2013 / 2月
線上服裝獨立網站的先鋒，首推2007年上線的lativ。由紡織相關產業起家的lativ，以平價時尚的訴求及狂打廣告的密集曝光，很快在短時間內衝高流量、建立口碑，營收也年年倍增，業界估計lativ的 2012年營業額高達新台幣70億元，早已打敗佐丹奴、NET、Hang Ten等實體店面，成為全台最大的休閒服飾業者。
不過，她也提醒，在立足點相近的基礎上，業者必須時時增加產品的附加價值與新鮮感，才能在激戰中站穩一席之地。以網路T恤為例，當多數品牌皆強打台灣原創與設計比賽，若有業者具備日本知名潮T「Design Tshirts Store graniph」的膽識，廣向國際徵稿及跨業結盟，或許就能開拓出不同的客源。
Lin Hsin-ching /tr. by Geof Aberhart
According to statistics from the Market Intelligence and Consulting Institute (MIC) at the Institute for Information Industry, the online consumer sales market was valued at some NT$660 billion in 2012, up 15% from the previous year—a bright spot in otherwise dark economic days. Trendy clothing, shoes, bags, and luxury brands have been the biggest performers in that market, accounting for a combined 31.8% of online sales.
MIC analyst Silvia Chen explains that Taiwan’s online fashion sales market dates back to 2001, when Yahoo!Kimo Auctions Taiwan went live. In those early days, sellers would snatch up affordable clothing from stores in Wufenpu, part of Taipei City’s Songshan District, and then auction it online, pocketing the difference. Later, as more and more online shopping platforms sprang up, bigger sellers and even actual stores began to expand the online side of their businesses.
The boom in online sales platforms can in part be attributed to aspiring entrepreneurs being able to use those ready-made systems rather than having to worry about building their own sites and dealing with the hassles of updating and administration. On top of this, these platforms offered a safer transaction process for interested buyers, letting them purchase in confidence. They also had their weaknesses, though—the “stores” were all much of a muchness designwise, and sellers had to go along with sitewide sales held for special occasions like Mother’s Day or Christmas. This meant they weren’t entirely free to do whatever they wanted in terms of marketing.
At the same time, the two biggest such platforms—Yahoo!Kimo and PChome—saw a huge boom in registered sellers, with each new addition making it harder for any one seller to catch attention. Wanting to break free of this environment and attract a customer base all of their own, some of these sellers began looking at starting their own websites and brands.
The pioneer of online fashion sales in Taiwan was lativ, which launched its website in 2007. After branching out from being a textiles company into the world of fashion, lativ’s commitment to affordable fashion and its high-visibility advertising campaign saw it quickly build a name for itself. Since its launch, the site has seen constant year-on-year growth in revenues, reaching an estimated NT$7 billion in 2012.
lativ’s sales success has also breathed new life into the textiles industry, previously considered an industry in its twilight. Look at Jieqiang Textiles and Dingshun Enterprises—both were once manufacturers for lativ, and now both run their own online sales operations, named Cozie and Illori respectively. In March 2012, big textile company Makalot Industrial, which owns a 40% stake in well-known online clothing seller GoToBuy, created their own brand, fisso.
According to Silvia Chen, as customers wanting to purchase clothing online must first log into their site of choice, those sites can easily keep track of demographics and buying habits, enabling them to make better product recommendations and offer styling tips. And by being able to almost instantly adjust their marketing to latch onto the latest online trends, these virtual stores have the edge over brick-and-mortar stores in their fight for visibility and their efforts to engage their customers.
However, as Chen reminds us, with so many businesses built on essentially the same foundations, those in the arena must constantly build added value and freshness into their product lines, lest they be left in the dust behind this pitched battle for dominance.
So who will be the one to follow in lativ’s footsteps? As the market continues to get bigger and more and more people want a piece of the pie, trying to find that sweet spot between fashion and finance will be a hard test for anyone looking to take that title.