We’re all familiar with businesses taking their online store into a physical space after Instagram success, but what about a brand born in a pop-up? Meet London Cashmere Company. Avoiding the chase for social media fame, founders Daniel Temm and Julia Smith brought their brand direct to the consumer from day one; launching in the physical world to bring real-life transparency to the cashmere market. Building on his previous experience working with cashmere, Daniel had seen first-hand how selling wholesale meant extreme mark-ups and inaccessible price-points for many. Deciding on three core values of fair pricing, high quality and ethical traceability; Daniel teamed up with partner in business and life, Julia, to found a brand that took quality, Mongolian cashmere straight from the farmer to the consumer. Three years and eleven pop-ups later, they show no signs of slowing down.
In an increasingly digital age, why did you decide to take London Cashmere Company to bricks and mortar before growing an online presence?
Julia: In the early days, our business was in its infancy, so it was a great way of testing whether the product and concept of the business had legs to begin with. We wanted to get in front of the customer and get direct feedback; pop-ups were a really low capital way to do this. Our first pop-up with Appear Here was only one week, fast forward to today and our pop-ups account for 92% of our revenue.
What prompted you to set up shop for the first time?
Julia: I had a background in property, so I kind of knew where our potential customers were likely to be in terms of geographical area. I just thought: why not go straight to them? Whilst a lot of retail is happening through social media, people are so interested now in a brand’s story and why you do what you do; that’s so much easier to tell face-to-face.
Daniel: Building trust is a huge part of it. Traditionally, cashmere hasn’t sold well online purely because people like to touch and feel the product to be sure of its quality. So, for us, pop-ups served as a trust-building exercise for potential customers to experience the cashmere for themselves. The middle-aged market is especially interested in retail space and is such a large customer base for us, they’re not necessarily people you can reach online or through social media so pop-ups were a great way to reach them.
What’s been the most valuable insight you’ve had from your retail experience so far?
Julia: Everyone wanted to know where their product came from. They wanted to know everything about what they were buying; they wanted to know where it was made, how ethical it was and the story of its whole trade chain. It’s so important to know that going forward as I genuinely believe it’s the future of retail; the brands who put transparency and ethical sourcing at the forefront of their message will be the ones to stand out and survive.
You’ve mentioned that you knew from the get-go that there were several locations that you wanted to have a pop-up store at. How did you work with the Appear Here team to make these ideas a reality?
Julia: Having worked in the residential property sector before setting up London Cashmere Company, it was really fun to work with the concierge team at Appear Here. We’d say, ‘Hey, we’re thinking about Notting Hill, these are the dates we want to be there’, and they would come back with three great spaces for us to pick from. Having the right space is so important to us, and they really understood that; one of the pop-ups they selected experienced a conversion rate of over 50% for us.
Daniel: We’ve said it before, but I genuinely believe we’re a brand born out of Appear Here. We came straight to pop-ups before developing any kind of online presence and we’re really happy that we did it that way.
Can you tell us something that really surprised you about the process of having a physical space?
Julia: Pop-ups can be a really effective marketing tool, and one that actually makes you money. If you think about it, a lot of people will spend lots on marketing that doesn’t do that. Online, it costs us about £35 to acquire a customer, but in a pop-up, it costs £20; that price is still falling as we become more established.
Daniel: If you put something on Oxford Street people could walk past without knowing you’re a pop-up, but on Chiswick High Street, the people going to get their coffee every morning will see a previously empty shop now offering something really cool; that pop-up ended up having an average spend of £139. That’s the most effective marketing, through natural nosy footfall.
What’s on the horizon for London Cashmere Company?
Julia: Going forward, we definitely want to make the store more experiential; we’re thinking of doing a monogramming service and holding talks around ethical manufacturing alongside a few other brands. Creating a community amongst your consumers is key to a brand’s success.