Retail, Startup Advice

How Showpo’s Jane Lu took radical action to get her $30 million fashion retailer out of a “rut”

Dominic Powell /

Showpo

Showpo founder Jane Lu and the Showpo executive team. Source: Supplied

A video recently released by founder of prominent fashion retailer Showpo Jane Lu has gone viral over the past two weeks, but not for the usual reasons.

There was no wild sales or hilarious office pranks, and the company’s workers didn’t band together to buy Lu a Tesla. Instead, the video was simply of Lu in front of the camera, admitting she and her team had made some mistakes, and that the company was in a “rut”.

Lu took to social media — addressing Showpo’s more than 2.5 million followers across Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter — to discuss some of the recent issues the business had been facing over the Easter sales period and further into May.

“Businesses are always talking about how well they’re doing,” Lu said.

“But I wanted my vlog to cover the highs and lows, and all that’s in between, because running a business isn’t easy, and we know we’re far from perfect.”

Lu went on to reveal the issues Showpo had recently been facing in the world of customer service, especially throughout its busier sales periods. She highlighted that the company had had some “mini crises”, that had ended up snowballing into much bigger issues, and upsetting the company’s thousands of customers.

Showpo has a reported revenue of over $30 million and came third in SmartCompany’s 2014 Smart50 Awards. Lu is also a regular on SmartCompany’s Smart 30 Under 30, and runs the female entrepreneur support group Like Minded Bitches Drinking Wine with fellow business owner Gen George.

“So for example, over the sale period we didn’t resource adequately enough in terms of staffing, we had a glitch with our coupon code during the Easter sale period, and we had some issues with our warehouse getting orders out on time and with processing returns,” Lu said in the video.

“As a business owner, I’m super embarrassed about all of this. When things like this happen we try to be proactive and we emailed all of our customers to let them know, but then of course this saw our email volumes double.”

The issues kept coming for Showpo: the retailer’s website went down; there was a massive influx of support tickets off the back of increased sales due to promotions; and there were further issues with the company’s shipping provider. Despite the business’ customer support team “working their butts off”, they couldn’t get on top of all the emails coming through, leading to days of delay for customers with issues.

This was then creating more emails about where the initial emails were, and a number of customers took to Showpo’s social media pages to complain about the delays in getting their orders, to the point Lu says it was “embarrassing and disheartening”.

“This is the biggest rut Showpo has been in, in a long time,” she said.

“But I think what’s really important is how we can learn from this, and what we do in times of trouble.”

“I want to tell all the businesses out there, especially the small business owners, shit like this does happen, and so often when it rains, it pours.”

To resolve the massive support ticket backlog, Lu put all hands on deck, getting the company’s 35 employees – regardless of position – trained in customer service.

“So if you got a bit of a funny email, then it was probably Jimmy, who is our developer, answering questions about a dress,” Lu said.

That work, coupled with some late nights from Lu herself, pulled the company out of its “rut”, and customers and business owners responded overwhelmingly positively towards Lu’s honesty.

“Raw. Honest. Authentic. Like all good responses on social media should be in times of crisis,” said one business owner on LinkedIn.

Thank you for being transparent and candid about the [behind the scenes] of what happens in growing businesses sometimes. I can completely relate and appreciate your honest approach,” said another.

NOW READ: What Appliances Online’s John Winning did when he realised a pricing error would cost him nearly $100,000 in sales

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Dominic Powell

Dominic Powell is the lead reporter at StartupSmart.

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