At New Lifestyle E-Tailer Confidants, Quality And Affordability Aren’t Opposites
Confidants aims to be Goop for the 99%.
The new e-tailer from Lauren Fennema, former head of buying at men’s gear mecca Huckberry, is based on the premise that covetable premium goods don’t have to be bank account busters. Confidants keeps prices under $250, cherry-picks items that will withstand seasons and wear to become staples, and clues women in on emerging beauty, accessory, fashion and home brands that they’ll be psyched to share with their circles.
“There are a ton of people in the market – the Goops of the world – curating really great, high-quality, super expensive products that are so aspirational you can’t attain them,” says Fennema. “I want to take that concept to every day women with products that you can actually afford to incorporate into your lifestyle. Nothing’s discounted, it’s just that these brands offer awesome value for the product that you’re getting.”
Confidants has kicked off with around 20 brands, including Salt & Stone, Ethics Supply and Juice Beauty in the beauty and self-care category. A brand will be added to the assortment weekly, and Fennema anticipates the brand total could hit 50 by spring. To assemble the selection, she relied on connections to brands she made during her five-year tenure at Huckberry, fell down endless Instagram rabbit holes, attended trade shows and checked out boutiques when she was on the road.
“I’m always hunting for brands that have stories behind them. They don’t have to have a righteous point of view, but I want to make sure they’re checking all the boxes on style, functionality, quality, and a price that has the customer in mind and is worth it,” says Fennema. “If I wouldn’t buy it, I don’t want to sell it.”
“There are a ton of people in the market – the Goops of the world – curating really great, high-quality, super expensive products that are so aspirational you can’t attain them. I want to take that concept to every day women with products that you can actually afford to incorporate into your lifestyle.”
In beauty, Fennema’s goal is for Confidants to demystify the natural segment and encourage customers to experiment with trends they may have been hesitant to dabble in. “I find myself constantly wanting to play with trends like, I wonder if that face mask works,” she says. “It can be exciting, but extremely overwhelming to try things, and I want to cut out the clutter.”
Confidants holds inventory as well as uses drop-ship methods managed by brands and favors testing merchandise on consignment. Fennema’s preference is to trial items for 30 to 60 days on consignment to decipher the right items for Confidants’ audience prior to plunking down for them. “At Huckberry, I learned how you work with a brand,” she says. “An emerging brand is a very different conversation than a Patagonia or a brand that’s already in major markets. I know how to partner with brands on many different levels for where they are in their journeys.”
To start self-funded Confidants, Fennema put roughly $10,000 into inventory and $10,000 into building the website. Her target for first-year sales is $50,000, and she’s making headway toward that target. Shopping events to generate buzz and early loyalists have been sales generators for Confidants. Prior to its launch last month, the site headquartered in San Francisco held three in the Bay Area. It plans to hold three additional events next year.
Fennema is seeking $50,000 to $250,000 from investors to support Confidants’ business. “It’s an exciting time to be in retail with the growth of e-commerce and the fragmentation of the market,” she says. “You don’t need to capture everyone to be successful these days. You need to capture a really fanatical specific group of people and get them excited about what you are doing. I’m not saying it’s easy. It’s not easy, but I’m pumped to be in the space.”
“It’s an exciting time to be in retail with the growth of e-commerce and the fragmentation of the market. You don’t need to capture everyone to be successful these days. You need to capture a really fanatical specific group of people and get them excited about what you are doing.”
Fennema views the Confidants customer as a woman in her late 20s to early 40s and resident of cities such as Austin, Denver, New York, Seattle or San Francisco who’s nudging her life up a notch. “Maybe she’s single and living in a studio and is looking for a one-bedroom or maybe she’s married and is looking to buy a house. Maybe she’s quitting her job to travel the world. The idea of upgrading has her curious to discover new things,” says Fennema. “This woman is dynamic and has a thirst for adventure, whether that means getting outside to ski or go for a hike or getting out of the city for a trip with friends.”
The notion of friendship is integral to Confidants. Originally, Fennema thought she’d call the site Camaraderie, but spelled the word wrong and even bought the URL with the wrong spelling, which she interpreted as a sign the name wasn’t a good fit. She switched to Confidants, a name highlighting the close bond a person has with someone they confide in or, in the case of the site, an e-commerce destination they depend on for great products and service.
“In retail, there’s a lot of opportunity to make quick cash, but that might compromise the relationship with your customer. Earning the trust of your customer is a big deal,” says Fennema. “I also love the idea of us all becoming better friends.”