18-20 February 2018, NEC Birmingham

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Q&A: Nick Williams

10-Nov-2016

Eight years on from its launch at Moda Woman, Marble has well and truly filled its intended niche for an accessible womenswear label with premium attributes. Co-founder Nick Williams reveals more. 

Q: What’s the story behind Marble? 
A: Prior to 2008, I was a retailer and wholesaler in Wales. I used to do my buying with Lynne Paul – a fellow retailer based in Scotland – and we both felt that we were losing our exclusivity. We had the idea of creating a womenswear brand that was positioned above the stock houses, but with a more accessible price point than designer labels. We factored in the premium attributes of exclusivity and selling solely through independents and – although we had originally envisaged selling the brand ourselves - we launched Marble at Moda Woman. 

Q: How did the industry react to the launch? 
A: It took off a lot more quickly than we ever thought it would. During the first show, we sold what we had and made a lot of contacts, but found that many retailers had already spent their budget. It was during the second show that the brand really took off; we found that immediately on the first day, buyers were approaching the stand having made a note of us the previous season. That was the beginning of Marble as we now know it. We had discovered this mass of independent retail between our bases in Wales and Scotland, so we moved the business up to Glasgow and concentrated solely on the brand. 

Q: Why do you think that Marble has struck such a chord with retailers? 
A: For all the reasons we envisaged. We offer a premium label at accessible prices. We are constantly looking to offer elements that retailers don’t find elsewhere, such as our colour phasing programme that allows the buyer to decide when they want each colour story to arrive in store. Rather than dictating that it’s blue for winter and coral spring, retailers select the colour themes of their choice across two to three deliveries in autumn, and three to five deliveries in spring. Is it more work for us? Yes, but we get better and more loyal accounts for it. 

Q: What sort of presence do you have across the UK? 
A: Around 350-400 so it’s a real case of focusing on the smaller retailers over supplying a few major players. We first trialled the colour deliveries in Scotland and the response was so unbelievable that we rolled it out across the country. Along with flexible payment plans, it spreads the work out for retailers so that they are not receiving and storing two mass deliveries a year. 

Q: The Marble collection really seems to lend itself to successful merchandising – what’s the story behind that? 
A: The ethos of Marble has always been all about the merchandising. A smaller independent that has the same customers coming in every few weeks needs to keep its store and shop window fresh with new arrivals and new themes. One of our bestsellers has been coloured denim that mixes and contrasts in with the wider seasonal colour stories. 

Q: What’s the focus for a/w 17? 
A: An increased focus on coloured jeans and more natural fabrics, such as 100 per cent cotton. Primarily we were established as a knitwear label, but that has expanded over the years into a more comprehensive product offer. 

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