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The Iconic part 1: How to build an iconic brand

Michael Baker
Smarter Writer

Michael Baker is a retail consultant and vice-chair of the ICSC's Asia-Pacific Research Council

Michael Baker
Smarter Writer

Michael Baker is a retail consultant and vice-chair of the ICSC's Asia-Pacific Research Council

Retail analyst Michael Baker talks to Adam Jacobs, co-founder and managing director of The Iconic, about starting the leading fashion Retailer.

How to Build an Iconic Brand

Michael Baker: Adam, The Iconic hasn’t been around very long, it was launched in late 2011, and you launched at a time when Australian fashion consumers were for the first time getting massive exposure to international fashion through the Internet, and also through the arrival of the global fashion players in Australia. So was the timing of the launch kind of the perfect storm for you?

Adam Jacobs: It was a perfect time to launch, absolutely. When we looked at the Australian market in 2011, there was a huge amount of white space around online fashion retail. Effectively, nobody locally was doing a good job of it or putting much focus into it. There were some international retailers selling into Australia that were growing and doing a good job, but no one really flying the local flag.

MB: How long did it take you between actually conceiving of this project and actually getting it off the ground?

 AJ: You might not believe it but we launched the website in six weeks, from conception to the sitebeing launched. It was a lot of late nights, not much sleeping for the team. So when we first launched we had a fairly small range and we had fairly basic functionality. We just wanted a pretty decent shopping website up and running, so we could see what customers thought.

MB: How many employees do you have in the building now and throughout the company?

AJ: Altogether we have about 300 staff, and we have about 200 here in Surry Hills, which is our head office, and we have another warehouse in the west of Sydney.

I think the key for us was, let’s just get something up and running and see what happens.

- Adam Jacobs, The Iconic

MB: You don’t have any trouble getting the talent in Sydney to run the operation?

AJ: We certainly have a lot of international talent in the organisation and I think e-commerce is an industry attracts a lot of offshore talent. I think it’s one of the issues we see in Australian retail right now is that there’s not a lot of great e-commerce locally, and it’s hard to develop talent locally.

MB: But it must be much more exciting when you’ve graduated from high school and graduated from university and you’re thinking about a career, it’s probably much more exciting to think about working for The Iconic than it would be working for than a more traditional kind of retailer. Would that be right?

AJ: I think so. It’s a new space. I think what’s really interesting as we look ahead is the digital native generation. When we both grew up, we shopped in a physical store and we didn’t shop online at all, and now we’re starting to do a mixture of both. Soon there will be a generation of people who from day one, were shopping online. And I think that digital native generation are much more excited and much more comfortable with the world of e-commerce, and will certainly find an organisation like ourselves very attractive to work within.

MB: Traditional Australian retailers have been heavily criticised over the last few years for being slow technology adaptors – very slow to respond to change and to introduce. Do you think it is a critical advantage for companies like The Iconic to be coming in and working from a blank slate, not having any legacy systems, and just being able to go in and do it – is that really a big competitive advantage for you?

AJ: Without a doubt. When I walked around the office, I showed you our technology team upstairs, who are able to develop our ideas very quickly. And we are very agile, we’re not weighed down by a bricks and mortar department or function to our business, and by a huge amount of bureaucracy or politics. We are a lean, agile organisation, where we’re constantly trying to drive innovation from idea to delivery. So yes, I think that is absolutely a natural advantage.

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