JustFab, a subscription e-commerce brand specializing in accessories, made its way into the living rooms of millions of fashion fans this past fall, thanks to a partnership with designer competition reality show “Project Runway.”
The result for the online retailer: a boost in 45,000 subscribers (which the company said is a conservative estimate) over the course of the season. JustFab’s parent company, TechStyle, which also owns subscription retail brands ShoeDazzle, Fabletics and FabKids, now counts close to 4 million subscribers
“We knew our existing customers were already watching the show,” said Traci Inglis, CMO of TechStyle. “Since we design everything in-house already, we saw our products as the perfect tie-in to the show. What they saw in the episodes, they could shop online.”
The JustFab and “Project Runway” partnership centered around the “accessories wall,” a collection of shoes and bags that designers have access to during the show to complement their designs. Viewers were pointed to visit JustFab’s website for a digital recreation of the wall, which could then be clicked and shopped. JustFab also co-designed a jumpsuit for the “Project Runway” season, which Inglis said sold out in the first 24 hours it was offered.
JustFab’s “Project Runway” platform could help get the company back in the good graces of customers and internet critics who have shamed its business model for misleading shoppers by getting them to sign up for a recurring monthly charge, regardless of whether they purchased any products, via the fine print. JustFab has received more than 1,500 complaints to the Better Business Bureau and settled three lawsuits, and was also the subject of a BuzzFeed News Investigation that explored the company’s “scammy” business model.
Regardless of the bad press, JustFab achieved retail “unicorn” status in 2014 with a $1 billion valuation, turned a profit in the first quarter of 2016 with an expected revenue of $650 million for the year and is currently gearing up for its IPO. In order to keep growing, and eventually go public, TechStyle has had to face the allegations head-on.
JustFab CEO Adam Goldenberg told Pymnts in July that issues have been sorted out around the claims that the company’s membership model was confusing to customers. “Unless the customer is happy, there is no way to win,” he said. “There is no way we’ll be a public company by tricking people.”
At the same time, the once-booming online subscription retail model has slumped, with investments in the space falling to $35 million in the first quarter of 2016, a three-year low, according to CB Insights. Fellow businesses in the space have either sold — like Dollar Shave Club did to Unilever for $1 billion last June — or scaled back: Beauty subscription company Birchbox, for instance, laid off 30 employees in 2016 and scrapped plans to open more stores in the U.S. — it’s now aiming to pivot to become more than a subscription box company.
“It’s cooling down,” said Sucharita Mulpuru, a retail analyst at Forrester Research. “There were hundreds of these sites a couple of years ago, and a lot are no longer around.”
Thanks to the partnership with “Project Runway,” which Inglis said the company hopes to continue, JustFab can get its name in front of a much broader audience, who can feel confident in the company’s membership model. When “Project Runway” viewers visited the JustFab site during the episode, they were greeted with a message explaining the membership model and how it works, said Inglis.
“It resonated with our existing customers and brought in new customers,” she said. “It’s a really productive time for us.”