Retail giants like Forever 21 and H&M have changed the nature of the fashion industry. They’re constantly pushing out “cheap chic” (budget friendly, on-trend merchandise) at a fast rate, which has changed the way consumers shop. Consumers are now more knowledgeable than before and making smarter buying decisions. As a result, the game has changed. Luckily, 2.0 Agency, a buying office in the LA Fashion District, has the competitive edge to stay ahead of this phenomenon. Patty Park, co-owner of 2.0 Agency, shares her insights into the services she offers her clients so they can win.
2.0 Agency offers three major advantages, among others, that really set them apart: proximity, language and cost-effectiveness. They are located in the heart of the San Pedro Wholesale Mart at the LA Fashion Mart which gives them convenient and quick access to all the new merchandise. Patty sends her team out onto the field every day to build relationships with the wholesalers and to see what’s in stores.
“We know what’s trending right now because we can easily walk to the stores and see what they have,” says Patty. “With items that are trendy at the moment, it doesn’t make sense to plan 3-6 months ahead,” Patty continues, referring to retailers who order shipments from a showroom. “We can immediately deliver the merchandise to our clients because consumers these days want to see new products constantly.”
“We ship it out every week to our clients, quicker than others,” Patty continues. “It’s a competitive market out there; bigger retailers are buying here.”
And Patty’s right. New Angeles Monthly stated in a 2007 article that “the market for middlemen [San Pedro Wholesalers] who bring that product to points in the Western Hemisphere is exploding”. San Pedro Wholesale Mart and its neighbors have grown to become one of the world’s largest women’s apparel wholesale area since its inception in 1994. According to the Market Analysis conducted by the Community Redevelopment Agency, the area has 3 million square feet of space with 400 businesses, a large number of them contemporary, wholesale vendors who have a reputable list of retailers such as Nordstrom, Macy’s and international companies from Korea and Europe.
The San Pedro Wholesale community is receiving such a high demand in their “fast fashion” merchandise because of the way consumers are spending their money. “Consumers are cross-shopping more than ever and growing more confident that they don’t have to rely on name brand to ensure good taste,” said Robert Burke, a New York retail consultant. Consumers are now mixing items of low price points with higher price points, says Patty, who helps her retail clientele take advantage of this shift. “You can see people wearing J Brand jeans, which are in the $2-300 range, with an H&M top that’s for $10”.
But they also practice what they preach. Her business partner, Lisa Sohn has a women’s retail store on Melrose Avenue and this is where they put into effect their market research. Because 70% of their customers are tourist based, Patty and Lisa get a first-hand look at how a wide spectrum of people shop. They also test new merchandise they purchase directly from the San Pedro Wholesale Mart and see which styles and trends are selling the most. With this built in “focus group”, they can immediately let their clients know what’s hot.
Another advantage that 2.0 agency has is language. Because many wholesalers at the San Pedro Wholesale Mart speak English as a second language, Patty and Lisa, who are both Korean-speaking Americans, have an easier time doing business with them. With hundreds of wholesalers selling nearly identical products, the competition is fierce. Getting the perfect style at the right price can take a lot of finesse.
Patty was born and raised in Los Angeles but her parents emigrated from North Korea. Her ability to understand and acclimate with both cultures has been her niche and success in the business. “I’m a second-generation Korean American and it’s important to me that I give back to this community [San Pedro Wholesale Mart] by being the middleman between them and retailers. That’s why my company has the ‘2.0’ in ‘Agency’. We’re here to bridge the gap.”
For a company that started a year and a half ago, 2.0 Agency is now connecting over 34 retailers and a new set of international clients to the San Pedro wholesale community in the LA Fashion District.