Kristy Barber founded her clothing brand, Kuwaii, in 2008 with a mission to provide an alternative to mass-produced fashion. She also wanted her customers to feel the love and care put into every aspect of the business, right down to the handwritten duplicate receipt books used in her Brunswick, Melbourne store.
“We do things differently,” Barber told Retailbiz. “Smaller, slower, more consciously [and] with more heart and more feeling.”
However, when she was planning to open a second Kuwaii location in Melbourne’s CBD, Barber knew she needed to change something as the business grew—her POS. While with a single store Barber could cope without inventory tracking, she decided to switch to a cloud-based system a month before opening the second store to enable her to stay on top of the business.
“[This] was crucial to the success of being able to operate multiple stores,” explained Barber. “Vend [the POS used by Kuwaii] has grown beautifully with us as our business has grown and it’s given me freedom to cut my ties with the retail store and to be able to focus on bigger picture tasks, which as any business owner knows is quite hard.
“We use the reporting functions in many different ways when purchasing for our business to ensure the correct amount of stock. As the business owner, being connected to my stores is so important and at a click of a button from anywhere I can see how the stores and staff are tracking—it’s amazingly powerful and addictive.”
Barber opened her Melbourne city store in 2014 at a time when international fashion retailers H&M and Cos had just arrived, and she said people thought she was taking a huge risk.
“People honestly thought we were crazy and that the time of an independent boutique was over… It has been really interesting for us transitioning into retail at a time when the catch-cry was, ‘retail is dead, and online is the future’.
“I think retail as we knew it pre the global financial crisis is dead, but there is a lot of space for a new kind of retail.”
For Barber, this new kind of retail is about changing the way people consume fashion and offering an alternative to mass-produced trend items.
“I had a really strong concept for Kuwaii, which was as strong then as it is now,” she said. “I want to offer consumers pieces that are simple, beautiful and made with love.”
This approach has paid off for Kuwaii, and although she never thought she would say it, Barber is now considering opening a third retail space.
“I love retail,” she said. “Our focus for the last year has been to maximise every possible opportunity that comes our way, using the resources we already have. We’ve focused on staff training, invested in staff, product training, product improvement, systems, and our spaces.”
Want the latest retail news delivered straight to your inbox? Click here to sign up to the retailbiz newsletter.