One of the gnarliest challenges a small, independent, design-led label struggles to solve, is the crazy cost of customer acquisition and servicing that customer through their journey with the brand.
For very well-funded ventures - the DTC route seems very appealing.
DTC however requires a lot of expensive resources and highly-skilled marketers to get right; it's an orchestration of a complex array of moving parts and is far from easy.
Effective leveraging for small startup labels lies in collaboration and community, which is exactly where We are EGG plays.
We are EGG is the creation of Paul Simon and Arie Fabian, of YDE and Fabiani fame - both of whom are highly-competent South African retail entrepreneurs.
In December 2020 they opened the first EGG store (where the old Edgars store used to be upstairs in Cavendish Square) and last month, opened the second in Rosebank Johannesburg.
A model for the South African context
Retail in South Africa is unique. Unlike other parts of the 'Western world', malls are still very much the holy grail of local fashion retail, but access to mall floorspace is largely out of reach for smaller brands.
Spotting this significant barrier to entry as an opportunity, Simon and Fabian have created a retail platform and customer community, which gives niche brands an opportunity they just would not have been able to string together on their own.
"All the associated things that come with retailing a product are supplied by EGG," Simon explains. "Lots of people don't think about that, like the security tag that goes on the garment, the hanger, the in-store visual merchandising team, right up to the actual bag that leaves the store. So normally, if a brand went to a shopping centre, they would need to sign a lease, they would need to shop fit it, they'd have their rental, then they'd have to pay the operating expenses, their lights, electricity, the credit card commissions. That is all included in our offering, a basic monthly rental." - via
Aren't department stores dead?
Yes - EGG is a department store, but one with a twist. The twist is that the people who run it actually know a thing or two about creating a memorable experience.
Ironically, the store in Cape Town replaces the old-Edgars, who at the time lamented the death of the department store concept.
Unlike the old-Edgars store however, EGG is a department store that is beautifully designed to offer a customer an exciting in-store shopping experience.
There is surprise and colour at every part of the store and products have been very skilfully curated and merchandised to make the store feel just like the department stores that you find in the Ginza district in Tokyo, Japan.
The power of community
More than anything else, EGG is a platform that joins together a community that, for some time, hasn't had a clubhouse.
YDE perhaps used to be that clubhouse, but YDE is now owned by a very big corporation and we all know what happens to anything with a soul in a corporation.
Superbalist, it could be argued, is the online equivalent, but as the saying goes; 'Online shopping is a bit like watching fireworks on TV.' We have also yet see a pure-play online retailer in South Africa actually turn a profit.
Communities work in South Africa, brand partnerships with a common goal thrive in South Africa; the We are EGG-model is a good fit for the South African context.
Magic fairy dust
As much a retail is about numbers and margin and stock sell-through rates and all of that useful analytical stuff, it's also very much about curation, theatre and creative direction.
The We are EGG team are particularly gifted when it comes to creating retail-theatre, which is an intangible ingredient that's very difficult for competitors, who employ salaried-workers, to compete with.
It's the small things that make a difference; things that look like unnecessary expenses to a trained CFO, but elements which give the brand its edge.
Thankfully at We are EGG, their CFO has clearly been successfully locked in a cupboard since its founding and the magic fairy dust canon is still firing a specular salute daily.
The take out