Before Bluefly was what it is today, the retailer was the golf sportswear company Pivot Rules. Though it officially changed names — and functions — in 1998, 20 years later, the firm still knows the value of a strategic pivot in an eCommerce marketplace that is always in flux.
As an early pioneer in high-end fashion retailing on the web, said board member and former CEO of Bluefly Neel Grover, the firm has always been focused on staying in style. That means their outlook as a firm has evolved a lot over the last few years from being a fashion firm selling on the web to a web company that is selling fashion.
It hasn’t always been a smooth ride. Though Bluefly was one of the few firms that managed to make it out of the great “.com bust” intact, it struggled to maintain its footing in a digital market that found itself flooded with high-fashion retailers from the web. The business, once public, went private in a $13 million “fire sale” deal to an affiliate of Clearlake Capital Group.
Grover has been CEO since the sale and latest reset of the Bluefly ambition.
“The brand assets underlying Bluefly were undeniably strong — this was a good brand, with consistent traffic and access to designer inventory,” Grover said, noting that what the firm lacked was a modern outlook on the eCommerce landscape, which meant the powerful core assets were fundamentally underutilized.
He added, “What we initially focused on, and what remains really paramount, are operations: delivery, fulfillment and customer service. Everything we’ve done since then (our increased presence on mobile, our changeover to a pure marketplace model), all of that is built on enhanced logistics that put the products in the customer’s hand when they expect them.”
Those changes, have come quickly over the last few years. Bluefly was once something of a traditional online retailer that owned inventory, managed drop shipping and ran a consignment business. As of 2017 (after a long transition period), the site had fully transitioned to a fashion and design marketplace, with a few thousand brands sold by a few hundred high-fashion retailers — all customized for mobile.
Bluefly has changed a lot in 20 years, but its reason for existing hasn’t— it finds what consumer seek when it comes to high-fashion items. That means upgrades continue.
The brand recently announced its partnership with the Mirakl Marketplace Platform to increase its marketplace seller network and operational agility, and decrease its onboarding time for merchants.
“I’ve known the Mirakl team for many years and I’m excited to finally work with them to take our marketplace to the next level “said Yann Tanini, president of Bluefly. “As we explored options to advance our business and eCommerce offering, it was very clear that Mirakl’s out-of-the-box marketplace solution, combined with their expertise, offered Bluefly the best possible solution to grow and scale our marketplace.”
Since going forward, growth is the goal for this long-lived, but still relatively small, niche in the online fashion marketplace. Today, Bluefly has about 250 merchants on its platform, a number it is looking to quadruple in the next 18 to 24 months to 1,000. That’s a big ambition for a small firm, and part of that planned growth spurt involves expanding into international marketplaces, a challenge in its own right.
Now, nearly five years into its latest reset, the former CEO remains confident in what the marketplace can do next.
“Our buying and merchandising teams need to be at their best so we can curate and showcase the products customers want in our inventory,” Grover told Retail Merchandiser in 2013. “And the marketplace helps us introduce new brands. We have a careful vetting process, as our team knows what customers want as part of a high-end and unique experience. We have technology that allows us to showcase products to customers, and we can reach out to customers through targeted messaging.”