HOW WE GOT INTO JOHN LEWIS

/ By Jacqui Ma

This is the story of how we finally, after 3 years trying, got into John Lewis

We are obviously beyond excited have our bags stocked in John Lewis, probably the UK's most reputable retailer. Our market shopper and buggy bag, the two Goodordering best sellers are now part of the range people can see in the nursery department online on the John Lewis website.

As the founder of Goodordering i thought i'd write a post about how we got in. As a big support of small businesses i can only hope that our story might help and inform other brands hoping to get into this and other similar retailers.

The story begins 3 years ago when the business was in its first year of operation. I launched Goodordering whilst i was on maternity leave from my full time job at WGSN. Contrary to popular perception, working there did not help Goodordering at all in terms of reaching out to retailers. As a sidepreneur, i was always so paranoid about mixing work with my business that i kept the two very separate. The bags that i designed were always about cycling. As a regular commuter cyclist, ie no lycra in sight, bicycles have always been my mode of transport of choice.

It was only when i started using the bags myself as a parent (hard to cycle with a 3 month old!) that i realised the potential that the brand might have within the nursery market. I then went onto seed out the bags to friends who also had babies at the time to see what they thought. It was then that i realised that i needed to begin thinking about the brand in the context of parents, so i asked some friends to review the bags on Mumsnet.

You can see some of the review posted here by clicking here ---> Goodordering on Mumsnet

The advantages of doing this was that a) it was free and b) it was able to give me real feedback on the bags. The site is pretty basic and you can't really advertise or influence the readership, nor can you edit or control the reviews, so you couldn't really get more genuine than this in terms of gathering feedback.

At this time all my Goodordering marketing collateral was geared around bikes (pardon the pun) as this was really the core DNA of the brand. Having originally set out to solve a problem and fulfil a need in this market, i didn't want to abandon cycling as a niche area. Not only were the bags designed to fit on bicycles, but my whole network of friends and fellow business owners were from the bike world.

I found myself in a little bit of a dilemma. How do i stay true to the DNA of the brand whilst also attempt to exploit a different market in which i saw potential?

I did, what every entrepreneur does probably on a daily basis and weighted up the pros and cons.

CONS:

*I had no photos or marketing material for this market, so it would be expensive to create as i would have to do new photoshoots

*The products were not really made for parents, ie had no changing mat, or details details like bottle holders that make them in nursery bags

*I could confuse and alienate my current customers who didn't want their bags to be associated with parents/families as they were cool hipster cyclists.

*I knew nothing about the nursery market, competition, positioning and had never been to a nursery tradeshow

* I didn't have any contacts in this industry

PROS

* My cluelessness and naiveté could work in my favour from a business point of view, had i known what a huge intimidating industry it was, i may never have considered entering it

* The designs could offer something fresh to the market due to the fact that they were designed as cycling bags not nursery bags and therefore be perceived as genuinely different

* I had a child myself and through this, had established a network of parents. I knew that the bags were popular within the aspirational east london yummy mummy and daddy market.

I had been given the advice previously that niche is best and to make sure that i exploit my niche fully before being too ambitious in expanding into different markets. I had this hanging over my head for many a sleepless night. Eventually a penny dropped, and i realised i could write a new brand proposition and it didn't have to be based on outdated management principles, but on my personal experience identifying a new breed of parents and families. So my proposition was: (a bit of a mouthful)

Parents are people too. They ride bikes, they have cool jobs. They don't want to be only seen as parents. They appreciate products that help them transition seamlessly between their parental duties and their life as regular people.

So, parents who ride became the segway (don't you love that word) between Goodordering as a cycling brand and Goodordering as a family brand.

Keeping in mind that the above few paragraphs were still just only in my head. There was nothing physical that supported this breakthrough. I still had no photos, i still had no idea of the market and i still was stretched as it was trying to connect into the cycling market.

I started to tackle some of the elements i needed, like a press release (below) and some very amateur home-shoots featuring my son. I also began to contact some small kids boutiques about stocking the bags.

Progress was slow and i was really stretched, but then, out of the blue, John Lewis' buyer from the Nursery department contacted me. I was requested to send a sample in and i would hear back in a few weeks. I was not to contact them in the mean time. I was very excited.

Well, it couldn't have been that easy, could it? No. It turned out that the bags were not quite as parent-ified as they required. There was no change mat and other little functionalities that make a bag specifically a parent bag. From a merchandising point of view, it was a hard sell.

I went away and developed the changing mat immediately with my manufacturer. It was an easy win and even though John Lewis were not going to place an order, I realised i could offer this as an option through my own website to enable people to buy any bag and turn it into a baby bag through the addition of the changing mat for an extra £5. This turned out to be the beginning of our modular offering.

A year came and went and i decided to get back in touch with John Lewis. Fortunately the same buyer was there, which is a rare thing. I contacted her and she was happy to revisit the brand now that i had become a bit more established in the market and had my changing mat. She explained about the process of proposing products to the buying team. There was a very formal process by which products got narrowed down in the selection process. It sounded pretty brutal.

By then i also had a few more images of the products baby bags, which I also offered up, and had also started to transition our website to include nursery bags as a separate section under the Goodordering banner, evening out the cycling messaging with family messaging.

The waiting process was hard but i was more familiar with the process.

The feedback finally arrived that they liked the bags but they didn't believe they would sell in the right volume that was required. The overall feedback was that as a brand we were too 'new' and John Lewis was not taking on any new brands. Disappointment once again. But i didn't give up.

END OF PART 1, FOLLOW NEXT WEEK FOR PART 2.

Author - Jacqui Ma, Founder of Goodordering, East London bag company

NOTE: If you are in the market for a nappy bag or know anyone who is, we'd love you to pass on the news that are now stocked there. Also, if you already are the proud owner of a Goodordering bag, we would love it if you could leave a review for us there on the John Lewis website.!! thanks!!!

http://www.johnlewis.com/brand/goodordering/_/N-1z04ehs



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