jL from Black Milk clothing here, with a fun public service announcement. :)
My fellow Sharkies - we are planning a few exciting changes at BMC at the moment, changes which are going to be happening pretty soon, and I wanted to keep you - the loyal Sharkie community - in the loop. People sometimes get a little freaked out by changes, but no need to worry, all the changes we are making are genuinely positive, and I think you’re going to love what we have coming up.
You could say that we are going to get back to our roots. :)
There are three big, positive changes that I really want to make:
1. Restore a culture of spontaneity, flexibility and responsiveness
When I first started Black Milk, creating clothes gave me an incredible sense of freedom. I loved the fact that I could get up in the morning and just cut and sew whatever I could dream up! And I did. No one told me I wasn’t allowed to make this or that, I could make whatever I felt like making - leggings, a dress, a skirt, a totally weird catsuit! Just, whatever. And I still love that.
But it wasn’t just the freedom of spontaneously creating clothing that I loved - I also loved showing it to girls and letting them buy it. Often I would sell things on the same day I made them. I loved having both the spontaneity to create something, but also the flexibility to sell it then and there.
Of course, as you grow, it is only natural that you give up that spontaneity and flexibility. And we have. Sometimes I will make something, show it to girls and they will say “AWESOME! When can I buy that because I want it RIGHT NOW?” And I’m like “Erm, how does November sound?” When you want something right now, and you are told that it’s coming out in 6 months, November sounds like all kinds of lame.
Also, when you lose flexibility, you also lose responsiveness. I loved the fact that in the early days girls could say to me “We all want X, please make it and we will buy it!” And so I did. I miss just making clothes, showing them to girls, and then selling them (the clothes, not the girls).
I want to bring that back.
2. Restore a ‘collectibles culture'
When I first started Black Milk I would make very little of each style - like five pieces. If you were one of the five girls who actually got that style, you felt pretty awesome about it. And rightly so.
But then something happened. The girls who missed out on those five pieces expressed their sadness at missing out, and - not wanting sad girls - I decided to cheer them up. We made more. It seemed like a really good idea at first - the perfect solution. Girls who got the extra products were happy because they finally got that piece they loved. We were happy, because we were keeping more customers happy and selling more clothes. Everyone was winning, right?
I thought everyone was winning, but we lost something. We lost the Black Milk ‘collectible culture’. Get-it-now became get-it-next-week, became get-it-next-year. Great for girls discovering BM for the first time, not so great for creating a culture where every BM piece is special.
At the end of the day, I believe that the reason you buy something is because you want to wear it. Obviously. But I do want our clothes to be meaningful beyond just that basic fact. I want your BM pieces to have a special place in your personal history. I want them to make you smile. I want you to keep going back to them like an old movie that you loved the first time you saw it and loved it ever since. That’s how I feel about them. When I walk down the street and see a girl wearing Purple Galaxies, it’s like seeing an old friend.
Whenever I meet Sharkies, they always love to share with me stories related to particular pieces that they have bought. They are more than clothes to these girls.
I love that, and I intend to bring that back.
3. Engage more regularly with our girls
We love talking about the clothes that we are working on. It’s our thing. We love blogging about them, making videos about them, sneaking all the peeks, and that’s what our customers love as well. I can recall many times talking with groups of girls at BMHQ about something really interesting (at least I thought it was interesting!)and noticing that they were all craning their necks to check out the unreleased clothes hanging on racks behind me (and reaching for their phone). So apparently I’m way less interesting for girls to look at than new Black Milk clothes (in hindsight, this seems obvious).
Of course, we could show you all the cool stuff that we are doing more regularly - after all, we are making new clothes every day! However, our release schedule won’t allow it.
The way we are doing things at the moment means we have a flurry of activity around release time and everyone gets excited about what we are doing. Then not much until a month later. Sometimes we go weeks without showing our girls anything new. We're basically saying “Sorry, we’re not going to let you buy anything new for a month, hope you don’t mind waiting!”
But Sharkies do mind waiting. They like to see new things and they like to shop. How often does the average Sharkie shop online? I don’t know the exact number but I’ll guarantee it’s more than once a month!
It’s frustrating for us because we want to show you everything we are working on - but our monthly release schedule means that it will be so long before they finally become available on our website that we just can’t. Of course, this hasn’t stopped sneaky sharkies from digging up evidence of new products and sharing them with other like minded individuals. Sharkies want to see new stuff, often, and buy it.
Of course, the fact that we drop 50-60 pieces each month in one big splat means that it’s a little overwhelming for us, and we aren’t even able to to do a great job talking about the pieces we have coming up. I assume that 50-60 pieces in one hit is a little overwhelming for our customers as well….
Sharkies are so named for their ravenous appetites, they are constantly on the prowl for something delicious.
And I intend to give it to them. :)
So, that’s what I want to achieve! All I need now is a cunning plan… which I have. ;)
In a nutshell, this is what I am thinking:
1. We do 2-3 big collections a year, when there is actually a good reason to have one, and make it really special
2. At the beginning of each week, we drop a small number of ‘New Arrivals’ - and keep it fresh. :)
3. Limited numbers - they come, they go, more cool stuff next week!
If this is too scary, and you are saying to yourself - “Whaaaat? This sounds new and scary and that’s not what Black Milk is about!”
Actually, it is. You see, as I mentioned above, that’s how we started. A few pieces, regularly, they come and go, and we’re on to the next thing! Big collections every month is what we became, but it’s not how we began.
So this is how we envision it’s going to work:
FRIDAY - In the morning, we give you a preview of what you can expect in the New Arrivals next week - around 10-15 pieces (just over half printed, just under half designer). You guys plan what you want to buy (if anything) and budget accordingly.
SATURDAY - We talk about how awesome the new arrivals are, and answer any questions you might have. We show you cool pictures and videos with girls wearing the pieces that will be available Tuesday.
SUNDAY - See above
MONDAY - See above
TUESDAY - New Arrivals go LIVE! We put up a set number on the website and you can buy whatever you want. Or nothing. There’s always next week if you aren’t digging anything this week.
WEDNESDAY - We post your clothes to you, yay!
THURSDAY - Restock staples. :)
FRIDAY - Preview of next week’s New Arrivals...
I think this is going to be really fun. :)
So what will this achieve?
With this system, we are going to be showing you cool new things much more regularly, and you have time to really get to appreciate what they are about, without getting fifty other pieces shown to you at the same time.
The time between seeing something you love and buying it will be much shorter. There are often times when girls tell us they want something that we have made but by the time we actually get around to making it, the moment has passed and they're not excited about them any more! It's very frustrating for both us and the customer.
This system will also help with budgeting. You don’t have to look through 50-60 products and cull your list down because you can't buy everything you want at once. Now you will be able to set aside some BM money each week, see if you like anything from the drop, and grab it on the day. No need to ask when the peeks will be sneaked - you’ll see new stuff every Friday. Simple!
This will also allow us to be much more responsive to customer demand. MUCH more. Are girls loving maxi dresses? Great, let’s get a maxi dress in the next drop! Are peeps freezing? Put in some Toasties quick smart! Do people love this print - sweet as, let’s do it.
We can do design challenges, and you will be able to actually buy the pieces within a few weeks. We will even have times where we have a bit of space and we can just go straight to the Sharkie community and say “We have space for a skirt, and we need a print - CALL IT!”
It’s going to be so awesome to show you all the stuff that we made on that very day - and you will be able to buy it not long afterwards. :)
I need to clarify about the ‘limited’ thing as well. There will be a lot of girls in bed, or at work, or otherwise indisposed at the time we go live with our new arrivals on Tuesday morning. Of course, we want, to make sure that none of our wonderful girls are disadvantaged just because they happen to still be in bed or have a job where you can’t sneak off for a sneaky shopping sesh.
And so we are introducing the idea of the 24 hour safety net for printed pieces.
What that means is that if you want to buy a printed product and that product sells out within 24 hours - you can still buy it. If it doesn’t sell out in the first 24 hours, it will just stay on the website until it does sell out. We are not saying that these pieces will only be around for 24 hours, just that if all our stock sells out in the first 24 hours, you'll still be able to buy one! Think of it as a safety net. :)
The 24 hour thing will apply to most printed pieces, however, for some printed pieces we probably won't be able to make them in a reasonable amount of time (TDs, IODs, etc), so they will just go up as a normal limited piece and you have to get in quick. :)
Of course, the great thing is that because we will have a lot of flexibility with what we actually include in our new arrivals drop each week, if something is super ridiculously popular and thousands of girls miss out on it, there is always the possibility of doing another run at a later date. :)
What about staples?
We will keep those. BM classics, simple black pieces (that every girls needs), licensed pieces, and gym gear.
Will all new designer pieces be limited?
As a general rule, yes they will. Although, there may be times we feel that a certain piece needs to be a staple because it is just so awesome and necessary. :)
Could designer items ever get into the 24 hour safe zone?
Possibly! If they were not too complex to manufacture, and they were made of fabrics we have in the building, it’s very possible. :)
Are you the devil and is this part of your evil plan to destroy people’s lives?
What gave it away - was it the tail?
Is this just an attempt to get more money?
No - that’s not what it’s about. From a financial point of view (for those who are interested in such things), it will allow us to better match supply with demand. It also means that we minimise our risk (and your frustration) by avoiding investing in making things that girls don’t want to buy (instead of things that they do!). Of course, we want to make sure that we are looking after Black Milk financially, but really this is all about us getting back to our roots and doing the things that made BM fun in the first place. We just want a simple system that works both for us and our customers. :)
Shouldn’t you be listening to what your customers want you to do?
Well, I certainly have no lack of people telling me what they want me to do! And, of course, for every person I have telling me I should do something because it’s what customers want, I have someone else telling me I really shouldn't do it, because (you guessed it) it’s not what customers want. Apparently customers want different things - who knew? At the end of the day I think that what most sharkies are interested in is great clothes, often, that are special. And that’s the plan.
I strongly disagree with this, what should I do?
Take a deep breath, and realise that at the end of the day they are only clothes and probably not worth getting really upset over. Give the new system a go, you might actually like it. ;)
What will happen with all the other things that BM does - the SharkieCons, fitting nights, special events, etc?
I actually see a really bright future for those other things that make BM unique! If we can get a nice predictable system going where everything just ticks over nicely, we are going to have much more time and energy to do these fun things. :)
When will you do big collections?
When we have a good reason to! So, for example, Halloween will keep being a thing and we’ll definitely have a big release for that. Also, if we do a licensed deal, we’ll make a big deal of it as well (Doctor Who, anyone?).
What about all the non staple items that are currently on the website?
This brings me to the subject of our current product range. It’s just way too big.
We are actually moving to a new site in Brisbane where we will be creating an AMAZING clothing manufacturing operation that will have cutting, printing, sewing, and warehouse under one roof (think of the efficiencies! *drool*). This means that we are planning on transporting a really large number of items, some of which have been around for years, from one side of Brisbane of the other.
Yeah, not a great plan.
So why don’t we just do a massive clearance with a BIG discount sale? I think it will be nice to have a fresh start.
So that’s the plan, my friends! Get yourself ready, this is going to be a lot of fun. :)
Hugs and kisses