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The secret to successful product category launches
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Amsterdam based Kassl rode the buzz of its A line button down raincoats into 95 top retailers, starting with Browns and expanding to Net a Porter, MatchesFashion.com, Forty Five Ten and more in November 2018. A year later, it transitioned to new territory when it introduced a line of handbags.


The decision to launch accessories came from co founder Camille Serra, the former creative director at Joseph and designer for Maison Margiela, who was experimenting with fabric offcuts. The bags are made from oil coated canvas, velvet and rubber giving the bags a similar appearance to Kassl’s coats  and were picked up by 40 retailers, including exclusive launch partner MatchesFashion.com. Bags are now 15 per cent of Kassl’s business, and co founder Bart Ramakers hopes it will grow to 30 per cent next season.


“We loved the way they translated their aesthetic onto bags using the same materials as outerwear,” says Cassie Smart, MatchesFashion.com’s head of womenswear buying.


Kassl is one of several emerging brands that have recently reached into new categories. Womenswear label Khaite launched its first sneaker with Adidasthis month, while cult shoe brand By Far started selling bags in 2018 and influencer favourite bag label Boyy has branched out into shoes and scarves. Handbag labels Manu Atelier, Wandler and Staud all presented their first footwear collections this year. Meanwhile, Cult Gaia, maker of 2016’s Insta famous Ark bag, introduced ready to wear in 2017 and its first swimwear line this year.

For brands that saw success through single product launches, expanding to more product categories isn’t just a natural next step, but a business necessity. As they grow, emerging brands are following a new formula: Build an audience with a hero product, then use that momentum to develop more products.


Lower barriers to entry

It’s never been easier to launch a business with one product line. While some emerging brands, like Kassl, work with wholesale partners out of the gate, e commerce tools and social media marketing lower the bar for brands to get businesses up and running and help attract audiences.


“Finding the right distribution is easier now than it was in the past, thanks to a greater ability to leverage social and direct to consumer channels to launch a product,” says Felix Rölkens, associate partner at McKinsey & Company. “In addition to this, [brands] can gain smoother access to external networks of cooperative partners, through digital collaboration tools, enabling them to leverage skills and expertise outside of their company.”


But a core product isn’t enough to grow a business. Any company looking to boost revenue growth needs to launch new products or services. Research from McKinsey has shown that companies that focus on creating new products and services while maintaining core competencies across functions grow faster than their peers.