In June 2017, I created Millinery Market, a marketplace designed to make beautiful, handcrafted millinery accessible to everyday race goers while providing a platform for milliners to showcase their work to a wider audience.
Today the site boasts over 1,000 hat listings, and thousands of race goers come to the site every month in search for the perfect hat. Many talented milliners have joined the platform and it’s great to see them having success selling to customers from all over Australia and even overseas.
In today’s post, I’m interviewing six milliners about how they market their hats and to share their experience using Millinery Market. You’ll hear from Claire Hahn, Caren Lee Millinery (Caren Stevenson), Crazy Teapot (Brenda Lui), Moore Millinery Designs (Irene Moore), Angie Jackman Millinery and Monroe Millinery (Michelle Johnston).
How much time would you say you spend marketing/selling your hats compared to designing/making your hats?
Our milliners said they spend between 30 to 40% of their time marketing/selling hats compared to designing/making their hats. While all milliners acknowledged the importance of good marketing, many admitted they could be doing a lot more!
Brenda Lui: “I think if I take into account all the time taken to photograph new products, edit, do listings on web platforms and then socials etc it would probably be about 35-40% of my time compared to 60-65% of my time designing and creating hats. I could definitely do more than I currently do but need to get more organized with my time.”
Angie Jackman: “I spend a lot less time on marketing than I should. With the rise of the online marketplace and social media related sales, the need to effectively market your product is crucial. Realistically if a milliner or designer is not spending 30-40% of their time promoting and marketing their products then it is difficult to maintain a viable level of sales.”
Claire Hahn: “The simple answer is far too much time designing and innovating and not nearly enough time marketing! My marketing has always been a very organic approach but certainly something that I can identify needs much work and development over the coming year.”
What marketing channels do you currently use to sell your hats? Are they effective?
All of the milliners interviewed said they use social media the most for marketing their hats.
Irene Moore: “Definitely the most popular one on a day to day basis is Social Media – Instagram & Facebook. This has an excellent exposure to show your followers what you have to offer on daily/weekly basis.”
Claire Hahn: “My business started with Facebook and although it continues to be a strong and effective marketing tool for my business, I do find it increasingly difficult to retain a strong engagement with my page followers. Instagram is now my foremost social media outlet.”
In addition to social media, Brenda Lui said she also uses paid advertising; “In peak seasons I look at doing a few Google Adwords and Facebook ads but I don’t do them frequently as I need to spend extra time to set up good ads as there is so much that needs to go into it to make them work well and get your money’s worth.”
Some milliners reported having success selling consignment or wholesale. Brenda Lui wrote, “I limit selling consignment to just a few select stores that fit well with my brand image and price point, last year I started working with the local Brisbane Sasha Drake stores which was fabulous”.
Other creative ways milliners were marketing their hats were using pop-up shops, runway shows and print media.
Irene Moore: “Pop up shops are a great way to display my Millinery. Pop up shops are excellent even though very seasonal. I have displayed my hats in Pop up Shops around Geelong, Melbourne (Toorak), Flemington (Paris lane) and soon London”.
Caren Stevenson: “I have found doing runway shows has helped to skyrocket my career and gives me free advertising across a wide range of platforms. I plan on doing a lot more runway shows regularly as I love them”.
Brenda Lui: “I also do some targeted print media such as Ladies in Racing Magazine and Brisbane Fashion Month”.
What made you decide to join Millinery Market and give it a go? Did you find it easy to use?
Most milliners decided to join to help increase their reach to more customers.
Angie Jackman: “I have a strong customer base in my local and surrounding regions with both bespoke and hire millinery. Millinery Market is an opportunity to attract customers from different locations that will be attending alternate race days. I find the Millinery Market booking system easy to manage, and time effective. Face to face consultations and fittings consume a large portion of work hours. Freeing up these hours with a streamlined booking process enables me to have more productive working hours in the studio”.
Irene Moore: “I am always searching for new ways to promote my business, Millinery Market appealed to me in the way as a great opportunity for people to wear beautiful hats without the full cost and time involved in having a custom piece made. Ready to wear pieces often appeal to customers as they can match with their outfits. People are becoming busier in their day-to-day lives; this is why I believe hiring is becoming more in demand. This is also why Millinery Market works for me, the site is so easy to use with easy step by step instructions”.
Michelle Johnston: “I decided to join Millinery Market as an additional venue to sell a limited number of my designs. I do a number of one off or small editions so keeping up with maintaining accurate stock numbers can be tricky so I limit what I sell on Millinery Market to my larger editions. I’ve found the site easy to use and has helped me reach new customers that wouldn’t have found me otherwise”.
Claire Hahn: “I joined Millinery Market fairly quickly from its conception. Australia is my second biggest market after the US- so it seemed like a great opportunity to reach more customers who may not be aware of my brand. The site is incredibly easy and quick to use and maintain, more so than a Shopify site so I now funnel my Australian and New Zealand buyers from my own site to it for easy checkout”.
Caren Stevenson: “Joining Millinery Market was a no brainer for me. Make once and hire out many times = a way to get my hats out there and save time. My hats have won Millinery awards and been featured in magazines thanks to Milano! I believe her skill and expertise in fashion and catering to a high end target market of very fashionable clients is second to none”.
Have you had much success so far? How many hats have you sold/rented?
Claire Hahn (sold 23 hats to date): “I have had a good number of sales on Millinery Market and look forward to seeing the site grow over the coming season.”
Caren Stevenson (hired out 16 hats to date): “I have had a lot of success so far haven’t added it up yet but the cash flow seems to be fairly constant. I have had offers to buy a few of my rental pieces but prefer to keep them in the hire business side of things.”
Michelle Johnston (sold 12 hats to date): “I have had good success on Millinery Market and will continue to use the site in the future :)”
Irene Moore (hired out 9 hats to date): “I have had great success hiring my pieces through Millinery Market. I have hired my pieces all around Australia and Internationally from WA, SA, NSW, VIC and New Zealand. I do get enjoyment when my customers send me photos of them wearing my Millinery”.
Angie Jackman (hired out 9 hats to date): “I analyse my millinery income and sales including product type, customer demographics and booking method. The bookings from Millinery Market have increased steadily since I first joined.”
Brenda Lui (sold 6 hats to date): “I think I started with Millinery Market about six months ago with just a few listings and am happy with the success so far of how my sales have progressed over a short time and I think it will continue to grow ☺”
If applicable, what has been your experience so far with hiring your hats?
On Millinery Market, in addition to selling your hats, you can create a hire collection too, which can open up a new recurring revenue stream by catering to ladies who are looking to hire.
Some milliners are a little unsure about hiring as they haven’t done it before and are worried about their pieces getting damaged or not getting returned. While Millinery Market has a Lender’s Protection Program to reduce that risk, overall we’ve found customers are pretty good at taking care of the pieces and returning them on time.
Here’s what some of the milliners had to say about hiring…
Irene Moore: “My experience using Millinery Market has been excellent! If I have had any issues with late returns or pieces not making it on time with reasons out of my control, Millinery Market (Milano) has been nothing but professional and very hands on in trying to sort out the issues with great results”.
Caren Stevenson: “My experience has been a positive one so far and I keep my hire hats separate and am planning to make more to keep a steady income coming in. I find customers are great with sending pieces back in the original box and they are fairly prompt with hat return and take great care whilst wearing them.”
Angie Jackman: “I have had a predominately positive experience with the hire of my products thus far. I have encountered some minor damage due to poor packing technique when returning items. Rather than raise this with the customer, I now include packing instructions including photos if necessary to customers. I include return instructions with a pre-printed return address label and prepaid signature on delivery slip. I also send postage reminders to customers when the same item has multiple bookings, so there is no postage delays.”
What do you like about using Millinery Market?
Easy to use, increase reach, save time – these were some of the common themes that ran through our milliner’s responses about why they like using Millinery Market…
Brenda Lui: “I like the opportunity Millinery Market gives me to reach new customers that I might not of had the opportunity to reach otherwise. I also like that it’s very quick and easy to use and to do new listings, which is a definite plus for me being a time poor work from home millinery mum”.
Irene Moore: “Millinery Market is an excellent site – very user friendly. Listing hats to hire/buy allows so many people the opportunity to wear an amazing hat of their choice that they may never have had the chance to do otherwise”.
Angie Jackman: “It frees up my time, giving me more actual creative hours. It gives me an opportunity to expand my customer base”.
Michelle Johnston: “I like the idea that from a customer perspective, they can see hundreds of designs in the one place rather than searching endlessly on individual designer’s sites. From a milliner’s perspective, it is a great platform to showcase your pieces and reach new customers”.
Claire Hahn: “I think what I really enjoy about Millinery Market is its strong sense of community. The connection it has with the Field Fashion Community gives the site a real sense of positivity. The easy to use format and quick upload means I have more time to spend creating and developing rather than sitting in front of a computer!”
Caren Stevenson: “Millinery Market saves me time and money re advertising and customer reach and you never know where your hats are going to end up! I think it’s a fantastic idea for us very busy milliners!”
If you’re a milliner who’d like to reach more customers, why not give it a try today? It’s free to list as many hats as you like and get them in front of thousands of race goers every month. Visit the ‘How it Works’ page to learn more.
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