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What is Hepburn and Leigh and why does it exist?

  • By Catherine Clavering
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  • In Indie brands

What is Hepburn and Leigh and why does it exist?

This week we announced a complete site revamp for Hepburn and Leigh, which I suspect made many of you go "who? what? why?"

 

So here's the story!

About 7 years ago, the entire business was wholesale - selling KMD goods to retailers to sell to you. 

There were a few problems with this, mostly because of trying to predict what would sell, which you can never do exactly and always end up with some things that no retailer bought (and other things everyone whinges because you ran out of). Plus, one retailer counted for about 30% of turnover, which was pretty worrying - they were a small website run by a couple so if anything happened to them KMD would be in trouble. But, at the same time, we were still in a market where brands just did not sell direct to the public, and retailers would get very, very annoyed if they started and potentially stop buying.

An early image for Hepburn and Leigh By  Nicole from The Hourglass - the L'Amour corset with Lulu and Lush frilly knicker.

So, as you've probably guessed, I set up a separate retail site with a different brand name. Now, I'd previously been part of an online stockings retailer (yes, I know, my career is very odd, why would a counselling psychologist with specialisms in eating disorders and domestic violence also do stockings retail, but that's a story for another day!).  So the site focussed on that group at the beginning. All things retro, vintage and stockings related, lots of multi-strap suspender belts and big knickers and 100% nylon fully fashioned stockings.

We used to photograph other brands with our suspenders - on the left, a Toucan print fuller bust bra set and our Van Doren 6 strap, on the right, a set from lovely French brand Rosy with our ivory boned belt.

In due course, that main retailer I was worried about did indeed give up (babies and swimsuits being more compelling than bras and suspenders, ultimately), and I shifted KMD to direct retail. That was when things started to get interesting. I'd spent years being asked about competitors and dealing with retailers who thought any other website was eating into their sales, especially if anyone ran a sale or promotion.

And yet, I found that the two sites had almost no overlap, even as its shifted from selling less retro and stockings stuff and more boudoir and fashion styles. Survey after survey and all the data we could look at showed over and over that the customer bases were very different - notably, Hepburn and Leigh's was significantly older, say in their 40's and 50's where KMD's is 20's and 30's. Price promotions on one had no difference on the other. Things we did that boosted sales on one would make no difference to the other, and competition ideas that worked brilliantly would one site would flop horribly for the other. Now, rationally, this makes sense; there are billions of people online, so why would small retail outlets compete with each other? Any why would they compete more than with whoever dominates our own market (M and S in the UK, VS in the USA, for the record)? And yet over and over we see small retailers getting very cross about things - especially in the USA where there's actually an organisation purely to combat suppliers selling direct to the public - rather than, say, getting together and having a good go at kicking VS's arse.

Another Rosy set with the Vargas longline girdle and stockings that somehow never quite got produced! Styled and shot by Morgana.

So here's where we at now; Hepburn and Leigh will be the permanent home for any of our guest brands and the interesting brands we work with who want to be on there, a space for independent brands. 

And I'll still be using it as a not-so-sneaky way to test our software changes, promotions, and whatever other shenanigans we're up to!



Lexy is wearing Elila, a US brand who do some amazing products up to a K cup (though, if you're a US customer - cheaper to buy in your own country!)

Join us any time to meet new brands and fresh styles - and for this week, there's also a 20% off code, newsite20.  If nothing else it's worth giving it a whirl because I'm planning to bring KMD itself over to this shopping platform as soon as possible, so if there's things you love or loathe about it I very much want to know!

Anything you notice? brands or products you haven't seen before? Can you find the search function? Let me know in the comments!

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