Brothers Gio and Daniel Najar started Chi Chi London in 2008, initially white-labelling products for companies including New Look and Dorothy Perkins. However with the recession bringing a squeeze on margins, and realising that their fate was in the hands of the wholesalers and stockists, in 2011 the brothers relaunched as an own-label fashion brand and took their dresses direct to market...
The business now sells online and through high-street retailers, such as ASOS and House of Fraser, and has extended its range to shoes and handbags and is building a casual clothing range. In 2016 Chi Chi London appeared on the Fast Track Ones to Watch list, as sales reached £8 million and the team grew to 38 staff.
Here we sit down with Director and Founder, Gio, to find out more about how they successfully pivoted the business, as well as the lessons others in a similar position can take from their story.
Hello Gio, could you tell us the story of your turning point and how it impacted the business?
Our turning point was about two years ago when we identified that we had something different to any other fashion company in the market. We provide customers with amazing dresses at amazing price points. We saw that there was no other business that could do the type of embroidery and print that we could do with such attention to detail, we pushed hard in this area and feel that we are the ‘go to’ brand for this type of product. By doing this we then gained substantial UK and overseas business accounts which made us more visible to customers and this sent the brand to another level - it's something that we are still growing.
How important is the ability to pivot in business?
Due to the way the market is and how fast fashion moves, you have to be open to constant changes and if you’re not willing to do this as soon as it happens then you will be left behind in the market. We are constantly implementing new ideas, which makes us interesting for the customer - businesses need to react as fast as they possibly can, ensuring that this is positive for the customer and profitable for the business. You need to be careful when making changes in a business. If monitored and implemented in the correct way then they can only be of benefit to you and your business.
How can entrepreneurs identify if a turning point is approaching?
It’s a case of being excited with your product, being passionate about your business and converting this into profit. Growing a business is always tricky and to try and see that turning point before it happens can sometimes be hard. Chi Chi London is very analytical within all areas of the business and this is what I would recommend to do, by being analytical in all areas you should see this turning point before it happens. What is important is listening to your staff but also looking deep into why and how this turning point has occurred.
Why should businesses prepare themselves for disruption?
It’s always important to keep some capital back in the business as some disruption is always a possibility and this would be the safest option to ensure your business can deal with any issues it may come across. We have always told our work force to look at all areas to ensure that disruption is kept to a minimum.
What are your hopes for 2017?
Chi Chi London is looking to grow sales over 2017 and estimate them to at least double with our marketing strategy that we have put in for the UK. This strategy will make us stand out from the rest. We have a new website and app being launched within the next couple of months, this will only improve the business and give back to a customer. Due to us growing our International customer base over 2016 we feel that now is the time to launch in the US, we have grown in this market with no marketing at all and need to give it the push that it needs. Chi Chi London currently holds 2,500 options for a customer and we want to grow this to 40,00 over the next year so we have had to move the business to larger warehouse which will allow us to do so. I couldn’t feel more positive for 2017 and can’t wait to see the growth that we can achieve.
What do you think the future holds for the fashion industry?
The future for the fashion industry is huge and as long as you’re creative with your product and provide a customer something new things should always be positive for the business. Due to a massive percentage of people shopping online, on a daily basis, sales will only grow in the industry. The brands that grow will be the ones that stand out from all the rest, it’s a tough market to be in but providing you stay focused and attentive things will go in the right direction. More and more people are gaining confidence to shop online and the future of the fashion industry will rest on providing a customer with a secure and enjoyable shopping experience which Chi Chi London currently does.
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