Alison Bergen of Aerosoles: We had to accept losing customers as we grew

After selling herself by accepting the CEO role at Aerosoles, Alison Bergen is determined to sell fashion fans by shopping for the brand.

“I don’t think I ever thought I would end up in a comfortable shoe brand. And I think [Aerosoles] offered me the job twice before accepting it because I had to overcome my own snobbery, ”Bergen said in the latest Glossy Podcast. Prior to Aerosoles, she held senior merchandising positions at Louis Vuitton, Michael Kors and Diane von Furstenberg.

“What finally attracted me [Aerosoles] was the original story of the founder, Jules Schneider, ”she said. “How and why he started the brand… he felt it was just as relevant today as it was revolutionary in the late 80’s when he founded it… He thought:” Women shouldn’t have to sacrifice comfort for style, or vice versa. ‘”

Bergen joined the brand in 2018 with the aim of modernizing its approach to design and business, which turned out to be quite a feat.

“Taking a Titanic and trying to change course isn’t done with just the push of a button,” she said. “You are really repositioning and realigning many facets of the business. Whether it was distribution, product, branding, team structure, all of those things were going to change, in order to give this brand relevance and a healthy future, from the point of view of view of profitability. “

Bergen also discussed the internal changes she’s made and customer response to recent brand updates, including product pricing.

Below are additional conversation highlights, which have been edited slightly for clarity.

Break with the discount
“One of the real challenges we encountered was that while it is great to inherit a brand with brand awareness and customer base, certainly – we all know it is very expensive to acquire new ones. customers today – the challenge we had was this was a customer who was hopeful that they should be able to buy 60% off aerosols on a consistent basis. And so we had to have an honest conversation – and it’s not a conversation that you have in many brands, but it was very important for me to recognize it, acknowledge it, be honest about it, and then get around it – which was, “We’re going to make changes. We’re going to start talking about emotion and desirability. We’re going to improve the quality, whether it’s taking a slightly more current approach to fashion or using more noble materials. [It was about] mainly accept that there would be a significant portion of our clientele who would not travel with us in this next chapter… We would like to keep this client. But we knew that in order for our business to be healthy and profitable – and as a reminder, Aerosoles was bought out of bankruptcy, so it wasn’t working the way it used to – we really needed to focus our efforts on a high-quality product. customer with whom we could have a fair relationship. The cost of production, we all know, is only going up. And so there just wasn’t a workaround… And we lost a number of customers through this process.

On eliminating business silos
“Brands are living and breathing things. So every brand I’ve been to, whether it’s a large public company or a small contemporary brand, the biggest challenge is that brands are like plants. They need water. They are growing and changing every day. And if you don’t continue to proactively change them to evolve over time and with the changing feelings of your customers, then the business suffers. And then you have an even larger void to fill to reconnect and re-anchor in a relevant place. And through that process, I’ve seen, in so many companies, different branches not talking to each other or PR not quite on the same page as where the product team is trying to go. So I was very sensitive to this concept of coordination, of making sure that whatever we were doing – whether we were going digital or if we were targeting a different type of customer – how does that pass through everything? that we do ? And our structure is a big part of it.

The advantages of omnichannel
“We work in a bunch of different capacities with different partners, depending on our goals and theirs. There is a healthy mix. The world is so volatile that … having a presence in two or three [sales channels] is really helpful, whether it’s having a very solid physical strategy directly or through your wholesale partnerships, whether it’s selling online through more traditional wholesale partnerships, or working in a dropshipping model… The pros and cons of dropshipping are that you can control your inventory and you can really maximize inventory flexibility. You can just decide, as a business, that you’re going to sell it where it sells first, whether through aerosoles.com or through a partner. [But you also] assume inventory risk. [Whereas] with wholesale you sell a bundle of shoes they come out and they don’t come back. It is also a beautiful thing. But that’s a good balance, because what we’re all looking for as business leaders are ways to maximize inventory more efficiently, whether that’s by reducing lead times so you can sit on less. ‘inventory or by sharing the inventory in a true omni strategy. And so we work in a number of ways, and I think that has served us really well. We have benefited from the opportunity to get in and out of them as times change and things get wacky. And for us, leaving some of the lower level partners and getting into Nordstrom… has been great… A lot of our pre-Covid strategies have fortuitously put us in place to survive better than others. Many lower level department stores have been hit hard and many have gone bankrupt. And so we didn’t have that risk. We had really gotten healthier, thanks to deeper partnerships with the right partners and the right customers. “

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