Assia Benmedjdoub reports on a directional new strategy from Sussan.

It started as a single shop in Little Collins Street, Melbourne.

Back in 1939, womenswear retailer Sussan was an independent boutique specialising in lingerie.

While it has scaled to 191 stores and multiple products today, GM Rebecca Hard says its core proposition hasn’t changed.

“Throughout our long history, Sussan has been committed to being relevant to today’s modern woman.

“We’ve continually evolved the brand and the brand position by listening to our customer and understanding where the opportunities in the marketplace are.”

Historically, the retailer has enjoyed a strong VIP program, which today attracts 75% of overall sales from 560,000 members.

These customers drive gross margins for the business with a tendency towards full-price purchases, as well as an average shop of four times per year.

Hard says they are also highly responsive to Sussan’s catalogue program, which is produced eight times per year.

This presents an interesting conundrum moving forward, she continues.

“Catalogues are a key part of the business, driving incredibly good sales and really good profit,” she explains. “But we need to grow the pool of new customers.”

In February, the retailer executed a directional strategy underpinned by its ‘Only For Women’ campaign. The creative featured high-end editorial looks, communicated digitally and in-store.

“February was a pretty quiet time in the market so it enabled us to spend a lot of money at that time and get a very, very good reach,” Hard says.

In the end, it tapped into 2.58 million unique women across Instagram and Facebook. It delivered to one in three women active on social media and one in five women in Australia.

Through that, Only For Women had 3.7 million interactions and a reach of 781,000 unique women between 18 and 24.

According to Hard, the result was a 23% increase in revenue on the site and most importantly a foot into the younger womenswear market.

“We actually stopped one of our catalogues to re-invest the money back into digital so it was a bit of a risk, because we know catalogues drive sales for us,” she says.

The aim with Only For Women was to secure one more shop from existing customers and one new shop from emerging customers.

Looking forward, Hard says a strategy which balances new and existing customers will be integral to the brand’s future success.

A qualitative research piece conducted last year, paired with a deep-dive into Roy Morgan research, revealed similarities between the two pools.

“From our research, we broke our target market into two core groups of customers: established and emerging. These women share many of the same values but are at different life stages and have different needs for Sussan.

“We know that our customers are educated, working and self-employed. We know that 52% are the main bread winner and a lot of our women run their own businesses, so they’re very entrepreneurial. There are 42% that also feel they’re rushed or pressed for time.”

This aligns with the retailer’s own internal makeup. Sussan employs 20 designers and 1,466 women via its stores and head office in Melbourne.

“It is authentically who we are as a brand,” Hard says. “Our executive team are all women. We are owned by a woman. And we create product only for women.

“This is how we will stay relevant to the customer. We are the customer, we know what she wants and we listen to her at every opportunity.”

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