Droplet, a health and wellness beverage brand based in Los Angeles, was surprised to see that it had 22 orders from independent shops within two days of joining the Faire wholesale marketplace. Within six months, it had orders from 300 retailers, including shops as far away as the United Kingdom and Canada.
Now, Droplet CEO Celeste Perez is preparing to meet retail store owners from throughout Europe at a Faire virtual trade show next week, the first Faire event to connect European stores and brands with U.S. businesses.
Faire, the company that gave small mom and pop shops a way to compete with the purchasing power of Walmart
The success of its European expansion is helping fuel Faire’s growth, and Faire is encouraging European retailers to use its platform with offers like free shipping, and discount matching for deals offered at the virtual trade show.
Faire, which went from startup to unicorn status within three years of its 2017 launch, has seen its valuation explode to $7 billion over the past year with new rounds of investment.
It has also seen the size of its marketplace double since last year, to 200,000 retail buyers, and 20,000 manufacturing sellers, with many of the new retailers and brands coming from Europe.
Faire added international vendors as wholesale sellers in 2019, but only expanded to European retailers this year. During the first 30 days of launching in half a dozen European countries , its European sales growth was outpacing U.S. growth by 230%. Faire expects annual sales of $50 million in Europe in the first year, a scale that took two years to achieve in the United States.
Faire is now serving small shops in 15 European countries, and those retailers have placed 25,000 orders since the spring. Roughly 70% of Faire’s European sales are transatlantic orders with U.S. businesses.
One of the key lessons Faire learned over the past year, Co-founder Max Rhodes said, was “how big of an opportunity there is to basically knock down borders.”
“We’ve heard from a lot of retailers and a lot of brands that they want to grow their business overseas, they want to buy from brands overseas,” but right now it is impossible for them to attend international trade shows, Rhodes said. Faire, which held two previous virtual trade shows for U.S. retailers, last summer and this spring, is making this year’s summer market more of an international event.
“We realized that these events offer an incredible oppotunity to bring retailers and brands together from all over the world and to create a truly global trade show event in a way that’s never been possible before,” Rhodes said.
Rhodes and his co-founders started Faire after trying to launch an umbrella brand in this country. They discovered their best sales were occurring at independent retail stores, but that there was no easy, digitally savvy way to connect with those retailers as a wholesaler.
Rhodes experienced firsthand the frustration of spending thousands of dollars for a booth at a trade show only to leave the show with just a handful of orders.
“By moving it online you reduce a lot of the costs and you reduce a lot of the barriers so you allow more people to participate,” he said.
Faire understood that a big part of the attraction of trade shows was the discounts vendors offered retailers who place orders at the show. It set up its virtual show to allow brands to offer discounts, with Faire matching the discounts.
Olivier Buffon, Faire’s head of international, who is based in London, said the enthusiasm European retailers are showing for Faire is due to three factors: access to cross-border distribution, the tools and technology on the Faire platform, and the impact of the pandemic lockdowns, which has made European retailers eager to try new solutions.
“For European retailers, being able to find products in the U.S. that they would never have had access to otherwise,” is a powerful draw, Buffon said. European manufacturers are also eager to have access to a network of 200,000 independent stores, most of which are located in the United States.
In Europe, due to the lockdowns, brands and retailers “really suffered a lot last year, so seeing a player like Faire entering the market and helping them recover faster, has also been a key factor in the adoption,” he said.
European small retailers, he said, look at U.S. made products as a way to offer something different in their shops, just as U.S. merchants look to European goods for the same reason.
Celeste Perez of Los Angeles-based Droplet credits Faire with giving her new beverage company instant access to hundreds of small store owners that have become enthusiastic customers and her best brand ambassadors.
“The vendors really care about our product. Because of the type of store they are, a mom and pop, they take great pride in how they curate what they sell,” Perez said,
After mass retailers told her consumers weren’t ready for a wellness and mood enhancing adaptogen beverage line featuring herbs and botanicals, Faire showed there was an eager market for Droplet. Faire “proved if you are interested in holistic, if you are interested in natural and healthy, if you are interested in women-owned, there is a place for you,” Perez said.
Next week, Perez and her co-founders will be pouring Droplet in video livestreams at the Faire trade show, which runs from July 27-29.
Retailers don’t have to sign up in advance for the trade show, so Faire can’t say yet how many will participate, but the company expects it will be its biggest virtual show ever, surpassing the summer 2020 and February, 2021 shows. At those two events, retailers placed 150,000 orders, and 70,000 new business relationships were formed, according to Faire.
W&P, the stylish and eco-friendly food storage and housewares brand based in Brooklyn, has participated in the two previous Faire virtual shows, and will be livestreaming for the first time at the upcoming show.
W&P began selling on Faire in late 2018, and has been purchased by close to 2,500 Faire retailers since then. This month it began selling to European retailers.
“We’ve found that Faire is a really efficient platform for reaching and connecting with people across the nation, and now internationally,” W&P President Kate Lubenesky said.
“I think we’ve all realized how important local stores are,” she said. “The majority of brands get their start with independent retailers. It starts with an idea and it’s almost like going door-t0-door and showing people your idea,” Lubenesky said.
“Independent retailers are one of the places that are the first to adopt new trends. They are trusted by their customers,” she said. A brand like W&P can really come to life in a local store, where a passionate merchant can tell a customer “I have to show you this” and share the special features, and history of the brand.
“You can’t get that at a mass retailer,” Lubenesky said. “For us, the storytelling component, and the ability to bring a product and a brand to life in a very genuine way really starts with the local independent corner specialty store.”
Now, Faire is giving W&P and Lubenesky the ability to go door-to-door virtually, and connect with passionate local merchants in London, Paris, Rome, and other European cities, as well as across the United States.