These days, it seems you can buy almost anything online--groceries, cars, underwear. But when it comes to wholesale orders, some industries still rely on pen, paper, and fax. Joor, a New York City-based start-up, aims to bring wholesale orders into the digital age, starting with the fashion industry.
Joor's online marketplace lets retailers peruse and order wholesale items from fashion designers. Since its launch in 2010, Joor has signed up 580 fashion brands as clients, including Diane von Furstenberg, Trina Turk, Rag & Bone, and Joie. About 30,000 retailers also use the service, including Bergdorf Goodman and Nordstrom. Last year, $117 million worth of wholesale clothing, footwear, and accessories changed hands on Joor. This year, the company expects to process some $300 million to $400 millionin orders. Joor, which has 30 employees, hit $1 million in revenue in 2012 and has raised $5.5 million in VC funding.
Founder Mona Bijoor got the idea for the company after working as a wholesale fashion buyer for Ann Taylor and A Pea in the Pod. Bijoor says she would often find herself scrambling on a Monday morning to track down, say, white shirts to replace the ones that had suddenly sold out over the weekend. "I would call six different brands," she says. "One would only have gray, the next would be sold out in Small, the third wouldn't answer the phone. By the time I got to the fourth, I would take whatever white shirts they had, regardless of the style." With Joor, orders can be placed anytime--Sunday is the company's busiest sales day.
Joor is free for retailers, but the fashion brands pay for the service. Joor charges them a subscription fee (about $5,000 to $20,000 per year, depending on the size of the brand and the level of customization required) plus 3 percent of sales. When a brand such as Diane von Furstenberg signs up, Joor helps the company upload photographs, descriptions, style numbers, and prices for all the 500 to 1,500 items in a collection.
Bijoor says her company isn't trying to replace sales reps or the trade shows at which collections are traditionally debuted to buyers. "Fashion is still a business that's very much about looking, touching, and feeling the product," she says. But Joor cuts down on paperwork and reduces errors. Now, instead of spending three hours photographing and writing down style numbers for the 100 to 200 items she wants, a buyer can use Joor's iPad app at a trade show to log her style, color, and size preferences, and place her order online.
Brands control the interactions. Retailers can't browse collections unless the brand has approved. Plus, Joor lets brands customize their offerings for particular retailers and track product sales data in real time.
Eventually, Bijoor hopes to expand the site to include wholesale products in the baby, kids, home, beauty, and luxury categories, but she admits that Joor still faces some challenges. Several competitors have already emerged, including NuOrder, Balluun, Monkey N Middle, Modalyst, Lettuce, and Le New Black.
But Joor's greatest challenge may be persuading traditional brands and the retailers to put down their pencils. Compared with other industries, the fashion world has been remarkably slow to adopt technology, says Deena Amato-McCoy, a retail analyst at Aberdeen Group. "Fashion is avant garde on style, but not on business processes," she says. "Fashion does things the way fashion has always done things, even if that means having a trade show in New York City in the dead of winter. There's an old-school mentality." If Joor or its competitors can manage to force the fashion industry forward, says Amato-McCoy, "the potential is enormous."