Syama Meagher CEO of Scaling Retail is a welcome check-in and insight into retail from the background of fashion. I continue to be surprised and delighted at what unique questions I get to ask; in this case about what role retail plays in what we do. It’s no secret that success in dropshipping acts as a stepping stone to greater things, agencies, content empires, a company such as Debutify, but don’t count out brick and mortar. The value of the in person experience is something I know quite well, having been in it for many years and I’m glad to have an hour-ish today with someone who can impart a lot of that value on to you.
Scaling Retail founder & CEO Syama Meagher is a proven and sought-after expert in her field. As the chief retail strategist of international fashion retail consultancy Scaling Retail, she uses her breadth of knowledge and elite team of experts to deliver award-winning results, working with a long list of global and American fashion and lifestyle brands. Syama is an active board member of the Downtown Women's Center and has received several recognitions for business acumen having recently been named one of WWD’s Top 20 Women in Business as well as receiving a Stevie Award for Female Entrepreneur of the Year.
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[00:00:00] Syama Meagher: As long as you are building up your play money and it's your hobby money, then have fun. Hobby, right? Understand spend. If you don't have a date in mind to launch your business, get a job in the space, start conducting customer interviews, really understand what the problem is. Most people who come to the table with cash and they're ready to build something, they don't actually have any idea of the customer, or the problem or what they're solving. The biggest issue is they think that having money will actually, will actually make it all happen. It's still these things take time. There's no amount of capital that's going to buy you customer research for yourself or understanding your own, your own market or what your flywheel is going to look like. So.
[00:00:48] Joseph: You're listening to Ecomonics, a Debutify podcast. Your resource for one of the kind of insights into the world of e-commerce and business in the modern age. This is Joseph. I'll be presenting a wealth of industry knowledge from interviews with successful business people and our own state-of-the-art research. Your time is valuable. So let's go.
Syama Meagher CEO of scaling retail is a welcome check-in and insight into retail from the background of fashion. I continued to be surprised and delighted at what unique questions I get to ask. In this case, some of it is about fashion, but largely about what role retail plays in what we do. It's no secret that success in dropshipping acts as a stepping stone to greater things. Agencies, content empires, a company like ours. But don't count out brick and mortar. The value of the in-person experience is something I know quite well, having been in it for many years, and I'm glad to have an hour ish today with someone who can impart a lot of that value onto you.
Syama Meagher. It is good to have it here on Ecomonics. How are you doing today? How you feeling?
[00:01:54] Syama Meagher: Feeling pretty awesome. How are you doing what's going on?
[00:01:57] Joseph: Uh, I'm doing, I'm doing well. Uh, I it's, I know it's a, it's a pleasantry, but man, am I attempted to actually like, you know, get into how I'm actually doing late last week. We even had my immigrant friend having a weird time sleeping. We'll both like wake up. Like we'll make eye contact, like 3:00 AM in the morning and be like, this is not time to get up yet. And then we just put fall asleep or like, I I'm up against the wall. So I'll, I'll roll over and I'll elbow the wall and she be like, Joe, blablabla. Yeah, blablabla. Sorry. So I'm still getting my eight hours, but it's been, it's been a weird, like last couple of days trying to sleep cause like for nine solid hours. So that's how I'm doing.
[00:02:39] Syama Meagher: Mercury in retrograde. Oh, that's amazing. Well, I would say for your sleeping habits, might I highly suggest, um, getting a bit of a sleep tracker. So whether it's the aura ring or, you know, even if it's having, um, there are now so many different ways of being able to track your sleep. So while darling, you might think that you are getting eight hours of sleep, you might only be getting five and you might just be in bed for eight hours. So I'd say bio hack that shit, track it and, uh, and make it work.
[00:03:17] Joseph: All right. I'll add it to my checklist. So I got blanket, pillow mattress, sleep tracker. All right. That might be the one. So, I know that we, we don't have you, uh, for forever. We've only got you for X amount of times. Let's make it count. First question, a traditional Ecomonics question slash is really most podcasts, but, you know, whatever. Um, tell us who you are and what do you do?
[00:03:39] Syama Meagher: Um, gosh. Yeah. I, what do I do? I feel like I'm a multihyphenate, which is pretty, pretty common in 2021 to be a multihyphenate though I've been one, um, uh, for a very long time, so, so more so maybe then than others in my space. Um, my background is in corporate fashion. I was a buyer and behind the scenes at Barney's, RIP, uh, Gucci, Macy's. I launched my consulting practice and my agency just about 10 years ago, scaling retail. And which has been pretty exciting. And then last year in April, I co-founded a business called rental co with a co-founder. Um, we started selling PPE back in April of 2020. We grossed over $2 million in about six months and realized that now we need to pivot and have a new business. So multihyphenate, but all in the consumer spaces.
[00:04:38] Joseph: Hmm. Well, I think what we find these days is that, um, in order to take initiative, I don't think I've talked to anybody who really like, um, either does one thing or has only ever done one thing. Uh, one of the, one of the sides of that too, is that, you know, we live in a time where. You know, sorry. But if you look back to different parts of history, it took longer to even really be able to take off in one aspect. Um, it was harder to access information. People had to commute to the library more often. Um, whereas now, I mean, it's, uh, it is pretty easy to put on multiple hats and use them as a way to kind of like. Fuse them together to create a bigger umbrella. So you definitely have the first multihyphenate in that we've had not even today, frankly.
[00:05:21] Syama Meagher: I love that. You know, what I think is so is so interesting is, you know, they say, and what I read the other day is that children that are born now are likely going to live to be over a hundred.
So what the hell are you going to do with all that time, other than just build multiple lives. And that's very much a philosophy that I hold even true today, as I think about, you know, If I treat my life as if I'm a VC investing into all of my projects and ideas, then it gives me full license to go after everything, knowing that like, something's going okay.
[00:05:56] Joseph: I want to ask you about that real quick. So, there's a psychology with like, spending money versus investing money. And what are the things I've always tried to do is probably to a fault is just think if I'm going to put my money down here, or if I'm going to spend time here and spend money on this, it's got to feel like an investment.
And even like hanging out with friends, I wanted it to justify to myself that this feels like an investment. Well, you know, it's boosting my wellbeing. Um, these are friends that could be there for me in the future. Um, spoiler alert, they actually cut contact with me, um, because politics are it is nasty, but I'm actually like, I look back on it.
I'm like, man, that was a, that was a poor investment. And you know, I, and I still miss them as my friends too, but there's something about wanting to always recognize and respect our resources and that if, if something is a cost versus an investment, that's something that's out of our control. So we always want things to feel like investments rather than feel like costs.
[00:06:51] Syama Meagher: That's such an interesting way of framing it. You know, I would say that like, even the notion of I invested in friends, they're not my friends, that was a bad investment, I think misses the, the bigger scale of almost like how things kind of stack up and doors open. So in my mind, as a, as a serial entrepreneur, crazy person, um, I would say that I would say that,
that experience opens up new learning awareness, better opportunities. And without having had the experience that you had, you wouldn't be able to make better decisions as you're going forward. So it's almost like, you know, rites of passage through our developmental phases of what it is we truly are going for,
knowing my aunt just turned 69 the other week, I had her over and she goes, Syama, there is no there, there. And every time you think you figured it out, there's something more. And she said, develop the tools and skillsets that you can win at managing life at coping with life because life doesn't change and there is no mastery of life.
There's only mastery of the tools that help you engage with life.
[00:08:05] Joseph: You know what I have to say, that has actually helped me, even it, even looking back on it now, rather than look at something as like, a failed investment was just, you know, not the, uh, not the, not the kindest or most compassionate way to look at friends and for the friends that I still have, uh, you know, I, I love you all, but regardless of the outcome, there are things that we take away from it.
And so in our mind, we have to always think about what does it take away? What is the, um, the, the lesson learning, how do I grow from this? You know, regardless of whether or not it was the preferred outcome or not.
[00:08:35] Syama Meagher: Absolutely. And, and, you know, life is business. Businesses, life, personal and professional are the same damn thing.
So as we're talking about, even the, the example of friends, we can think about it also in terms of jobs we've had. Um, startups that we think failed or didn't go anywhere, um, you know, investing in the stock market when you don't know what you're doing because you're learning. And so, you know, by losing money, you can actually gain insight and gain knowledge and, and refine.
So it's interesting how that's really, you know, personal business. It's kind of a general way of, I think, approaching all the damn things.
[00:09:16] Joseph: Yeah. And, you know, even one of the things that we talk about with Facebook advertising too, is that, that first wave of ads on Facebook, maybe some sales will get out of it, but for the most part, it is just data collection. So it's strategic losing.
[00:09:28] Syama Meagher: Absolutely. And when you go into it, so oftentimes, and I'm working with every, every brand or founder CEO that I work with, we always are looking at things in terms of the experiment, the contained sandbox. And when you think of it as a sandbox and you know, kind of what the experiment is supposed to lead towards and allows you to hedge your investment, spend more on the beginning to make some mistakes, to really learn before you spend the rest of the money that you're allocating.
And I'd say, even to your point on Facebook ads, I've worked with lots of young startup CEO founders who are scared of running ads, um, are, are scared to commit to an agency, run their own ads, waste even more time, money and energy, I'm sure everyone can relate to this, trying to do it themselves when really, if they understood the sandbox and the experiment, they'd go, oh shit, actually I shouldn't be doing this. It's going to take more money and I'm going to get better results by looking at it very 360.
[00:10:35] Joseph: Well, the one upside that I've observed to try to do that, the things ourselves, um, whether or not that's one of our core proficiencies, or even like a tertiary proficiency or possibly something that we're abysmal at, is always to understand the value of the work that goes into it.
So when we delegate a task to somebody else, we know what are the metrics? Um, like if I'm handing say like a writing something, or I actually I'll use a, I use a tangible example is a for awhile, I would, uh, take a second run of the editing myself so that I can, um, do more like the creative edits and then, well, I, this is something I've been doing for years and years before even joined this company. And due to time constraints, I had to hand that over to the producer, me knowing how to do it and made it a lot easier to delegate rather than trusting somebody from the beginning to take over it. And just assuming that they have the frame of reference or they have the skillset and then I can trust them.
Sometimes we have to do that. But it does help whenever we have that personal experience first.
[00:11:31] Syama Meagher: Yeah, absolutely. I totally agree with you.
[00:11:33] Joseph: All right. So I noticed in your welcome video, uh, it's, it's always great when like the welcome video is, uh, can generate material, but, uh, yeah, you, so you help scale of businesses from start to finish.
And I wanted to ask about the finish because. In my mind, I'm always imagining, and this is me, you know, for my, you know, my pro commerce, I'm a pro capitalistic sense. Um, not that I don't recognize the flaws in it, but whatever this isn't the time for that. But, you know, businesses, it seems to me that growth is a constant, um, because if something becomes, um, stagnant, what happens is everything else grows. Um, everything else around it, the competition continues to grow and so that growth can actually turn into a decline. That's just like, um, a theory that I pulled out a thinner, uh, right here right now, but I would love to hear about like, what is the destination point for, for businesses, you know? Um, I'm, I'm largely thinking of like the ones that you've worked with due to the, uh, hands-on and personal experience with it. So what does an end point look like? What does the finish look like for, for different businesses?
[00:12:39] Syama Meagher: Well, there's so many ways that I can approach this answer. So when it comes to, let's just say the beginning. So the ways to think about this first of I'll break it down in terms of how I look at a, at a completion point with me and a client, and then also in terms of a completion point with someone in their bigger landscape of their company.
So I tend to be an oh shit higher. Oh shit, we're growing too fast. Oh shit, it's going to slow. Oh shit, I don't know what I'm doing. Right. So it's like, Oh my God, something's happening? Who am I going to call? Syama. Right. So I become that kind of higher. So for me, the there's a very clear kind of handoff point where I'm there to solve a very specific problem.
Um, and so my goal is to get in capacity, build, train, teach. Implement the damn things and then leave. So I'm kind of there to get in and get out. Now when I'm assessing a client and who I want to work with, the very first question that I ask them is, well, where do you want this to go? So is your goal here to run this business for the next 20 years. Do you want this to be a family business? Is your goal here to run it for five years, make some cash, do something else. Um, you know, are you looking at launching some sort of technology platform, you know, is this something that has a possibility of an acquisition down the road? If I am going to build something for somebody which takes a lot of my creativity. It takes so much out of me in terms of business modeling strategy, understanding consumer behavior. I am literally co-CEOing someone's company. I need to know what the hell they're in it for and, and where, where are they want to see the finishing point? And then we work backwards. So if I know where someone wants to be, or even if they say I want to build this business so I can always have it forever.
I don't want to manage people. I want to entirely outsource everything. I can then take a business, a variety of different business models and say, well, based on this founder type and personality, based on the capital requirements and what they have available to them and based on their vision, what is the right business model. That's actually going to support those three things because vision without capital. Doesn't go anywhere, right. You can have, because it doesn't go anywhere. And so you want to be able to suit a business model towards the end game, towards the capital and towards the founder's vision and personality.
[00:15:13] Joseph: Have you ever had to, uh, assess someone's, um, end state and convince them or talk, like make a case that maybe there was a different, uh, end game in mind for them that would actually be better for them in the long run.
[00:15:26] Syama Meagher: Usually it's telling people not to start businesses. I can't tell you how many times I tell people not to start a business.
Um, I am the anti-business business consultant. I tell people do not become part of the internet graveyard. Don't just spend a little bit of money to try and play, like actually think about what it is you want to do. Um, more often than not, I would say the brands that I ended up working with, you know, are really creatively driven.
So most of them are in it to be the designer or the manufacturer. They want to produce a creative vision. And what they need me for is to help put in the infrastructure and the modeling and kind of the, the operating side. So for them, most of the time it's that they want to run, operate and manage their own businesses.
Now, some of them say they come to the, to the playing field and they say, well, I actually want to build this thing to scale. Like I want to sell it. I want to do something big with it. When I say scale, I mean, you know, you want a business that's doing, let's say more than $5 million a year. Right. So 5 million is very very, very small. Right. So if you want to do something more than that, you actually need to look at how your infrastructure changes. So I would say I'm usually not talking people off of the final destination, unless it's very clear that running a business is truly not in their cars at this moment.
Um, it's more trying to help them learn and understand. The ways in which these things may or may not be possible and how to, how to iterate within that.
[00:17:03] Joseph: Yeah. So, so let's say you, you taught like say I come to you with a business idea, uh, and, and you, I guess, talk me down from, um, good Lord. Why did I say windowsill? Anyways, why was I thinking that, um, but what would be the, the, the ideal thing for them to do instead, maybe like, uh, take a course, um, observe other businesses in the field. Um, maybe even find a job in the field that would, uh, give me some hands on experience.
[00:17:29] Syama Meagher: Most people need a job. So I'd say.
[00:17:32] Joseph: The data does support that.
[00:17:35] Syama Meagher: Yeah. Yeah, most people need a job. So the, the idea, so there's play money that you can have a hobby with, then there's, you know, business building money that you can actually do something with. So as long as you are building up your play money and it's your hobby money, then have fun. Hobby, right? Understand spend. If you don't have a date in mind to launch your business, get a job in the space, start conducting customer interviews, really understand what the problem is. Most people who would come to the table with cash and they're ready to build something, but they don't actually have any idea of the customer or the problem or what they're solving. The biggest issue is I think that having money will actually will actually make it all happen. It's still these things take time. There's no amount of capital that's going to buy you customer research for yourself or understanding your own, your own market or what your flywheel is going to look like so.
[00:18:33] Joseph: Yeah, and I think with as much as, and there is plenty of, of data to support, um, any, any business model, you know, the money is the resource you used in-between the stuff that's not quantified. Uh, like, cause you were saying it takes a lot of energy. It takes a lot of personal vision and creativity and drive to be like a temporary CEO. And that's all stuff that I I've, I wouldn't know how to write down on paper. So for somebody to just approach with, um, uh, with a bucket full of cash, but not really recognize what other resources.
They have to have at the ready in order to succeed in business, it makes one wonder, well, why don't just like put that money into a, into game stock stocks or something. Like, there are other things that people can do with the money that can just transform into other money. So it is, it is fascinating to, to hear like, people are approaching business specifically to turn that money in and transform that money into more money, Rumpelstiltskin style.
I would say being somewhat of a bias researcher, I'm always looking for information that is, um, ideal to the continent that I'm trying to make here is that for the most part, people seem to approach business because they want to solve a problem. And oftentimes, because they've solved one for themselves, like one of the, one of the stories I research way back was these gluten-free cookies.
She needed them for her daughter. So she says, well, you know, my daughter needs them. I guess other people need them too. So those resources were all there. Um, it was, it was actually the cash that was probably the first problem.
[00:19:51] Syama Meagher: Yeah. I mean, I think, I think that understanding what you're in it for your own leadership style.
So for example, someone who's an investor, right. Who get, who wants to put money into a business, doesn't have to be the CEO founder of the business. Right. It doesn't have to be like that. And so I think oftentimes what we think about is like, you know, I have this money, I want to make an impact and not many people understand the different ways in which they can make an impact without having to have their own branch or their own business.
And, um, and I think that that's pretty, I think that's pretty interesting. I mean, there are brands owners, there are investors, there are people who are, um, you know, tinkering with their hobbies and there's no right or wrong way to do it. What I can tell you, is that launching a fashion business is not a gift quick opportunity when we're thinking about what those opportunities are you're absolutely right. The stock market, Bitcoin, lots of other opportunities right now to turn a profit. So more often than not the people who are investing into building fashion businesses are doing so because of legacy. They're doing so because they have this creative vision that they want to see out in the world.
They're doing that because they've like you mentioned potentially solve some sort of product. And in this case it's usually emotional. It's problem solving. It's not necessarily, I've created a new kind of t-shirt that now has five arm holes, right? The t-shirts always going to look the same, but maybe they're solving a particular emotional problem.
And so the thing I always like to say is, yes, there are oversaturated markets but there are under saturated voices. And so in fashion is not about saying, well, everyone else is selling ax. There's no space for me. It's more about saying, can I craft the right emotional messaging and have the right voice to connect to an audience that may be underserved.
[00:21:51] Joseph: One thing that I want to do is, um, help our listeners maybe draw some roadmaps towards this path. And one of the ongoing themes that we have in the show is that so far, everybody who's like done the, the shipping route. I don't know. There might be an exception, but I bet even those exceptions are on a ticking clock where they, they drop ship, they build the capital and then they move on and I can, I can bring this all the way back to like the second interview I did with the Ecom King, Kamil Sattar, who said that he wants to do a fashion brand as well.
And so he's, he's both of his capital for it. So I'm on the verge of asking, well, what it is about fashion in particular, but I think people are going to have to make up remind on that. Um, and I think you've said some great things here about how fashion can actually be a voice for, for group of people to maybe like communicate a culture or, or, or make a statement on its own. So that right there is the answer to the question. So. Um, and unless there was like other ones too, that you want to add onto that, I'll pause briefly just in case.
[00:22:46] Syama Meagher: I mean fashion is really fucking fun. So like, you know, so I'm just going to say that, like that, I mean, it's, it's fun.
I mean, it, it has these larger purposes. I mean, it certainly fashion can relate back to yes, underserved voices, community, identity. Um, masking, I mean, you know, fashion and, and that whole emotional side, it runs so much deeper than I think most people will even recognize on a psych psychological level. Um, but it's also really fun and I, and I really think that's important.
[00:23:26] Joseph: Okay. So what I'm going to ask, I have a couple of things planned I want to ask. One of them is about, um, say as somebody who's got the capital to make their way into a brick and mortar. So we'll get to that. Uh, but here's one that I've personally always wondered about the industry and, and humbling. You can shed some light on it, but I don't expect you to be like the, be all end all the final.
Like, I answer this for me once and for all, but fashion trends change as some of it is based off like, well, it's cold now. So, you know, you're gonna have to wear a stuff that's warmer. Um, You know, in theory and what I'm always we've always wondered about is the relationship between the trends and the industry is the industry dictating the trends or is it more responding to the trends, like where exactly do fashion trends come from?
[00:24:10] Syama Meagher: So my professional answer to that is through trend forecasting companies, but, but let me, where, where do they get their information? So what's really interesting is, um, fashion and culture, um, and we'll call it for lack of a better word here, you know, the history or what people are wearing.
There's always been a very interesting symbiotic relationship between the two. And so, um, in terms of like where culture and influence comes from, and then how it gets reinvented into a different. Let's call them, uh, price buckets of brands. So obviously to be able to see, for example, a brand that has a founder resurgence, like some of the old school brands, like Fila, for example, or some of the older athletic brands that kind of died out Flo Jo, right.
[00:24:59] Joseph: I haven't heard Flo Jo in years. Yeah.
[00:25:05] Syama Meagher: And then all of a sudden you're like, Oh my gosh, this thing is making a comeback. And then all of a sudden you see a brand collaboration with a higher end luxury brands. So when it comes to what style is or fashion trends, um, I'll say a couple of things. One is fashion and trend direction does not come from the runway or major fashion houses.
That is not where, where fashion trends come from. Um, More often than not, uh, fashion trends were coming from. I would say some of the more interesting outliers. So when you think of like fashion muses or people who are dressing creatively, um, you're oftentimes looking at people who are in the art scene, right.
People who are, um, on the peripheral effect, right? And then they draw inspiration from these muses and incorporate them into their designs. Um, but you know, there's also kind of pulling inspiration from, um, from streetwear culture and, and lots of, and even bringing different kinds of nuances from globe global culture has now find its way in both positive and negative ways into more mainstream fashion, uh, negative in the sense of like, you know, real lack of understanding of some, uh, diversity issues and, and really what constitutes something that's culturally relevant versus what is, um, you know, it's something that is giving nod or thanks to, or really recognizing it.
So there's definitely some cultural appropriation issues. There is no one answer to your question other than, um, at the end of the day, the future of where retail trends will be moving to will still always be dictated by those who are the most influential, not necessarily on Instagram, but those who are the most influential within their early adopter spaces, who are then able to kind of create, create trends on a smaller scale.
And that has always been the case. There've always been early adopters and influencers who have set trends. Um, who generally speaking, don't always know that they're the ones who are setting the trends.
[00:27:09] Joseph: So on that uh, no. So here's the thing that, um, I was pleased to hear is that, you know, it's not like there, there is the God of fashion who's like dictating the rules for it.
Um, it's, it's, it's a culture it's, um, it is influencers in their spaces, um, having the ripple effect. Um, so w with, uh, with fashion shows in particular, I am curious about like, what role they play. Um, because it is, it's kind of, it's kind of a mimetic where like, you'll, you'll see a GIF of, um, what we'll say is are some of the more creative takes on fashion and I try to be, I'm pretty open-minded um, I come from the arts background, uh, but I do see people walking down the runway and it, and it looks like they've got like a procedurally generated. I don't even know how to describe it. Like there's like holes popping out and those colors all over and I'm like, well, if it's warm, that's one thing, but I don't really know what to make of it. So what is like the end game for, um, these highly creative takes on clothing?
[00:28:08] Syama Meagher: It's funny. It's like what? You're, what, what you just said reminds me of like an art school, like senior fashion show where it's like, however, the goal is to like, make the most outrageous shit you can. And you're like, wow, I'm just gonna to like, go for it. It's similar to that. So, so actually, when I was at Gucci, I was responsible for the outlet division and our division was comprised of both products that was made for the outlet as well as aged inventory from our full-price stores.
And what was really interesting is when we would then start to see the different collections and the shows come out. It'd be very easy for me to look at it and be like, hi, I think this is going to end up in the outlet. You know, I think this thing is going to sell, throw out full price. We might need to develop, Oh, this thing is going to be really great, you know, in our store.
And so what's interesting is fashion shows are not really intended to tell you what to wear or they're intended to almost show you. Um, the somewhat unattainable North star of kind of the most creative within a cohesive landscape of what that creative director and designer is envisioning because oftentimes what's on the runway and gets modified, changed and altered to then be ready to be sold in a store.
Right. So usually what you see in the store is kind of, uh, most of the time, pretty big Delta between what you saw on, on the runway.
[00:29:34] Joseph: Well, I will say that I will appreciate the artistic expression of it as well. I just use it as a, just to use, I mean, those they're called models, right? So they are, there is, uh, an opportunity there to, uh, express them.
And I can understand too, if they want to use this opportunity because otherwise they're. There in the same way that if a filmmaker has to do the studio, uh, films to make bank within wants to work on something experimental, that might not exactly like, you know, take off in theaters, but is something really deep and personal to them and it could be influential and then can, and the ideas from that film can then take and started making their way into others.
And, and before, you know what those ideas end up becoming bigger ones, I'm just thinking of like, Christopher Nolan's trajectory. For instance, you know, his movies were pretty small scale, but he was very, very smart and understanding of what the film delivery format was capable of. So that clears up a lot of things for me.
And just, just personally, I've always wondered about.
Let's, uh, let's do some favors for our, uh, for our core audience for our dropshippers. So the first question is. And I'm doing my best, not to frame this too much under a COVID lens. Uh, lately we managed to not talk about it too much, but I recognize that it's relevant and it's important.
And especially in the question of why go brick and mortar. So we'll, we'll factor it in where it is. And so where the importance of it, I defer to you, but for our, for our dropshippers and ecom entrepreneurs, um, why go brick and mortar these days?
[00:31:01] Syama Meagher: Space is so valuable. Space will always be valuable. How we look at investing in space is, um, culturally, socially, it's, it's such an important place of gathering. It builds community. It builds culture. It creates real physical attachment and bond to brand and to other people. And so when you get a chance to bond with people in person under the umbrella of a brand, all of these positive, emotional connections that reinforce brand are now they're subliminally in your mind, um, in a space that's far less crowded than online digital ads.
So capturing someone's time and space and, and connection is, is unquantifiable in a larger customer lifetime value marketing lens, harder to quantify extremely impactful. Definitely something that today everyone is suffering from existential crisis around connection space and community. I think brick and mortar is going to play an increasingly more and more important role as we look to reinvigorate the economy through a true, and I hate this word Omni channel lens.
[00:32:19] Joseph: I can, yeah, I can understand why. I'm neutral on that one, but I understand.
[00:32:25] Syama Meagher: Thanks.
[00:32:28] Joseph: This last year. Uh, I, we, I haven't had a very many chances to, to, to visit retail stores, which I worked retail for a number of years. Um, one of the, one of the companies I worked for was, uh, was fossil and I enjoyed it quite a bit.
Um, and this was really more of an observation. This isn't the point that I'm at. This is the question I want to bring up per se. But, um, one of my takeaways from it is that if I had known that how long I was going to be there, I think I would have put more effort into the connections that I made with employees, as well as with, um, customers too.
Um, what I had done, what I ended up doing was I ended up like taking for granted. Uh, how long, uh, my, my time there was actually going to be, think there's always going to be new customers coming in, and there's also going to be new employees coming in. Cause you know, retail is difficult work, you know, you get a lot of students, right.
They, they graduated, they go back to it's a or whatever. So, so let's just meet like my, uh, some of the stuff that I looked back on retail, I always enjoy the idea that. Uh, uh, a store, um, was really going to be like a, uh, a local landmark and it was going to be something that people would want to go to even just to socialize and be a part of the community there.
Some of that does have to do with like, okay, well, you know, if you put coffee there, you put shares in there. Then people are going to be more incentivized to want to stay there. Whereas I don't see that particular incentive. And like, if I go to like my my local mall, like a Yorkdale mall where it is, um, you know, high-end, high-end retail stuff.
So, so I do see some, some challenges there, but I also see the, the benefits that, that you've described. I also want to ask you about where you see like, a future or any, if you've seen any visions for what is going to happen to the retail space, especially when you consider how much business can actually just be done online.
And this last year, we've had a lot of conditioning to do business online. I've certainly no stranger to it. I can look around my room and I've got like eight things that I've ordered online. So one example of this, um, that I'll give just to help kind of like, uh, uh, cook. It is, uh, Casper mattresses. I know that brand from online, I know them from the, uh, from the marketing, but I didn't expect was to see a store for them.
Now we go into the store. We don't expect, and I don't think they expect that they're going to close, uh, that often. Uh, on a mattress cause that's, that's a lot of money, but it was brilliant because the mattresses was there and we can test them. And that probably made a lot more purchases online, feel more secure, like, okay, well I tested this out and I'm gonna go home.
I'm gonna buy it. Um, so on that, with that in mind, I'm wondering where you see retail, if there's any evolution for the retail sector, uh, down the line?
[00:34:57] Syama Meagher: I would say that the nice thing about Casper is that or even away luggage or any of those things, having a physical space as a calling card, it's, it's a business card.
It's something that you are that they're probably looking at in terms of, you know, their, their PNL. I would doubt that they're looking at that as a revenue stream so much as a marketing footprint to reinforce their digital, uh, their online sales. So I think a big part of it is looking at the role of what space can do for you without having to look at it from a sales per square foot capability. And if you have a robust digital first business, then your brick and mortar stores become the physical extension. Um, possibly yielding you higher results than a billboard, right? Or possibly yielding you higher results than other kinds of external out of home facing marketing channels.
And, um, given the kind of explosiveness of space being available, I would say back in like 2013, 14, 15, like all the people got into space and then experiential became so big. And now in the last year, it's kind of fallen by the wayside, but it's still very important, even more so now, like I would, I would hope that many of the direct to consumer brands and e-comm businesses that have done quite well over the last year will hopefully be able to understand that yes, you can keep fighting with more digital advertising dollars, but looking at where your customers are mostly located and maybe investing in a small.
You know, a small space for a pop-up might actually do way more for you, right? When, when economies and things start to open up or labor markets open up more than reinvesting that into, into this digital funnel. And so my hope is that the profits can get reinvested into ways that are more sustaining because as we all know, The cost of doing business online is so much more expensive.
Now it is so much more expensive. Um, and we have to be looking at other ways to be able to capture audience and to bridge loyalty and connection. And I think physical space does that quite well. I think direct mail does that very well. In addition to that, and then of course, layer on top of that, the traditional kind of, uh, digital marketing channels.
[00:37:24] Joseph: Oh, sorry, that that is, uh, uh, that's quite a bit to take in and I didn't, it didn't occur to me, but that, that you brought it up, that the experiential part of it. Cause I, I do remember seeing like a lot of pop-ups all of a sudden, because I think, um, I would say around like, I dunno, 24 now probably like 2016, 2017.
Uh, there were, there were a fair share of closures. And so this idea of like stores would just show up. Uh, present their brand. Um, and then we would get going. So then that way people had the lasting impression that would make them more likely to want to then continue doing business online, or even keep their eyes off for the next pop-up store.
[00:38:00] Syama Meagher: Totally.
[00:38:01] Joseph: All right. So have you had any, uh, I, I imagine you do, but I tend to ask this question more open-ended because I don't want to be like, tell us about the time. Yeah. You did this thing for this person. Like I always just start open-ended. So have you had any experience laying out a roadmap for say like a purely digital brand, uh, to then transition into a retail space?
[00:38:18] Syama Meagher: Yes. Would you like me to tell you more?
[00:38:21] Joseph: I think that is everything. Thank you, everyone for listening.
Yeah, definitely. Uh, any, any examples?
[00:38:27] Syama Meagher: Yeah, of course, of course. Um, I would say this, this happened, uh, I had a client in Bahrain who wanted to have a, um, Multiline retail store. And we first started with the business online. So our roadmap was actually let's use the power of, uh, of e-com to build out your brand and then let's expand it to a, uh, physical footprint.
And we actually ended up launching both of them within about, I would say nine months of each other. So we started with digital in order to get the word of math out. And then what we did is we built into her budgeting for the year, kind of what it would take for us to, to really invest into this, this project.
And the most interesting thing about all of that was. Was really being able to hone in on the geographic region by which those people were going to be shopping. So Bahrain is very small, right? So we're not talking about it. We're not talking about, you know, California, but, um, but being able to fully kind of start to bridge those relationships and connections digitally allowed us to get more information to better tailor the customer experience in the store.
Um, which, which is fascinating because sometimes at least in the last year or so, I've just seen so many brick and mortar stores that have then gone digital, right? Assuming that they understand that customer, but for her, everything was so, so localized that starting digital allowed us to get that entryway, to have those close customer conversations on the phone to then help us build out what our physical space was going to look like.
[00:40:03] Joseph: You know, this reminds me of a previous episode I had with, um, Aaron Pearson who, uh, he does a bit branding and he was all about, um, advertising, helping advertising and marketing for local businesses. And one of the things that he had said, um, coming up on the, the beginning of COVID is that it was sink or swim for a lot of businesses, but not in the way of like, You know, you might not necessarily have the transactions you need to succeed.
It was more of like, if they wanted to keep going with it. Um, if, uh, they realized that they had to close out shop and then turn all their business over to the digital side. A lot of them just said, you know what? I think this is a sign for us to, to close this out and move on. Um, so, so that, so that has been unfortunate.
I, I, I guess I do have to wonder if, uh, if you've encountered people who were like saying, you know, we enough is enough where we can't go the digital route, we're going to. Yeah, they closed up shop. Maybe, maybe reopen once a, the pandemic is over.
[00:40:53] Syama Meagher: Yeah, I think what's unfortunate is, you know, there's nothing like any sort of recession or catastrophe to really expose weak business models and, um, and holes in, in operations.
And a lot of businesses closed down that we're not more, let's say, uh, financially resourced or maybe previously operationally focused on creating a very profitable flywheel for their companies. And so this notion of let me close down and reopen, I think is going to. Um, I think it's going to hurt in terms of, you know, what does that communication look like?
So in the time of COVID, while everyone is having an existential crisis about their identities in life, you stick to brands and communities and people who are consistent and who show up for you. So I would say maybe more, more important than is my brand selling something is, is my brand communicating.
Something, what, what is going on? What am I sharing? What, what is happening within our doors? Uh, or behind the scenes? I would say there was a brand that I ended up buying this fantastic leather jacket from in the middle of COVID and you know, their email campaigns started to have video notes from the people who worked there.
And even though we all kind of understood that there was a struggle and there were things going on, there was a sense of intimacy and connection between the company and its customers. And that I think does there's so much more, uh, being able to have the right communication strategy then whether or not you have something to sell, but if you're not communicating, then you don't agree.
[00:42:41] Joseph: Yeah. That makes a lot of sense, especially because what you were saying earlier is that one of the key things about having the physical space is to communicate is. Even just the term foot traffic, even if they're walking by there, they're seeing the message, message, and the billboard, the message and the lights, whatever it is on display.
So, yeah. Uh, that's uh, that's a keen insight right then and there.
So here's what I'm wondering about the difference between like a digital brand first versus like an in-person brand first. So I imagine let's just say I'm. Uh, maybe I haven't made my mind up yet. Um, but I'm leaning more towards a brand that is like more focused on the digital and the online side versus a brand that might be more focused on the in-person side.
Um, so what goes into deciding like what a brand needs to, in order to like, Funnel customers to their ideal location. If like, say they're using physical to get them onto the digital or using digital to get them to physical. Okay. Every last question that I've asked since the beginning of the show, I always wonder, did I just ask something really stupid, but so far I'm like, okay.
I'll make 988 out of 989. So, you know, I'm not sure.
[00:43:51] Syama Meagher: Um, okay, so it's a big question. So let me see if I can reframe it back, which is if I start either digital first or brick and mortar, and then I'm looking to. Expand or launched into the other platform is the question, how do I bridge? How do I create that expansion or bridge in terms of like communication and marketing and customer?
Is that kind of, is that the question.
[00:44:19] Joseph: It's pretty close. Uh, the one thing I would add on to that is the difference between like, say like the want and the need, where if somebody wants to be digital, but they need a physical. Um, how, what needs need to be met versus they want physical, but they need digital what needs need to be met there?
[00:44:33] Syama Meagher: Oh, interesting. Okay, cool. Oh, I like this one. All right. So, um, it's going to take me a minute. I'm going to have to think through this as we're, as we're, as we're chatting.
[00:44:43] Joseph: Do you want to do like a quick pause or just to like get a second?
[00:44:45] Syama Meagher: No, I think, I think I have it. I mean, as a business owner of a digital first business, the very first thing is, you know, am I digital because I can't have a space or am I being forced to being on a digital platform. Last year, everyone was forced to being on a digital platform.
Anyone who was a visual merchandiser or anyone who wanted to create storytelling in a physical space really wasn't able to do so. So going digital first, when you are truly wanting to create events, Right or PR a producer, which is what a lot of store owners are. These days people open up stores by hiring event producers, right?
I need to make this wall look more Instagram friendly. I need to make sure that I have an area for people to sit down. You know, we very much look at space development through the lens now of event production, which is a very different lens than launching something digitally, where you're very focused on scaling up funnels. Right. You're very focused on the advertising channels. You're focused on communication, but it's not quite in a physical, physical environment. So I would say this past year, really highlighted. The need either for a brand who is, uh, physically centered to rethink entirely what brand experience meant online.
And for many of those brands, it wasn't worth it. In fact, the number of people who I spoke to who had small brick and mortar stores who wanted to go digital or run launched digital footprints did so without capturing any sales. Why because they weren't able to translate the experience or invest the resources to make it something that is unique and special.
And that actually translate the brand. It was almost as if they were using online as a place to liquidate inventory rather than to create branded connections and relationships. So I would say it's very important to understand. The true differences of how consumers are looking to emotionally attach themselves to an online experience versus a brick and mortar experience.
And sometimes they're entirely an untranslatable, right? And sometimes when you have a, a brand like a Casper, it's entirely translatable because you're looking at it, just a short number of skews, right? So these small kind of DTC brands I think can oscillate. Uh, between these two spaces, much easier than let's say a retail storefront, that's selling 200 brands.
And that has to be able to recreate that experience of, of having a stylist or being able to have, let's say a quote unquote luxury experience. Um, even companies like, you know, SACS for example, has never really landed that in-store experience digitally. So I think that there are still some, some fails here when we look at how to be able to migrate between between the both of them in terms of hierarchy of priorities, for people who are looking at launching businesses for the first time. This is still a very digital first era that we're in. I think that it's important to launch digital before you go into a physical brick and mortar space.
Um, the reason why is, I think that it becomes almost, almost like how we said Casper, the storefront is the calling card for online, right? And it's like, Hey, look at us. We have this. I mean, if you are not online to begin with your brand, almost doesn't exist. Right. It's like when someone goes to find you, you don't exist.
So in terms of where to start first, I think, you know, the long-term game here is going to be in digital first brands that can, that can scale quickly. And then I think the second part of that is looking at, you know, brick and mortar distribution points kind of, and pop-ups based on where the largest, um, cluster of your customers are.
[00:48:45] Joseph: Now one, one brand that had come up because it comes up a lot because I'm addicted to it, which is a Coca-Cola. And I always try to think about like, you know, what they have to go through in particular, compared to a lot of other brands. And the thing is, I, as far as I know, they've never had like their own store cause they never needed one.
They had so many other outlets to, to sell their product. And the experience of that particular brand was always up to the consumer. It was encouraging the consumer to decide, am I going to have this on a. Uh, on a, on a cold day, I'm going to have it with dinner and a pizza with a movie. So they really put the control in the hands of the customer to decide like how they wanted to have the experience.
And then the whole Santa Claus thing came around. And, and so I think there is, that's one thing that I would take away on a digital site is to help guide the consumer because they're in their own home or, you know, on a bench or somewhere, but they are more in control of the experience themselves, um, on the digitally versus when they go into a store, they're a guest and they're being hosted.
So that's where the that's where the brand has the opportunity to really help the consumer understand the vision of the, of the product in the first place.
[00:49:55] Syama Meagher: Hm. You know, I, I, I totally agree with that. I think that there's a, we can't think about entirely replicating one experience to another. We have to look at how these different experiences can add to the customer experience. So there is no substitution it's it's addition. And, and I think that when we get so crazy about chatbots and this and that, you know, that luxury customer was walking into Gucci. Don't want this, I want to talk to the chat bot. I'll even though that's the latest technology to interact with the customer, that's not exciting to them, right.
They actually, they want to get on the phone. Right? They, they, they want something that's, that's more personal. And so sometimes we need to look at going, uh, going backwards to go forward. You know, it's, it's not about just like we're seeing with the, um, huge amplification of a text message marketing. I mean, it's, you know, 10 years ago, sales associates were texting their customers and that was amazing.
And then sort of retail stores said, stop texting your customers. We want to standardize everything. And customers were like, this feels so much less personal. So now, right. It's almost like we're going, we're going old school in order to, to bridge those relationships. And I think that that is a very exciting frontier in just retail in general is how do we bridge?
How do we bridge? That customer relationship as their needs change, as we've seen in the last year, um, as industry changes, um, as they're shopping and behavior patterns change, how do we as brands work symbiotically with them and not trying to force them to adopt things that they don't like.
[00:51:41] Joseph: Also, if they're going to come in, if they have to use a chat bot, the least I can do is call it concierge bot.
I mean, just to say, just saying, just putting that out there, that one's a freebie. So, uh, I know we don't have a, we don't have much time left for you. So anyways, um, I got, I got one more thing. This is more like a personal curiosity, so I just wanted to decompress real quick. So I know that you're a part of the, uh, forgive me if, if it, if it's changed since the time that I read it or the time it was posted, but, uh, part of the, um, the women's business board in downtown Los Angeles, did I get the title right?
[00:52:12] Syama Meagher: I'm part, um, I'm on the board of directors for the downtown women's center. Uh, in, in Los Angeles.
[00:52:20] Joseph: Okay. My apologies for, uh, not quite getting it right, but so I haven't, I've, I've been to downtown Los Angeles just once and it was 10 years ago. And being in, in downtown Toronto, um, I have to say I was like taken aback from, from downtown Los Angeles. I mean, just the highways alone. Like the, the, it looked like a hot wheels track where it just, the way they were all like a raid. And I have to say I was there with my dad. So, you know, uh, my dad can beat up other people's dads, but like, I was like definitely intimidated by it.
And I just wanted to ask about maybe what are some parts of downtown Los Angeles that maybe people should, uh, go visit or check out that. So they can have a more like positive takeaway from, uh, from that place because me, I love downtowns. I love city centers. And, uh, and I did, I appreciated the opportunity to be able to check it out, but I feel like I maybe was unlike not the best part of town, but at jewelry shops, a lot of people trying to sell me a necklace.
[00:53:16] Syama Meagher: Yeah. You know, that the really interesting thing about downtown LA is. It's huge kind of art deco, historic architecture. There are a number of very beautiful old schools theaters that sometimes are reopened for performances. Um, there are also walking tours of downtown LA that shows some of these really incredible historic places.
So I would say what's special about downtown LA is not what you see. It's, it's really, it's being able to kind of lift behind the curtain and, and see something that is spectacular and special and not so obvious. You know, the, the downtown women's center is one of the largest women's non-profits in all of Los Angeles County that caters to homeless women and women who are in transition and need health, job training and food services, et cetera, and, um, homelessness and, um, You know, uh, rise of condominiums and this really interesting social economics space, that's very much rubbing up against each other is, is really what's happening in downtown Los Angeles.
Um, it's very much like San Francisco where, you know, you might be in a really incredible high rise. And, but either apartments, $5,000 a month and you go outside and, you know, you have, um, homeless people who need help for right in front of you. And so downtown LA to me, feels a little bit more like, uh, parts of San Francisco.
Um, those certainly it can be quite dangerous, you know, there's, um, Another part of downtown LA that is very special called the arts district. And it's very clear. It's adjacent it's next to, um, Japantown and it's, it's really like little, little Tokyo. And, um, the arts district very much reminds me of like Williamsburg.
It has a lot of the, um, the larger industrial buildings. There's a lot of art galleries. So there, there are these pockets, you know, as you know, Las. So sprawling, uh, so downtown LA little Tokyo and the arts district, I think are really interesting, uh, sequencing of, of neighborhoods. Um, but I would say if you're in downtown LA, learn a little bit more about some of these incredible buildings and then head over to the arts district, which is five, 10 minute walk, um, to get some more of like, uh, you know, New York Williamsburg experience.
[00:55:39] Joseph: Well, I thank you for that. I will keep it in mind. Cause I imagine at some point I will be back. There could, could be a while. Um, but. I I did well, I do want to give it another shot. Um, so with that, uh, Shama, this has been fantastic. I had a lot of fun today. Uh, I really appreciate your time. And the final question before we get you on out of here is always, uh, two things.
One, if you have any parting words of wisdom, you'd like to share. Do you have a chance to do it just in case there was an answer to a question I forgot to ask stuff like that, and then let people know how they can get in touch and, uh, get involved with the, with you and with your content.
[00:56:10] Syama Meagher: Yeah. Awesome. Thank you. You know, I would say that the most exciting thing for me in terms of parting words is being in this industry and being in retail is a gift and a curse. It's a gift because it will always be there because it's always growing and it's always changing and it will always keep you young. It is absolutely a curse because it is always growing.
It is always changing and you're always going to feel like you don't know enough. So you're always an expert and an imposter at the same time consistently. And that to me is a really incredible space to live in intellectually and creatively. So I love it. And I hate it all at the same time. As far as how people can, can get in touch with me. Um, you know, at scaling retail, which is where I told my consulting work for that, um, it's scaling retail.com. It's got all the different, wonderful ways of seeing videos and content. Um, I had someone the other day tell me, they've watched the last six years of my video content and I went Holy shit and seen all my hair changes. You see my outfit changes, all the things, um, but scaling retail.com is where to find me and all of the variations of scaling retail all over the internet when you just open up in Google.
[00:57:28] Joseph: Okay. Terrific. All right. Well, listeners, uh, you all know what to do, and if this is your first time, well, I still think you know what to do because I trust you.
So thank you all for, for being a part of this, uh, Syama, once more thank you for your time. Uh, listeners take care and we will check in soon.
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