A casual lifestyle, a focus on health and an appreciation for the outdoors are three U.S. consumer trends that are helping apparel merchant tasc Performance thrive during the coronavirus pandemic, says Blake Lopez, vice president of marketing for the merchant.
Tasc Performance, which sells its products to merchants including Zappos, REI and PGA Golf Tour, launched its own ecommerce site in 2016 to sell directly to consumers. Online sales through its ecommerce site have steadily grown each year—about 36% year over year to reach a few million in annual sales at the end of 2019, Lopez says. Then, the coronavirus pandemic swept the U.S., and sales really started to take off in mid-March: Online sales from the start of 2020 through mid-June were up 113% compared with the same period in 2019, Lopez says. For all of 2020, the retailer is aiming for its ecommerce sales to double.
Some categories are growing at a faster clip than others. Activewear, for example, has posted a 153% increase in sales from the start of 2020 through mid-June compared with the same period in 2019, Lopez says. A key reason tasc’s apparel products are selling so well is that the brand is focusing on trends that are resonating with consumers right now, he says. That focus has helped it avoid the sales slumps and bankruptcies many other apparel brands are currently facing, he says.
Tasc Performance’s brand ideals
Tasc’s apparel is mostly made from bamboo, which means its shirts are soft and moisture-wicking, Lopez says. This type of athleisure clothing is popular today with many consumers working from home and seeking more casual clothing that they can wear outside and for exercising, Lopez says. About 50% of its apparel is activewear, and the rest is casual lifestyle clothing, he says.
Sustainability also is one of tasc Performance’s brand ideals. Because many of its products are made from bamboo and tasc doesn’t add any chemicals, its products are 100% biodegradable so “you can compost your T-shirt,” Lopez says. Bamboo also grows quickly, which makes it a good material for product sourcing, according to its website. The retailer promotes these product attributes on product detail pages.
“We want people to feel good about their purchase and feel like they are doing good,” Lopez says.
Tasc Performance wants to be known for not only being concerned about the environment but also for being “inclusive,” Lopez says. This means it tries to sell its products at a reasonable price and looks for opportunities to be involved with social issues. For example, when protests swept across the U.S. demanding racial justice for the police killing of George Floyd, tasc Performance launched two T-shirts with the word “humankind” printed on them. The humankind initiatives are part tasc’s commitment to being kind to the planet and each other, Lopez says. Currently, tasc is donating 20% of the proceeds from the T-shirts to Black Visions Collective, a social justice origination for Black liberation.
“Consumers are looking for and demanding that brands stand up and act consistent with what they said they will do. And [when brands] do that, [they] build much greater loyalty,” Lopez says. The strategy appears to be working, as the retailer overall has about a 60% repeat purchase rate, he says.
Marketing and growth strategies
Tasc Performance also emphasizes in its marketing that its apparel is sustainable while also technical and functional for an active lifestyle. And that message is resonating with shoppers.
Email, paid social media ads and organic search drove the most traffic to tasc’s site, with traffic from email increasing 158% as of mid-June compared with last year, paid social media up 3,573% year over year, and organic search up 70.8%, Lopez says. And, in addition to strong sales gains during the last few months, tasc also grew its customer base 120% from mid-March through mid-June, Lopez says.
Tasc also operates two stores, one near its headquarters in New Orleans, and the other in Houston. It plans to open a few more stores in 2021. It views physical stores as key to getting new customers—once shoppers feel the brand’s fabric, “they’re hooked,” Lopez says.
“Retail is getting that hands-on experience and that first-hand account,” Lopez says. “Bricks-and-mortar is important, as it’s really an extension of experiential marketing.”
While many brands turn to selling on Amazon.com Inc. to drive sales, Lopez says that’s not a route tasc plans to take as the retailer wants to build brand loyalty on its own site. Amazon is No. 3 in the Digital Commerce 360 Top 100 Online Marketplaces.
“Amazon is a platform for a value shopper. And while we have a competitive price point and our brand is young and growing, it is important to build brand equity and build a community around your brand,” Lopez says.
Tasc Performance also wants to invest in its local community, he says. “We like to provide jobs locally in New Orleans, ” Lopez says. “Our warehouses are here. We manage our own shipping process efficiently, so we’re not needing to use Amazon. I don’t perceive that we will be getting on that platform anytime soon.”
This article is an excerpt from the 2020 Online Apparel Report. This report includes hundreds of data metrics as well as a full list of the top 250 apparel retailers in the Top 1000. View the table of contents for full details on what’s included in the report and learn how to purchase it here.Favorite