1 Min. With A Superhero: 36Boutiques.com CEO, Gadjia Gamieldien

Today, being Woman’s Day n’ all, is a good day to chat to one of the spectacularly smart South African women in business – and one such woman is Gadjia Gamieldien, CEO of 36boutiques.com, a relatively new online store, from the MIH stable (the same group that brings you Kalahari and Pricecheck.co.za).

Gadija – 36Boutiques is focusing squarely on the luxury segment – is this not a bit risky, given the recession, SA’s reticence on e-commerce and the highly tactile category that you’re competing in, i.e. fashion?

With regards to the recession, we define luxury by virtue of the customer experience. It is all about ensuring that the customers journey is simple yet elegant and effective. We provide consumers with a brand and designer offering that is both aspirational and accessible.

About SA’s reticence on e-commerce, I believe the SA market’s reticence is dissipating and with new entrants entering into the market, local retailers are starting to gear up as well.

And to respond to ‘fashion being highly tactile’, I actually believe that fashion is more visual than tactile. Just look at how magazines have styled and guided readers over the years, prompting them to go in store.

We merge the experience to “I see, I want, I buy”. At 36 we offer free delivery and free returns – it has also the reduced the barrier to shop.

Last year we saw a 45% increase in e-commerce take up. Do you think this will slow or grow this year?

It will definitely grow, the movement has gone from slow, steady to now enjoying an accelerated pace.

E-commerce is supposed to be the dream business – cash rich, long tail opportunities, focused operations, targeted marketing etc. What are the real challenges to this ideal?

Get customer service right! Delight, delight, delight your customer. The key is to ensure that all functional areas in the business understand that they operate with the customer in mind. The technical platform is key, and the operational infrastructure must be sound.

We’ve seen some tentative efforts from SA’s retail brands into e-commerce. Why do you think these have not really worked? And, do you believe that it’s possible to do real ‘clicks and mortar’?

In my view the problem is that most have not truly embraced the ecommerce channel and the fear lies in the thinking that it will erode bricks and mortar sales.

Yes, this is how people behave – we are neither one nor the other, we are both. By that I mean that we comfortably straddle and engage with both the digital and physical worlds, and so the convergence of the clicks and mortar is natural – the art lies in the smart commercial and transactional execution.

Do you think there are opportunities for South Africa’s bricks and mortar businesses, e.g. the offline version of 36Boutiques, YDE…?

The whole notion of aggregation online or offline, where a destination is used to showcase multiple brands and designers is really cool, it reduces ”effort“ time for customers thereby increasing the 24hours to 36hours in your day!

We’re seeing an increase of offline advertising for online brands, for example Takealot on radio. What is your best marketing tool for 36Boutiques?

Yes we do. The customer is everywhere – so best we ensure that all marketing efforts are done to include all channels.

Thanks Gadija, you’ve been fantastic. We’re very interested to know how it goes with 36’s progress – keep in touch. In the meantime, Happy Woman’s Day!