A version of this article appeared in the February 2013 print issue of W27 Newspaper.
In a day and age where, as consumers, we have such a vast variety of choices for any product, service or idea, it is almost impossible not to question how much of what we end up buying goes to waste. Perhaps, when we walk into a store like H&M, Forever 21 or any other retail store, we see endless racks of shirts, tops, pants, skirts, jackets and accessories. Every store will have any number of products of different sizes, types and colors. But what happens to those items that aren’t sold? Even after markdowns? Do they simply go to waste and take up space in the retailer’s inventory?
These are all questions that Plukka, an online-only fine jewelry brand and e-commerce site, does not have to deal with. Joanne Ooi, founder and CEO of the brand, met with W27 to talk about Plukka’s unique business model and the importance of creativity in today’s job market.
There are several factors that make Plukka one of the most innovative e-commerce platforms. The first is its unique pricing strategy. Plukka sells jewelry designs before they are produced and as more people purchase the same design, the price decreases, therefore, the brand is able to offer some of the finest jewelry in the market today at the most competitive prices. “You can have a very high level of creativity, and what I call an elite of design, without exclusionary pricing. This is what our model teaches,” said Ooi.
Second, because the brand only manufactures what the consumer orders, it doesn’t have excess, and thus isn’t burdened by inventory risks lie an ordinary retail store. “We manufacture on demand only we don’t absorb the risk of return. This means that [Plukka] doesn’t have to have a higher margin to offset the cost of potential returns,” said Ooi. Clearly, by not having an inventory, brick and mortar stores, staff or showrooms, Plukka’s margin is lower than any other fine jewelry designer in the business today. This not only benefits the consumer who can now afford a high end product at a reasonable price.
In addition, because the brand does not have to worry about up-front inventory, it can take risks that a traditional fine jewelry store would not be able to. In fact, Plukka invests a lot of time and resources into finding the most creative designers to feature on Plukka.com, a venture that would be way too risky for a store that already has its resources tied up in showroom and inventory costs. “In today’s market economy, the way that retail is structured grinds away at creativity. Our business model is an antidote to that. We seek out the world’s most creative designers. They many not yet to be known to the public but I have a lot of confidence in my ability to spot and nourish talent. The most exciting thing for me is to discover and promote new talent,” said Ooi.
Ooi launched the brand in 2011 with the help of Jai Waney, an international businessman who invests in a variety of manufacturing brands. Ever since the launch of the website, Plukka has been growing constantly. In 2012 it won the award for “Most Innovative Retailer of 2012” and its distinctive business model has been recognized as the future of fine jewelry retail. Social media, including Twitter and Facebook, also play a big role in the brand’s growth. Ooi explained that because technology became so instrumental in consumer’s lives today, a company simply cannot afford not to be active on social media. “The numbers of followers you have, count,” she said.
As our time together came to an end, Ooi advised college students and prospective entrepreneurs to always be creative and original. “Never copy,” she said. “You need to follow your own genuine personal inspiration. In today’s world, where there is so much stimuli and noise, you will be drowned out without originality. I’ve always taken risks. That’s the easiest, most ambitioned way to stand out. That is my core message.”
© 2014 Maddalena Alecce