A PASSION for fashion and innovation set Pakinee Banchuin on the path to offering Thailand’s first online dress rental service.
The venture, Formal Affair, also allowed Pakinee to apply her business skills and knowledge in an entrepreneurial setting.
“We first started Formal Affair to address a pain point that we could relate to – for a working professional in her 20s or 30s who finds herself wanting to look beautiful and confident on every special occasion but is not always willing to spare the time, budget or closet space to buy new dresses or have them tailored,” she said. “We believed there was a supply gap in the special occasion rental market. We struggled to find a shop that offers a combination of high-quality and flattering dresses, convenient service and a mid-range price point between Bt2,000 and Bt5,000.”
Alongside the online store, which Pakinee opened several years ago, she has a shop in the heart of Bangkok in Chidlom Road, behind Central Chidlom. Customers can avail themselves of the bridal gowns or evening dresses via either channel.
The online shop enables customers to browse through a selection of gowns and dresses, and then view them in detail, including with a zoom function. They can check the availability of an item and proceed to book and pay online. Automated responses are sent to the customer at key stages of the process.
She said the business not only used technology to provide the online channel but also applied it to harness data analytics. This helps the company to better learn the preferences of customers, in terms of size, colour, style preference, timing and price sensitivity. The statistics that are generated help guide decisions on sourcing, pricing, inventory management and logistics.
“This ultimately allows the business to serve customers better. For example, sometimes the shop may pay more to expedite the dry cleaning so that it can turn around a sought-after dress faster,” Pakinee said. “All of our dresses are high quality as we source from leading international and local brands. Most of our dresses are from the US and UK, thus giving our customers a fresh alternative to what is available locally. With more than 250 dresses and counting, we cater to ladies of various sizes, styles and budget. We ensure our customers get the best value for their money, when considering the combination of quality, branding, fit and price.”
Pakinee said integration of the online and offline platforms allowed customers to touch, feel and try on the items. Delivery is available for anywhere in Thailand, and a home try-on service is also offered.
“We believe this is the right time for our business model to take off, driven by our keeping up with the trends that now see Thais increasingly more familiar with the concept of sharing and the use of social media among consumers,” Pakinee said. “We believe these trends will help Thai customers to be more and more familiar with a seamless, do-it-yourself buying and returning e-commerce experience.”
The shop counts more than 500 customers, with repeat customers accounting for 30 per cent of them.
Pakinee said that, over the next year or two, the shop will deepen its business focus on customers in Bangkok as it believes the urban market has significant room for growth. It aims to become a one-stop shop for special occasion dress rental, catering to event goers, wedding guests, bridesmaids and mothers of the brides.