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Q&A with Dean Jones of GlamCorner

Welcome to our weekly Q&A with one of Internet Retailing’s 2017 Top 50 People in E-Commerce. See our previous Q&As here.  

This week, editor Heather McIlvaine speaks to Dean Jones, CEO and co-founder of GlamCorner, an online fashion rental business based on Rent the Runway in the US. Jones started the company with his wife, Audrey Khaing-Jones, who is COO, in 2012.

Short on time? Here are three key takeaways from the interview:

  • GlamCorner is growing over 500 per cent per year and generating millions in annual revenue.
  • The online fashion rental company offers next-day delivery to 98 per cent of Australia and 3-hour delivery in Sydney.
  • Despite frequent requests, the co-founders are not planning to expand into menswear any time soon.

Heather McIlvaine: Tell me about how you and Audrey came up with the idea for GlamCorner.

Dean Jones: We always had very enterprising DNA. We had a startup during university. It was just an importing business, and it didn’t quite work out, but we learned a lot doing it. We got the idea for GlamCorner after working in the finance industry for a few years.

We were at the stage in life when a lot of people were getting married, there were a lot of big birthday parties and work events. It was easy for me, especially if it was black tie, because I could always hire a tux. But Audrey was asking why she had to go out and buy a $600-800 dress for a specific event and wear it once.

She discovered Rent the Runway in the US and thought, ‘Far out, that’s a great idea.’ There was no one doing it in Australia, so in late 2012, we set up a simple website and launched. We started to pick up steam in 2013, and even though we hadn’t planned on this being anything more than an extra income – I was still working in finance and just moonlighting with the company – we had thousands and thousands of customers.

In 2014, we started building more supplier relationships, investing in our technology platform, and especially in logistics, to make it more scalable and be able to deliver anywhere in the country next day. Airtree Ventures invested in us in 2015, and we’ve raised $1.3 million of seed money from them so far.

HM: What’s it like to go to work with your partner every day?

DJ: Audrey and I met over 10 years ago in 2006 and got married in 2011. We’ve been together for a long time and are good, strong co-founders of this business. From the moment we wake up in the morning, to the moment we go to sleep at night, we’re just on the attack for this business.

I’m the CEO and Audrey’s COO, so she’s in the engine room every day making sure everything runs smoothly day to day. My job is everything from tomorrow onward…are we steering the ship in the right direction, hiring the right people growing the business in the right way? We complement each other.

HM: What has GlamCorner’s growth trajectory been like?

DJ: We recently moved into our fourth warehouse in four years. We started in the study of our home with a rack of dresses and we’re now in a 1000sqm warehouse in Alexandria. Being in Alexandria is very helpful because all the major carriers have DCs there, and we want to be as close as possible to those.

We have 46 people on the payroll, although not everyone is full-time. A lot of people help us with the pick, patch and dispatch process because we do that all in-house. This allows us to maintain quality and efficiency. We can ship to customers a lot faster when we don’t use any third parties for that stuff.

We now have 2500 units of inventory available for rent and are filling thousands of orders per month. We’re now seeing millions of dollars of revenue per annum and are growing over 500 per cent year-on-year.

HM: You have always kept logistics in-house. What’s the reason for that?

DJ: E-commerce is fundamentally about logistics. Provided you have the right merchandise and price point, the next most important thing to the customer is how fast you can get it to them. 3PLs are cheaper to use, but you don’t necessarily get priority. You might have to wait in line for your order to shipped.

I know a lot of e-commerce companies have gravitated towards third party logistics. It might work for other models, but for our model – on-demand pay-per-use designer fashion – we’ve resisted taking any shortcuts and invested in the ability to deliver at scale.

We do next-day delivery to 98 per cent of Australia. There may be some regional areas where it’s two business days. In Sydney, we can ship in three hours, provided we get the order in sufficient time. We have some excellent third-party carriers that are on standby on Fridays because we get a spike around midday.

HM: A lot of people say Amazon will struggle in Australia because the geography and population make same- or next-day delivery really difficult. What would you say to that?

DJ: We’re proving that it’s possible. The DNA is there. Australia Post have got a huge footprint and an excellent infrastructure that has really improved a lot in the last 3-5 years.

HM: What’s next for GlamCorner?

DJ: People always ask us if we’re going to expand into menswear. At the moment the answer is no. Our objective is to stay focused on what we do really well, which is on-demand women’s fashion for special events.

Our mission over the next few years is to become a household name. We need to acquire more inventory and have as much for rent as is available in the primary retail market.

We want more and more women to say, ‘You know what? I’m going to rent as opposed to buy this.’ That strategic opportunity is still wide open for us.

HM: The sharing economy has had some bad press lately with Uber and Airbnb. Do you see any drawbacks to this model, are there still opportunities?

DJ: The sharing economy is a technology-enabled seismic shift in the way people consume things. That hasn’t happened in a while…the last one was maybe TV?  Two thirds of Australians have actively participated in the sharing economy in some way or another. We’re a big beneficiary of that.

I don’t think there are any real drawbacks. I think the most vocal critics are the people whose industries are being disrupted by it. When the end user is getting a better deal, some will people argue that someone else [e.g. taxi drives, renters] is getting a worse deal. But it’s not necessarily a zero sum game. It’s more correcting a previous disequilibrium in the pricing mechanism.

For whatever reason, maybe it was regulation, prices were out of whack before. The sharing economy comes in and sets a new market price. In the short term, yes, there will be slips, but in the longer term, and I’m talking decades, I think we’ll find the sharing economy will help make things more sustainable.

For instance, the average Australian consumer is the second highest consumer of clothing per capita in the world behind the US. We consume about 27 kilos of clothing each year,  which is double the global average. People buy a lot of stuff in Australia and don’t use it. That’s why about 6 tonnes of clothing are thrown away – literally put in the bin – every 10 seconds.

This just shows that something is really broken. The industry hasn’t innovated in a while and it’s become inefficient.

Dean Jones and Audrey Khaing-Jones were named to Internet Retailing’s 2017 Top 50 People in E-Commerce, which can be downloaded here.

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