. Dedicating time to it will pay off; hopefully very literally. ‘The best way to do it, is to be on the “New In” page as much as you can. For lots of people it’s the first place they go’, recommends Hailea. In other words, consistently updating your stock, will massively help with brand awareness and up your popularity.

Go For It!

A an oldie but a goodie - just get on and do it, because there's really nothing to lose, especially with no rental fee for the first three months. ‘Be fearless and just go for it, you never know what your boutique could lead you to!’ said Aluna.

'We always live by the mantra of I suppose fuck it let’s do it, life it too short and all that, that helps us make quick decisions and also makes us work so hard for something we love, they are like our babies,' Johanna and Felicity told me.

But to help you navigate the site even more easily, we tracked down the four top sellers on Marketplace to find out more about selling on the platform – and their top buys. 

We tracked down ASOS Marketplace's top sellers for some insider trading tips...

Peekaboo Vintage

Like all great thrift seekers, Peekaboo started on Portobello Road in 1991 – though you've most likely aware of them because of their presence in Topshop's vintage section, where they have been supplying wares for 15 years. Having enjoyed a huge degree of success travelling the world in pursuit of 'unique, hand-picked vintage' pieces why did they decide to join ASOS Marketplace? 'Well, we had a strong presence on the high street and we already had our own online site, but it felt very relevant for us to be part of Marketplace too,' explains owner Emily Bothwell.

Peekaboo is one of – if not, the – largest sellers on ASOS Marketplace, with currently over 1,300 items for sale. Marketplace – as the name suggests – also allows a seller a greater degree of competition. 'It allows us to be open seven days a week, 24 hours a day and able to compete with non-vintage companies such as Net-a-Porter and Matchesfashion.com,' explains Bothwell. As with any online traders, '100% feedback is very important to us,' they affirm. And they're biggest sellers? 'Vintage dresses.' With over 300 currently available online, we suggest you hop on over, pronto. 

Peekaboo Vintage, Vintage 1970's Amazing Cherry Red Wide Leg Trousers, £60; Peekaboo Vintage, Vintage 1970's Gorgeous Red Silk Extreme Ruffled Blouse, £95

Never Fully Dressed

A favourite here at The Debrief, Never Fully Dressed joined Marketplace as soon as it launched two years ago. Like many great brands, they also began life at Portobello market. 'Someone who worked at the main ASOS site used to shop at my Portobello stall and they told me to get involved with Marketplace, which had just launched,' explains founder Lucy Tighe. 'My parents were market traders, so I was bought up selling scrunchies to shoppers down the Roman [road in the East End] before I started selling clothes at the markets.'

So is it all hella stressful? No, she says. 'It's pretty effortless. I like an easy life, tbh. That's why everything originally started as one size – and that mindset translates into what I design. If something works, I'll just carry it through in new colours.' With a generally young customer base – 18-28 being the peak age range – Never Fully Dressed's best sellers are the co-ords, Alexandra Tees and Jones Cardis. We've got our eye (once tan is present) on the Iris Bow co-ord. 

Never Fully Dressed, Amour Red, £59.99; Never Fully Dressed, Boob T, £32

We Are Hairy People

'It was a great opportunity to grow my brand,' explains store owner Sarah Caulfield when asked why We Are Hairy People launched on ASOS Marketplace. 'Getting your work seen is so difficult – Marketplace was a crucial find for me.' Originally an artist and an animator, Caulfield's USP is 'creating wearable art; unique pieces which are made personally for each customer by painting the garments like they are a canvas.' Caulfield started her fashion business with no background in either fashion or business, but 'love and care' is at the brand's heart. 'That's why I make each piece myself and sell only sweatshop-free clothing,' she says.

Marketplace allows for a lot of freedom, too. 'We embrace imperfection and our style is very easy to wear.' Her biggest market is teenage girls and currently it's her hummingbird designs that are flying off the shelves. And what's next for We Are Hairy People? 'My aim is to create employment for more artists,' says Caulfield. 'But I'm just really grateful that people buy my work!' 

We Are Hairy People, Hand Painted Clouds Apron Dungaree Dress, £129; We Are Hairy People, Hand Painted Equality Tee, £29.99

Like this? You might also be interested in:

What Ever Happened To 'Dressing Our Age'?

The Tricky Politics Of Trying To Dress Your Boyfriend

SS16 Trends That You Can (And Arguably Should) Buy And Wear Now

Follow Chemmie on Twitter @chemsquier