Q & A with Cally Russell. Founder and CEO of Mallzee.
Cally is the CEO of Mallzee, a fellow Edinburgh based start up that is now the UK’s top non retailer shopping app and a key partner for brands/retailers with their Product Future tool that lets companies test products before launch. We caught up with Cally to talk about e-commerce, sustainability and the future of fashion.
Mallzee is known as the tinder of fashion. Can you tell us how you got started on your journey creating this?
I came up with the idea for Mallzee back in 2012 - I was using my mobile to to search for a pair of black jeans (black jeans and trainers are pretty much my wardrobe staples) and found myself getting really frustrated with how disjointed the experience was. I remember thinking there must be a better way so I developed an app bringing high street retailers together in one place allowing users to search, compare and buy items in one place in a fun and efficient way. We were the first app to apply Tinder style swiping technology to a different industry. Mallzee has now been downloaded over 1.5 million times and includes over 150 high street brands and retailers.
As someone in the process of disrupting the retail landscape, can you tell us how you’ve seen things change in the last few years?
When we first launched Mallzee, m-commerce (mobile commerce) was hardly even a thing, whereas now we are all so used to organising our lives through our smartphones, including shopping (in 2017 it was estimated that 86% of shoppers in the UK have made m-commerce purchases) and I can’t see this trend ending anytime soon. There has been much talk in the media that technology is killing the high street but I believe shoppers are simply becoming much more discerning and price sensitive. Its now so easy to compare items and prices before buying and retailers now need to ensure they differentiate their product offering. Technology is also capable of helping retailers - we launched our data offering Mallzee Insights last year using the consumer product preference data we can generate in app to enable partner retailers to test potential product popularity before bringing them to market and in turn helping to increase product success rate and reduce wastage.
At Meander we believe in offering true, quality, value and transparency to the customer. We brought our first product - The Meander Jacket to market via Indiegogo so that we could skip the supply chain markups and offer quality at an affordable price. Do you think that the department store will survive with the rise of e-commerce shopping and what do you think of concept stores such as Zara’s click and collect store that opened earlier this year in London’s Westfield?
I think it is going to be very interesting to see how department stores evolve over the next few years - personally, I think there are shoppers who like a one stop shop. The issue is where these department stores are located and what other experiential activities make the trip worthwhile and then it comes down to whether they hold the most desirable products? The department stores that offer an own brand range can offer something unique but they need to make this a stand out product, which is very hard to do.
One of our brand values is to create style and function in equal measure. Athleisure is a trend that’s been around for a while. Do you think it’s here to stay and is it a strong category for Mallzee?
Yes, Athleisure is most definitely one of our most popular categories and shows no sign of waning anytime soon. It is a bit of a catch all term and a lot of the items and brands that are most popular within this category have actually been around for a long time but just categorised differently - think gymwear and streetwear.
We’re inspired by fashion brands like Patagonia and Toms and companies like Edinburgh’s Brewgooder, that have a strong focus on sustainability, ethical values and charitable causes. Do you expect to see a growth in brands with purpose/ sustainability and social enterprise?
Absolutely - this is an area that I would expect to see grow and I think as we see further differentiation in the market - ie retailers providing products that are more closely matched to different demographics and customer lifestyles then this will be one of the areas that develops into its own category; Fast Fashion, Sustainable Fashion etc.
What’s your idea of a perfect adventure?
If it’s just for the day then I want to jump on my bike and head out along the coast, ideally ending up somewhere with some good seafood. For longer trips I’m a big fan of an undiscovered music festival somewhere off the beaten track, highlight being Mike Skinner in a Croatian forest.