Stev Tam, founder of Petite Simone. Image courtesy of Stev.
There’s a bag out there for every outfit and occasion, but finding the perfect classic, everyday bag can be quite the struggle. While luxury bags are a good investment, they’re often too pricey or dressy to be used as an everyday bag. And though high-street brands offer a wide range of bags, they’re also not the most affordable option. This is where fast fashion bag label Petite Simone
Founded by Singapore-based entrepreneur Stev Tam, the brand was first inspired by Stev’s wife’s endless search for the perfect everyday bag. Seeing how local brands like Charles & Keith were growing globally in popularity and increasing their prices at the same time, Stev saw the perfect opportunity to fill a gap in the mid-tier women’s bag and accessories industry and eventually set up Petite Simone in 2019. Petite Simone launched their e-commerce business in Southeast Asia in light of the pandemic, and in 2021, the brand became an Amazon Global Seller, expanding their reach to North America and Canada by selling on Amazon.com.
Built upon the concept of fast and approachable fashion, Petite Simone churns out trendy new designs on a regular basis, and at reasonable price points to boot. On top of that, the brand prides itself on its eco-consciousness, with their bags made from vegan leather and 56% recycled post-consumer polyester.
The brand also pushes the boundaries of fashion by constantly reinventing trends with their curated collections. Ultimately, Petite Simone’s vision is to empower women to express themselves freely through fashion, with pieces that are “crafted to your style", as their tagline reads.
In their first year selling on Amazon, the brand averaged 80-90% consistent sales growth each month, reaching six-figure sales early in their selling journey. The brand plans on expanding even further from Singapore to all Amazon Global Stores, and plans to launch their first physical store in Bangkok, Thailand in 2023.
Despite this being Stev’s first retail business venture, he definitely knows a thing or two when it comes to running a brand in the fashion industry. Here, we speak to Stev to find out more about his experience starting and growing Petite Simone, and how being an Amazon Global Seller has helped.
1. We understand that Petite Simone was inspired by your wife’s love for bags. Can you tell us more about this initial ideation process behind the brand, and how that led to the Petite Simone that we know today?
My wife, like many other ladies, is very fond of bags, and has many different bags for different occasions. She has a collection of luxury bags, but when it comes to running errands like going grocery shopping at the wet market or supermarket, she prefers using more versatile, everyday bags to carry her stuff. So she began looking for suitable bags, and came across brands like Charles & Keith, which is a very famous Singaporean brand that we look up to a lot at Petite Simone.
But over the years, Charles & Keith has continually upgraded their brand and their products, and are now selling bags that are more expensive, which isn’t what my wife wants in an everyday bag. We had a chat about this, and realised that there’s a gap in the market for affordable, quality, everyday bags, which is how the idea for Petite Simone first came about.
2. Petite Simone was officially launched as an e-commerce business in 2020. What led you to the decision to start selling your bags online at the beginning?
Before starting Petite Simone, I worked in digital advertising for 10 years. In 2019, I moved to Singapore with my family, right before COVID, which was also when I began to start up Petite Simone. While that was happening, we experienced the impact of COVID and the circuit breaker—we couldn’t go out, and we all had to stay home and entertain ourselves. My family and I watched a lot of Netflix, ordered lots of food on FoodPanda, and did a lot of shopping online. That was when I saw how e-commerce businesses were thriving despite COVID, which became the main push for launching Petite Simone as an e-commerce business.
3. We also understand that Petite Simone’s first physical retail store is set to be launched in Bangkok, Thailand, next year. Can you walk us through what led to this decision, and why you chose Bangkok specifically for your first store?
Retail and fashion are very customer-centric, so if you look at it from a customer’s perspective, having a physical store would definitely add to the whole customer experience.
Even though Amazon
is a very comprehensive platform, and provides all sorts of information about the products being sold, there’s still a lack of interaction between customers and the products. When you buy something online, you aren’t able to touch, feel, or even smell it, and this is something that will always be lacking if we remain as a fully e-commerce brand. And because there are so many other brands and options out there, we really want to establish a place for shoppers and customers to actually try on our bags in person and interact with our staff to provide real-time feedback and thoughts on our products—what do they think about our bags? What do they want to know or see more of? What are their impressions of Petite Simone as a Singaporean brand? So that’s what led to our decision to open a physical store.
As for why we chose Bangkok, Thailand, we actually did some testing in a few other countries in Southeast Asia, namely Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Through our research, we noticed that the penetration rate of e-commerce is gradually increasing in the region, and that the younger generation has really been boosting the popularity of online shopping, social media, and short video content.
However, across these various countries, it seems like the consumer pool in Thailand is the most accepting towards online brands that are looking to move offline. We’ve also established our brand in Thailand through our online channels over the past two years, and have created quite significant brand awareness there. We also have local influencers and Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) on our various social platforms advocating for our brand, so this decision to house our first physical retail store in Bangkok came quite naturally to us.
That said, it’s normal for customers in different countries or regions to have different levels of readiness to shop, because they all have different motivations for shopping. For instance, Southeast Asian customers are more interest-oriented, meaning that if they see something they fancy online, they’ll be more inclined to add it to their cart and purchase it. On the other hand, American customers are more demand-driven, meaning that they search for and purchase specific products depending on what they need at the moment.
4. On the topic of growing Petite Simone as a brand, what are some of the specific trends that you’ve noticed in the industry?
Well, the women’s bag industry is very saturated, not just offline, but online as well. But what we’ve noticed is that most of our competitors start off by sourcing for suppliers and determining which designs or bag features are most feasible for mass production before actually coming up with specific designs, producing them, and selling it to customers. They basically view and create products more from the production side of business, which is a rather conservative measure
For us, we take inspiration from the likes of fast fashion apparel brands like Shein and Zara and approach things the other way round. We first try to understand our customers’ needs and wants, or the general trend that’s going around at the moment. We then come up with designs to meet these trends or customer needs and wants, mass produce them, and push them out to our customers.
This is basically how fast fashion works, and is what allows us to shorten the design and production time significantly to meet the needs and wants of our customers more efficiently. I think we’re all pretty familiar with the term, but this model of production is mainly applied in apparel brands and not so much in accessories or bag brands. So by penetrating the market with this approach, we’re hoping to change the way in which fast fashion is applied in the bag industry. This concept also guides our brand and is what inspired our slogan, “crafted to your style”.
Though Petite Simone churns out new bags on a regular basis, a lot of research and thought goes into each design. Image courtesy of Stev.
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5. What were some of the challenges or limitations that you faced when Petite Simone was first beginning to build a brand presence, given that this approach is a very customer-centric one?
One of the biggest challenges that we faced was understanding the different customer behaviors and preferences present in different regions. Because we were growing our brand in both Asian and Western countries, we had to push out designs that met the different needs of consumers in each region.
For example, our North American customers have very different preferences when it comes to shoulder bags than our Southeast Asian customers, so our market research team really had to dedicate a lot of time and effort into identifying these differences, and proposing various tweaks to our existing designs to better fit each consumer pool.
Another big challenge we faced was a logistical one. In Southeast Asia, we’re working with other e-commerce solution providers apart from Amazon, so settling logistics across multiple e-commerce stores can be quite complicated.
Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) is a service that helps Amazon sellers outsource shipping and returns to Amazon, which really helped to take the logistical burden off of our shoulders.
Stev TamFounder of Petite Simone
6. Can you tell us more about the process behind tweaking designs to meet the different needs of customers? We understand that Petite Simone also takes customer reviews into account when tweaking designs.
Yes, we do try our best to respond to customer feedback and push out new and improved designs as quickly as possible. One example would be with our Sofii shoulder bags. We designed Sofii as part of our Retro Charm collection, with a retro vibe in mind which was trending at the time, specifically for our North American customers, and we were selling it on Amazon for a couple of months earlier this year. But then, we started receiving feedback that the size of the bag was a bit too small, so we compiled these reviews and shared them with our design team, and had a four-hour discussion with our production team, designers, and manufacturers.
It wasn't as simple as sizing up the bag in a 1:1 ratio. Rather, we had to explore how increasing the capacity of the bag would alter its design in terms of the length of the handles, or the type of zippers used. To ensure that the larger Sofii bags would still look the same as the original Sofii bags, we increased the length of the bag by exactly 1.57 inches, the height by exactly 0.6 inches, and the handle of the bag by about 1.2-1.5 inches. After which, we listed the larger Sofii alongside our original Sofii to appeal to the needs of different customers, and we actually saw a 60% sales increase following this new listing.
Through this process, our marketing team actually purchased various bags from popular competitor brands to try to analyze and identify the ideal ratios that we can use for our Sofii bags, and after that it took us about three days to create the first prototype. Once we confirmed the design and measurements, we took another seven days to produce the new batch of Sofiis, and another 30 days to settle logistics with Amazon. So all in all, it took us about 40-50 days to tweak our Sofii bags from ideation to production.
Another example would be our long wallets. We found out that credit cards, debit cards, and ID cards all vary slightly in size across different regions, so we had to tweak the size of the compartments in our long wallets slightly for sale in different regions. This time round, I think it only took us about five days to make this quick fix.
The Sofii shoulder bag is one of Petite Simone’s most popular and well-loved designs. Image courtesy of Stev.
I think our fast fashion approach is what has helped us to really grow our brand and build our pool of customers in the North American region. Though we’re relatively new, this approach of understanding the needs and wants of consumers and pushing out designs to meet these needs has helped us to boost our sales in this saturated industry.
Stev TamFounder of Petite Simone
7. Can you share more about Petite Simone’s sales growth and statistics since becoming an Amazon Global Seller?
Our growth is mainly attributed to the fact that we provide customers with lots of different product options, which can meet their various needs. Our marketing team also continues to roll out Amazon livestream content to attract new customers, and increase purchase rates with bundle deals and buy-one-get-one-free promotions. Participating in Amazon events like Lightning Deals and Best Deals have also helped us to boost our overall listing exposure and grow our brand as we move along.
For Amazon, even though we’re still a relatively new seller, we’ve had a month by month growth of 80-90% Gross Merchandise Value (GMV) in terms of sales. During events like Prime Day, we’re able to hit up to five times our average daily regular sales volume.
Stev TamFounder of Petite Simone
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, advertising and gaining customer reviews.
In the beginning, we relied a lot on Amazon Vine
reviews, which is a program where trusted Amazon reviewers will be invited to test out new products for free, to populate reviews in the initial stage. With these reviews, other customers will then have more confidence when it comes to purchasing items from a new brand, which is important given the lack of physical interactions with products online.
We also have our Multi-Channel Network (MCN) team working with some Amazon influencers, who we're collaborating with to populate video reviews of our products listed on Amazon, which has been very beneficial in terms of sales conversions.
Another way in which we navigated this would be through our product design R&D optimization, which I mentioned previously. We really take customer feedback seriously, and try our best to meet everyone’s needs, which is how we’ve built up that level of trust so quickly.
9. The concept of fast fashion appeals a lot to the younger generation, like Gen Zs. That said, do you see yourself marketing more towards these younger consumers?
Yes, in fact when we first started out as a brand, we focused quite a bit on new media like livestreaming, TikTok, and Instagram reels. So yes, Gen Z is one of our major customer segments, because they are the ones that have grown up with fast fashion. They aren’t as willing to wait three or four months for a whole new collection to drop, and might buy new bags or new clothes every month as new trends pop up.
We actually have allocated quite a sizable budget on our social media efforts, to build brand awareness on our socials and to let Gen Z consumers know that the right bag can make or break their outfits. It’s all about giving them more reasons to express themselves in new ways and try new products.
One of the things we’ve noticed about Gen Z customers is that we’re seeing a growing percentage of them becoming more environmentally conscious, which we really appreciate. As a brand, we believe that protecting our natural environment is important for us to continue growing sustainably. This, coupled with Gen Z's demand for more eco-conscious products, is why we always insist on using vegan leather and 56% recycled post-consumer polyester in all of our products.
Though their main consumer base are Gen Zs, Petite Simone’s bags boast simple, classic designs that can be worn by all ages. Image courtesy of Stev.
When marketing towards our younger customers, on Amazon, we make full use of Amazon Live, especially during shopping events like Prime Day, and Amazon Affiliate’s network of content creators. We also use Amazon’s product research tools like their Product Opportunity Explorer to see which products are trending on Amazon in each country, so that we know what types of designs to push out next.
Stev TamFounder of Petite Simone
10. Apart from your upcoming Bangkok retail store, what’s next for Petite Simone?
We’re actually in the midst of expanding our line of products to the travel sector, seeing as how borders are open and everyone is starting to travel again. So that’s one new subcategory that we’re looking to explore. Apart from that, we’ve also started tapping in to the Canadian Global Store (amazon.ca) with Amazon North America Fulfillment, and we’ll be aiming for UK and Germany next.
Ideally, we hope that Petite Simone will be seen as a global brand, much like Charles & Keith, which has been a great inspiration for us.
11. Do you have any tips for other Amazon sellers that are looking to expand overseas as well?
I think the biggest piece of advice that I can share is to really think about how the e-commerce store can help to grow your brand in different regions. The e-commerce space is so saturated, so it’s important to pick an e-commerce store that is well established, like Amazon, and to make full use of the available tools and functions to boost your brand awareness.
Basically, it’s all about choosing the right track to go down, choosing a mature e-commerce solution provider, focusing on the in-depth development of the brand, and always going back to what customers need.
To learn more about how Petite Simone leveraged on Amazon.com to expand overseas, its brand vision and advertising strategy, continue reading part 2 of the blog here
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