The e-retailer’s lean operation model has helped it double its sales in 2017.

Skiwear e-retailer Orsden was born out of founder Sara Segall’s frustration in finding high-performance, stylish ski apparel that was not terribly expensive.

High-performance ski jackets can range in price, setting shoppers back $100 to nearly $2,000 from brands such as Patagonia, No. 185 on the Internet Retailer 2017 Top 1000, and Canada Goose, No. 502.

Sara Segall, founder of Orsden

Orsden, however, sells its jackets for $330 and runs discounts often. (At the time of publication on March 23, its ski jackets were listed at 40% off at $198 for its end-of-season sale.) “I couldn’t get over how expensive everything was,” Segall says. “I thought they didn’t need to be that expensive if we could develop a direct-to-consumer ski apparel brand.”

Orsden.com launched in October 2016 with ski jackets and has expanded into ski pants ($200) and casual apparel, such as sweatshirts ($50) and T-shirts ($25). The retailer started selling ski pants in February 2017 when Orsden did a Kickstarter campaign for the product to determine interest and demand for different colors. It surpassed its $40,000 goal, raising $42,957 from 165 backers. Segall is unsure if Orsden will use a funding campaign for future products.

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The e-retailer can provide lower-cost items because it does not need to worry about the overhead of a physical retail space and only employs two people, including Segall. Orsden sells on e-commerce platform Shopify. It designs and develops its own products, which are manufactured in China, “where all the technical performance gear is,” Segall says. The e-retailer then ships everything to its customers via USPS from its order fulfillment partner in the U.S.

“We can be leaner in our operations and pass that value onto skiers,” says Segall, who has retail and e-commerce experience from past positions with luxury brand Hermès International (No. 715) and cosmetics retailer Revlon.

Orsden is nearing the close of its second season of business. Its sales spike during the ski season, which is from November to March. Segall says calculating calendar-year sales is tough given the company’s seasonal nature. But she says sales this season (November 2017 to now) have doubled compared with last season (November 2016 to March 2017), although she declined to give specific figures. Orsden is targeting double growth in sales next season.

“We want to be aggressive, but realistic because it’s a seasonal niche product,” Segall says. “We’re not expecting to grow 10 or 20 times every season. But we think this market is untapped.”

Building awareness

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Orsden is still in its infancy as a brand but it’s doing its best to grow brand awareness in its niche market. “We just need way more skiers to know about us,” Segall says.

Initially, Segall was testing the waters to see if her product resounded with shoppers, which she found it did. Now, she’s focused on awareness and customer acquisition. Orsden hired digital marketing agency First Tracks Marketing and increased its marketing spend by three times before the beginning of its season in November 2017, says Segall without revealing specifics.

The marketing spend included implementing paid search with specific keywords, such as “orsden” and “best ski jacket.” Web traffic went up significantly, she says, declining to provide a specific number. According to web measurement firm SimilarWeb, traffic to Orsden.com spiked from less than 5,000 visitors in September 2017 to more than 25,000 visitors in October 2017 and more than 14,000 in November 2017, before dropping off to less than 5,000 the following months.

Orsden doesn’t buy social media ads, Segall says, but has a generous following on Instagram at roughly 11,300 followers, and modest followings on Facebook (2,310) and Twitter (567). “Our Instagram is all about curating and creating content that speaks to skiers because skiers love all things ski,” Segall says.

“We’ve had a strong early traction,” she says about her Instagram followers. “We try to communicate a clear brand and brand message, which is about bringing elevated skiwear within reach,” she says.

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Orsden also goes offline with events and pop-up shops around ski lodges to get its name in front of the target customer. Segall says shoppers at pop-up events like having the ability to feel the garments, so she’s planning to add more video and enhanced graphics on its website to bring the in-person experience online.

Right now, Segall says her main focus remains increasing awareness. “Even though we are seasonal, we are looking for ways to digitally reach people off season,” she says. “We plan do that as a digital brand and internet retailer.”

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