On The Road Los Angeles: An Inside Look at Retail's New Normal Panel

Swap Society CEO on How Data Helps Solve its Inventory Challenges

By: Kristina Stidham

Modern consumers have become increasingly aware of the retail industry’s impact on the environment, and are expecting brands to take control of their carbon footprint to become more sustainable. Thrifting, reusing and swapping clothing has also become a popular solution among consumers to reduce one’s personal carbon footprint, especially in the world of fast-fashion.

Nicole Robertson, co-founder and CEO of online apparel swapping site Swap Society, set out to provide a space for shoppers to do just that, and snag stylish clothes in the process. Robertson spoke about her company during a panel titled, An Inside Look at Retail’s New Normal, during last month’s 2019 Women in Retail Leadership Circle (WIRLC) On the Road | Los Angeles event. The panel also featured executives Kim Tobman, chief revenue officer, The Bouqs Company; Molly Kang, co-founder and CEO, Floravere; Shannon Lackey, vice president, merchandising, Hollar; and moderator Kristina Stidham, content editor at WIRLC. Among a variety of other topics, the panelists discussed the biggest challenges their businesses are currently facing. Robertson detailed the challenges that come with a constantly rotating product inventory, and how Swap Society uses technology to address that challenge along with others.

“We have zero control over what our inventory is; we never know what people are going to send us,” Robertson explained. Swap Society accepts any gently used women’s clothing and fashion jewelry, as well as children’s clothing and accessories, unlike other swapping businesses that are focused on luxury apparel only. This inventory positioning allows for a wider variety of income level households to participate in sustainable shopping. However, Swap Society’s selections are limited based on what’s swapped in.

A primary goal for Swap Society is to expand its product sizing. “Most of our customers are [size] small-medium-large, on average,” said Robertson. “We definitely would like to break into the plus-size category as well and make sure all women feel like they can participate.”

To address its inventory challenges, Swap Society utilizes data to showcase trending items and make sure shoppers can find new-to-them, fashionable clothing.

“Data can really help us because we try to show people things that are seasonal, or things they want to wear now … even if it’s the middle of summer and we just got a bag full of sweaters.”

To hear more from Nicole Robertson as well as the other speakers on the Retail’s New Normal panel, members can click here to watch the full session from the 2019 Women in Retail Leadership Circle On the Road | Los Angeles event.

If you’re not a WIRLC member, click here to apply. WIRLC members receive many benefits, including access to premium content, networking opportunities with executive-level women, discounts to our annual Summit, and more. Join us today!

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