Apparel could become ‘the no. 1 category’ this holiday season, THE YES CEO says

Julie Bornstein, THE YES Co-Founder & CEO, joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss the 2021 holiday shopping season and why apparel has blossomed due to e-commerce sales.

Video Transcript

We’re going to switch gears from the impact of Omicron on energy to its impact on the retail sector. And here to help us discuss that is Julia Bornstein, THE YES Co-Founder and CEO. Julie, thank you so much for joining us today. So the latest retail sales data that we got was a little bit muted, correct, right?

And some analysts say that’s because Christmas came in October this year, as people tried to beat, you know, shortage supplies and supply chain issues. Department stores and electronic sales were actually some of the biggest losers. But apparel actually did very well. So what’s the outlook for apparel during this holiday season?

JULIE BORNSTEIN: It looks like apparel is actually gonna become the number one category this holiday season. It may be a function of the fact that the category has really blossomed online, and online sales are driving a huge part. Stores are also open again, which has really helped.

And also, this is a category that definitely suffered in the last year and a half, and so there is pent-up demand. And people are going out again, Omicron and all. And so it looks like this category will be the number one category this season.

And what about luxury goods and also jewelry? We’ve seen a huge uptick in luxury, in particular, over the last year. Some of that tied to inflation. A potential inflation hedge. I’m just wondering what you’re seeing at the ground level here.

JULIE BORNSTEIN: We are also seeing an increase in luxury as, really, a percent of the total mix. So the luxury companies have all reported really strong sales growth this year. At THE YES, we sell high to low. We have 275 brands that we sell online and all in women’s apparel.

And we have seen top sellers across the board be from these luxury brands, including Bottega Veneta, Balenciaga, Chloe, which has been exciting to see that people are splurging. And certainly, you know, we all know that these products last longer and people hold on to them longer, so there is definitely somewhat of an inflationary impact on this category, as well.

And because there is that inflationary impact, are people actually buying more, or they’re spending more for what they’re getting? And then what is the outlook for you? What have supply chains been like? Are you starting to see things ease up a little bit, and what’s your expectation going into the first quarter next year?

JULIE BORNSTEIN: Well, the holiday impact of the supply chain has certainly been felt by everyone in this industry and pretty much every industry. And so we have felt it, too, with out of stocks happening across the board for many of our brands.

The good thing is, for THE YES, we sell so many different products and brands that usually you can find a replacement item pretty easily if you don’t have your heart set on something that’s actually sold out. We do anticipate that Q1 will continue to see improvement in supply chain.

And so we expect that as people continue to go out and learn to live with Omicron and live life again normally, or somewhat normally, we anticipate the industry to continue to benefit from that. And so we’re expecting a very positive Q1.

And we’ve seen some incredibly quick transformative changes in the way people approach online shopping. The great digital divide narrowing. I’m just wondering, looking out to the retail space over the next four to five years, where do you see that heading with respect to technology, and how does THE YES fit into that?

JULIE BORNSTEIN: This is my favorite subject. There is definitely a lot of progress and innovation happening in the online shopping space, among other areas of technology. We are a website and app that specifically is using artificial intelligence to match people to product.

So a customer will come on to the platform, and they will answer some very high signal questions about their preferences, which we do not share. And it’s just entirely to make better recommendations for the customer. And then we really have recommendations sort of in our whole system is built around each user.

So we’ve sort of taken this notion of a neural network, and each person has their own experience shopping on THE YES. And that really allows us a big advancement in helping, especially with such a large assortment. We have the second largest branded assortment of women’s fashion online today. And we’re growing very quickly, so we will soon be number one.

And the personalization capabilities of our platform really help you sift through all of the assortment. It’s overwhelming to shop online. You have to go to a million sites, scroll through a million pages, and everyone is really exhausted by that. And so our whole idea is, how do we simplify and bring the fun back into shopping by really understanding you, your preferences, and matching you to the right product?

And I think we’re seeing lots of innovation in other spaces, too. It’s exciting to have all of these new online services. There’s no doubt that the last two years have helped really push innovation to a place where customers are going to get better and better experiences online.

And then I wonder, for people who haven’t done their last-minute shopping and are still looking, are they still able to come to your site and get something before Christmas, or is it too late for that?

And also, I want to know, are you partnering with companies like Affirm and Klarna? Are you seeing more retailers doing that so that people are able to sort of spend more and space out how much they pay over time?

JULIE BORNSTEIN: We have some of the brands– the brands ship the product from our site, so to answer your first question, there are some brands that are still shipping, and you can see when you add to bag what the time frame is to deliver. So you are still able to order many things on our site as of today.

I think everyone’s close to getting to the point of risk, so the stores are gonna feel the benefit of that over the next few days as we get really close to Christmas. And definitely, I think, across the board, these alternative payment methods like Klarna, Affirm Afterpay, Quadpay, now Zip, are all seeing a big increase in use.

We are planning to work with them next year. We’re excited about that. We’re still a young company, so that’s part of our technology roadmap. But, yes, I do think that those additional payment methods have really taken off in this country and will continue to sort of serve customers and retailers well.

All right. Well, it is the busiest time of the year, I’m sure, for you. So thank you for taking the time to speak with us today, Julie Bornstein, THE YES co-founder and CEO. And have a happy holiday.