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How the nap dress went viral | Intelligence, BoF Professional

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NEW YORK, United States – For most brands, 2020 has been a rush for “pandemic-proof” categories like tracksuits. But lifestyle brand Hill House Home can’t make dresses fast enough.

The company’s “nap” dress – a cross between a nightgown and a dress, comfortable enough to sleep in, but dressy enough to run errands – has become a pandemic sensation. Thousands of shoppers tuned in last Wednesday at noon to take their last drop, who reinvented iconic silhouettes in tartan and brocade fabrics before the holidays. In five minutes, the brand sold $ 500,000 in inventory. Before an hour and a half, sales hit the $ 1 million mark.

The dazzling success of the product reflects the strange dynamics of the market of the time. Hill House Home had built a solid business selling premium bedding and towels before launching into casual wear last year. The Nap Dress was an instant hit, but the pandemic overcharged its appeal, turning it from a bestseller into a blockbuster. By the end of the year, it will represent 50 percent of Hill House Home’s business. Runaway sales are expected to result in a 300% revenue increase this year.

His stellar success is a combination of luck and skill. Luckily, the nap dress was almost perfectly designed for the pandemic. It comes in a range of puffy, comfort-focused styles, like bestselling Ellie, which features elasticated smocking, a flattering square neckline, and a tiered flowing skirt. With most options ranging from $ 75 to $ 150, its price is also pandemic-friendly: affordable enough to buy, but high-end enough to feel like a treat. For many Americans moving between home quarantines, work-related zoom calls, and socially remote outdoor pursuits, cotton meadow styles were a wise investment.

“Consumers really want things that are comfortable but also versatile,” said Alexis DeSalva Kahler, senior research analyst at Mintel. “The nap dress in particular has this aspect of comfort in function. And also, it’s cute.

The nap dress in particular has this aspect of comfort to suit. And also, it’s cute.

To be sure, Hill House Home isn’t the only brand crammed into the explosion of “cottagecore” aesthetic, which exploded during the lockdown. Retailers like Asos, Saks and Revolve have put a lot of emphasis on the “house dress” phenomenon. Products in the market grew 14% year over year, according to retail analytics firm Trendalytics. But the brand has managed to carve out a leading niche in this booming market. Consumer searches for the term “nap dress” – a trademark term by Hill House Home – averaged 4,400 per week between July and September, an increase of 423 percent from last year, according to Trendalytics .

From a business standpoint, Hill House Home was well positioned to capitalize on the surge in interest. Founder Nell Diamond took a conservative approach to growing the brand she launched in 2016 and achieving profitability in 2018. She avoided wholesale partnerships in favor of direct-to-consumer digital channels, keeping prices accessible and affordable. high product quality. This choice also meant that the brand was relatively unscathed by the pandemic retail collapse.

Denise Bidot in The Caroline siesta dress | Source: courtesy

And, like the design of the nap dresses, its marketing strategy seemed made for the pandemic. The company’s measured growth strategy favored building an organic community rather than paid advertising, which meant it was still able to connect with consumers when the pandemic struck.

With buyers spending more time at home and on social media, opportunities to explore the brand have exploded. Social media buzz around Hill House Home’s nap dress between July and September increased 780% year over year, according to Trendalytics data.

Mintel’s DeSalva Kahler notes the brand’s savvy social media presence, supported by founder Nell Diamond, who recently gave birth to twins and documented her birth path for her 46,000 followers – most often dressed in her own nap dress.

“It’s a marketing plan without being a marketing plan, showing: I’m wearing these clothes, I’m comfortable and breastfeeding twins at home,” DeSalva Kahler said. “What we’re seeing more and more is that consumers really want to connect with the brand, not just the product. I think this is also benefiting the popularity of Hill House right now.

Today, the brand does paid marketing and its products can be purchased on Instagram. Yet word of mouth with friends remains a powerful acquisition tool, said Diamond.

“When I think of the nap dress kind of virality, it’s a virality that occurs on group texts of six or seven girlfriends who have gone to college together or college together or work together: this is where the magic happens, ”she said. “It’s not necessarily in those paid ads.”

It’s a rare and coveted attribute for a direct-to-consumer brand, said Meghan Cross Breeden, partner of Amplifyher Ventures, which invested in the brand’s seed cycle last year. For many direct-to-consumer brands, Cross Breeden sees 40 cents for every dollar of venture capital raised directly from Facebook and Google advertising.

“Hill House Home is very different, because [it] was able to generate this effect of community and engagement inertia, ”she said. “I think you really see that in the effect of the nap dress.”

Hill House Home was able to generate this flywheel effect of community and engagement. You really see this in the effect of the nap dress.

This translates into another very valuable attribute: Nap dress customers are loyal and tend to come back for more. The average nap dress customer owns about three different versions of the dress, depending on the brand. 40-year-old artist Tara Gill estimates that she owns 17 nap dresses, all varying in colors and prints.

“There’s this common joke among my friends that I have a nap dress obsession,” she says. “I love the idea that it’s basically a nightgown, but it’s chic enough to wear out.”

Since the pandemic took hold, “I’ve been living there,” she said. “I basically wear the same thing every day. It’s just different Fabric nap dress.

But with virality and soaring sales, there is a risk of oversaturation and declining consumer interest. When lightning strikes, sustaining high levels of demand among fans in a world fueled by social media, novelty and the short attention span that comes with it has become more difficult than ever, whether there is a pandemic or no. Diamond, however, is not hung up on the question.

“I’d be more worried about that if the product looked like a random hit, or if it felt like it was just because of the name … or because of the quarantine,” he said. she declared. “It’s a product that I personally experience, breathe and wear every day. I don’t care about our next 10 [hits] will be, because I think it’s a product that has a real longevity.

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