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Sisters Magdalene (left) and Clare are taking their brand to New York as part of HVV’s expansion plans. Photo: HVV

In the third part of a six-week series featuring SMEs that have taken steps to build their capabilities or venture into new markets with Spring Singapore’s support, Gregory Leow speaks to Her Velvet Vase.

The Straits Times
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August 19, 2015

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WHEN Her Velvet Vase (HVV) was set up in 2007, there were only a handful of fashion blogshops in Singapore.

Founded by Ms Clare Chan and her sister Magdalene when they were 19 and 14 respectively, HVV was one of the first local online stores that designed and produced its own fashion creations.

That first-mover advantage helped HVV to earn an annual seven- figure revenue from 2010, but that edge slowly eroded as fashion retail websites proliferated between 2009 and 2011.

“Previously, it was about selling as many products as possible, now blogshops are upping their game with more quality apparel with a good cut and a more streamlined shopping  experience,” says Ms Chan, now 27.

In 2013, the company engaged a consultant recommended by Spring Singapore to reassess its business and conduct a customer analysis.

The review gave the founders the opportunity to take time out to think about how best to retain that edge in the competitive online fashion retail industry.

Website revamp

Although its e-commerce portal was functional, HVV wanted to create a seamless shopping experience for its customers with an interface that was easy to use and  customisable enough for its back-end team to handle.

Using Spring Singapore’s Capability Development Grant, the focus was on making its website more than just about e-commerce and building a more multi-faceted shopping experience.

Shoppers are encouraged to share their hobbies and interests so that the team is able to recommend relevant fashion features or sponsored content.

Shoppers can also pose any style or fitting queries to its online personal stylist.

The upgraded website was launched in April last year and the company has seen a 30 per cent increase in its customer database, along with a 60 per cent increase in overall productivity.

The founders and their team also came up with the idea of a Mood Box.

Customers are asked about their favourite colours, their mood of the day and any upcoming occasions.LF Profile 3

Clothing and accessories, together with free sponsor handouts, are then assembled and couriered to the customer.

HVV was the first online store to offer this concept, which was launched in late 2013.

“By tapping into a niche market, we were able to offer customers a unique shopping experience and simultaneously clear our inventory,” says Ms Chan.

New York, New York

The company is also establishing its brand in the United States — with the support of IE Singapore — after opening an office in New York to handle operations,  marketing and creative work.

“From a design perspective, we felt that it would be interesting to tap on the distinguishing aspects of both New York and Singapore’s fashion culture to bring about a fresh and unique
fashion element,” says Ms Chan.

Its first product launch in New York in the middle of the year received positive reviews from top publications and bloggers, who considered the company a refreshing alternative on the e-commerce fashion scene.

While some companies would have chosen to expand regionally, HVV chose to go straight to one of the biggest e-commerce and fashion hubs in the world.

Ms Chan feels that the company’s unique services like the Mood Box and its VIP customer retention programme can be used to its advantage as many US online stores in the same genre have not implemented this.

As the company works directly with factories in China, the lead time, quality and price points can be controlled.

“It will be a good learning experience and there is valuable expertise that our team can gain. Plus it is an opportunity to put Singapore on the global platform,” says Ms Chan.

Capability Development Grant

The Capability Development Grant (CDG) is aimed at helping small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) defray qualifying costs of their capability upgrading projects to improve productivity and develop business capabilities for process improvement, product development and overseas expansion.

To encourage more SMEs to build business capabilities, the application process for grant support of $30,000 or less has been simplified. SMEs can look forward to simpler application
forms and reduced documentation requirements for such projects.

For more information and guidance on the CDG, visit www.spring.gov.sg/cdg or call 6898-1800 to make a free appointment with an SME Centre business adviser.

Singapore Retail Industry Conference

The 24th annual Singapore Retail Industry Conference will be held at Suntec City Convention Centre on Sept 22.

Co-organised by the Singapore Productivity Centre and the Singapore Retailers Association, the conference is Singapore’s key retail event for the latest retail trends and global best practices.
With the theme of Re-Evolve Retail, this year’s conference promises to inspire companies to achieve greater growth through international and local sharings, focusing on how retail businesses around the world have transformed to meet today’s challenges.

Visit http://www.sgpc.sg/index.php/ sric2015 for more information.

For more information on the retail sector and stories on how retailers have built their capabilities, please visit www.spring.gov.sg/retail or email lifestyle_division@spring.gov.sg.


This article was first published on Aug 19, 2015.
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