When someone gives a good gift, it is a win-win-win for everyone involved. The giver feels appreciated, the recipient feels understood and grateful, and the retailer has reduced the risk of a return. Darby Scott has made a career out of developing products that fit well into this philosophy. Her growing direct-to- consumer business has branched out from her eponymous handbags into men’s goods, jewelry, housewares, and more. In this conversation she talks about her business, the importance of gifting, and how the MyRegistry.com Gift List and Registry complements her retail strategy.
MyRegistry: Your experience in retail and gifting spans a variety of areas. Tell us a little bit about Darby Scott.
Darby Scott: Darby Scott is an eclectic business. I started in women's ready to wear and evening and branched out into handbags. The handbags are unusual because they are primarily ornamented with some form of jewelry-like detail via the handle or the clasp. Then we added jewelry. Having built out our women's handbag and leather goods range, we added men’s small goods, like billfolds, wallets, and hip flasks. I have a diverse background. I worked in menswear, way back when. We’ve begun to dip our toes into home furnishings. My children are at that age where everyone's starting to get engaged, get married and always being asked for ideas for gift giving. It is sort of fun to be dabbling in that world too. Everybody loves a good gift.
MR: Do you find that most of your customers are looking for gifts, whether for themselves or for other people?
DS: Yes. Even going back to the days when we sold our handbags at Bergdorf and Neiman Marcus, there has always been an aspect of gift giving with Darby Scott products. We would be in the stores doing trunk show events and often working with men who were choosing to buy gifts for their wives or significant others. Many women bought bags for their mothers or for their sisters. Gift giving has always been an aspect of the business. I had one regular handbag customer who always bought one for herself and one for a friend.
My aesthetic at Darby Scott is twofold. One, we like to be a bit more unusual in terms of what we're providing the market, and two, offer something that has longevity. Because, I think that is what makes a great gift. Something that's rare and special, that the recipient may have never come across themselves. But, when you see it, it feels as though it could have been around forever, yet still feels “of the moment.”
MR: How did you get involved with MyRegistry?
DS: We always wanted to have a registry component, or a wish list or gift list component. At one time, we had a tool where you could email somebody a “here’s something I've seen on Darby Scott” link. The individual could take a product and send a little message to somebody, but it took away a little bit of the aspect of what I think is necessary in our sales process, something that we could do in store, when we met face to face with a customer and they are asking for help in making a gift decision.
So we did some research. We knew that most registries lived in a siloed environment, that is you can go to a particular store and the registry lives in that one location. That can be a conundrum for the shopper because they need to go to multiple different registries on a particular person's list. I liked the fact that MyRegistry was universal. It combines lists so that it was agnostic when it came to the seller. Darby Scott could be in the same registry for a bride and groom just as easily as Bloomingdale's could be. I think what makes MyRegistry unique and special is giving the consumer opportunity to use it in a broad context, and then also to be able to shop. Nowadays, young people want to shop a huge spectrum of places. With so much more choice, shopping becomes almost overwhelming for somebody who's looking for a gift, bringing it together in one registry, but enabling them to shop from all sorts of different locations, I think is a fabulous idea.
MR: Do you think the Gift List or Registry provides customer insight and demand signals that makes managing inventory for merchandise with limited quantities?
DS: We all know that everybody has preferences. In handbags, some women like a top handle, some don't want a shoulder strap. It’s helpful to see what products are being added to their lists. When someone comes into the store looking for a gift, if the target recipient has a gift list it makes a huge difference in what kind of style our sales team might recommend, particularly if the specific bag they wanted isn’t available.
As a lifestyle brand, we want to present something that is curated and has that Darby Scott point of view. Maybe it's something rare or an unusual find, but it doesn't have to be uber expensive. While we started out in a very expensive realm, at Neiman's and Bergdorf’s, we have through our direct to consumer broadened our offerings to increase our reach. Adding men's goods and then adding small leather goods into our men's and ladies’ collections, wallets and credit card holders and money clips and things of that nature. Hip flasks have become a huge gift item. It is something that young, engaged couples give as gifts to their groomsmen. They're wonderful keepsakes. It doesn't have to be super expensive, but certainly, hopefully it would be memorable.
MR: Does the registry and gift list help Darby Scott grow its brand as you expand your product line?
DS: I think so. We went into a more affordable jewelry collection, one we call the Confection Collection. These are wonderful earrings and pendants, that are really beautiful bridesmaids gifts. Pieces that somebody could give to their bridesmaids and have them all wear and it's a keepsake. It’s something that hopefully, they'll cherish because the quality is exceptional, the size of the stones are exceptional.
We're also doing some bridal jewelry. We added some pearl drops with blue topaz, an ode to “something new and something blue.” One of my college girlfriend's daughters was just married, and she sent me a picture wearing the earrings for her wedding. It just pleased me so much and I'm hoping that she'll wear them forever for other special occasions, but they'll always have special meaning. I'm a sentimental person. And you know, it doesn't matter to me, I think the sentiment that goes with a gift, somehow, is much more important than the dollar value.
MR: Something we say at MyRegistry is that a gift list is more than just a list of stuff; it’s a reflection of who you are. Do you see your customers using their registry or gift list to express and share their personal preferences?
DS: Yes. For example, if you're setting up a registry because you've just bought your first home. It's a place where people can begin to understand your tastes, and they will begin to understand through the things that you've shown them, things that you would like, so you begin to get a sense of what kind of home they want. Are they modern? Are they traditional? Do they like the outdoors and the garden? Are they into food and drink? That begins to help inform where you as a gift giver might go to begin. That's so helpful because you want to make the right purchase, so you begin to get to know them through the registry. It’s important to guide someone to make the right choice. Having a variety of gifts in a range of prices is good too, because you never know, somebody might want to do something extravagant for you. But somebody else may be invited to 40,000 weddings that year and may want something more affordable.
MR: How do you let people know about your registry? How do you utilize the registry, in your marketing or when you're talking to customers?
DS: Well, we will always include it in our emails periodically to remind people. We like to remind people that it's there, not just for weddings anymore, that it's there for your graduation gift ideas, for your housewarming, for a special anniversary, any special occasion. A gift guide is useful for any milestone, it's very important. We will be doing a lot more blogging, with suggestions around all of those special events, be it Mother's Day, Father's Day, or holidays. And momentous milestones, like the graduate school degree.
MR: Any advice for a smaller store or someone up and coming starting their ecommerce store? Is the gift list registry a good idea?
DS: The registry is an additional tool in our tool box. I think as a business owner you have to be open to new technology and open to investing in what will grow your business. I think every added component, be it pay as you go kind of features or otherwise, can add value to an ecommerce store. And you must look at any expense as an opportunity for discovery.
Another thing that MyRegistry does, and I hope will continue to do, is they do their own blogging. They write their own gift guides. So their website is another place where someone who may not have heard of Darby Scott, because we're still an emergent brand, can learn about us. Somebody might find that we do beautiful handblown glassware in conjunction with an artisan. Or there's an opportunity for somebody who might have known us through an ad in the New York Times for a handbag, to think of us for barware or tabletop or gift giving.
If you have any questions in particular or want to learn more about managing your registry data, we can always be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org