It’s gone Beserk – secrets from a small business award winner
Frustrated by what she could find in shops, Fleur Brazier began to experiment with screen printing her own clothes. Now a well-known online retailer, Beserk sells clothing along with, well… a bit of everything.
Like many businesses, Beserk was born because its owner, Fleur, couldn’t find clothing and accessories in the styles she liked. So she took matters into her own hands and started stocking her own online store full of alternative fashion and style items.
“Our customers are looking for something a little bit different. We carry quirky things that other stores can’t find, homewares, baby gear, cosplay - we’re so varied. Even my mum gets some homeware items [from our store] sometimes” says Fleur.
What started as a small operation based out of Fleur’s home in Brisbane has now become an incredibly successful business. Fleur initially supplied Beserk Clothing pieces that she designed to other stores around Australia; and very soon after began running what is now a very well-known eCommerce brand. Beserk has won the hearts of its customers as well as a number of industry awards including the Australia Post ORIAS People’s Choice Award for Best Small Retailer in 2016 and 2017. Berserk’s story has been one that continues to delight shoppers and inspire other online retailers.
A time before online shopping
When Beserk began, way back in 2000, online shopping wasn’t what it was now. In fact, the idea of handing over your credit card details and waiting for your parcel to arrive was completely foreign to many Australians. So for Fleur and her mates who loved a niche mash-up of goth, punk and anime, the DIY approach was the only option.
“I wanted something I thought was so simple: plain black with some prints” explains Fleur. So the first clothes she made were just that - basic black A-line skirts and dresses with anime prints. Her homemade clothes quickly gathered a collection of fans. They began selling to stores as well, and were stocked in over fifty shops around Australia. They ran a fledgling online shop, but it was their wholesale business that kept Fleur and her team busy.
The Queensland floods and a silver lining
When Beserk was about eight seasonal ranges old, they became a victim of the extremely damaging Queensland floods of 2010. The business had never moved out from ‘under the house’ in the space below Fleur’s living area; and that house was in the middle of a floodplain. Their stock was ruined, and initially the team were unsure of how to move forward.
The optimistic Fleur recognised an opportunity to try things a bit differently: “We were insured, so we salvaged what we could and replaced the other stuff. This was a chance to learn from our mistakes”. Ultimately, the flood provided an opportunity to set up a different kind of business.
Moving online and becoming the retailer
Fleur explains, “after the floods we became the retailer. We started to stock the brands we’d been stocked alongside and we stopped selling through other stores”. Becoming an online seller was the turning point for their business, “six months later we moved into our first warehouse. Now we’re in a much larger space and it’s getting crowded!”
Today, Beserk stocks over a hundred brands and are actively bringing more on board, “we support smaller Australian labels, we want to support all the upcoming designers as we know it can be a very tough market.”
The tricks to making the transition
Making the move to selling solely online wasn’t difficult for Beserk as they’ve always maintained a prominent social media presence and offered great customer service. Support from loyal customers meant that people followed them through their transition and their social media presence let them keep everyone posted through the transition period.
The customer service policy is simple, “we want everything to look good and for the customer to be happy.” This extends to a returns policy that Fleur describes as ‘amazing’ - “we’ll take everything back, apart from underwear of course!”
Social media has been central to the growth of the company right from the start – back when they grew a MySpace following of over 1 million. This has carried on as a key part of the business’ strategy as social media trends and platforms continue to evolve and expand. Instead of just using social as a customer service channel, they understand that they are hosting and growing a community. “We always encourage interaction. People will often chat on our pages, our customers seem to share a belief and have a fun outlook on life”, says Fleur.
Becoming the pick of the bunch
In 2016, Fleur and her team won the Australia Post ORIAS’ Small Retailer’ People’s Choice Award. They’d entered the year before, and made it through to the finals, but were thrilled to win the award on their second try. To the team’s excitement, they won the same People’s Choice Award again at the ORIAS in 2017.
Fleur was initially drawn to enter the competition as she felt that a customer vote was a great way to see how the business was going. “In the first year I didn’t think that we would get into the finals, and it was such a shock. Now, to win was just amazing”.
“I can honestly say that the ORIAS have been the biggest business driver for Beserk. The number of people who find out about us because of the awards is incredible. When you look at the analytics, you can see the growth spike in orders at the point where we won the award. It’s a lovely award to win, because our customers have voted for us in such big numbers for two years running” says Fleur.
The team ran their campaign through their business mail out, which reaches around 30,000 Beserk customers, and their social media channels. They used the provided People’s Choice Award toolkit successfully across their channels, changing their banner images and letting customers know how they could get behind Beserk and vote.
Fleur has some advice for other businesses entering the ORIAS People’s Choice Award category. “It’s important to keep up the momentum of the voting so we promote the ORIAS on all of our social media channels and our emails, keeping it in our customers’ minds and encouraging them to vote. Australia Post helps a lot with that by providing marketing tools and tips to assist businesses to campaign for votes”.
What’s up next?
After achieving so much success as a small retailer at the ORIAS for two years in a row, Fleur thinks it’s time to start entering into the large business category. She says that she’s sure the volume of sales the business has had is a direct effect of winning the Small Retailer People’s Choice Award, and is a catalyst for her business growing so much that it now fits into the next award category.
“I really do believe the fact that we have to enter the big business award this year is due to winning the People’s Choice – we’ve just grown that much!” Beserk continues to grow its range of products from both other small suppliers, and from its own design collections. And with such strong growth so far, the future is looking bright for Beserk.