Bag Borrow or Steal Inc.
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When Sex and the City's Carrie Bradshaw scampered through Manhattan in Manolo Blahnik stilettos, women across the country followed suit. After the show's four main characters gossiped over Cosmopolitans, the cocktail's popularity skyrocketed.
Now, accessories start-up Bag Borrow or Steal Inc. is hoping that an unexpected snippet of dialogue in the new "Sex and the City" movie -- poised to hit theaters May 30 -- will be a big boost for its business.
Executives at Bag Borrow or Steal say that in one line in the movie, Carrie's assistant, played by actress Jennifer Hudson, admits to Carrie, played by Sarah Jessica Parker, that she "borrows" her pricey handbags from Bag Borrow or Steal, instead of buying them.
"It's like the Good Housekeeping seal of approval," says Jodi Watson, the company's chief marketing officer. "It gives us instant credibility and recognition."
The Seattle-based online retailer rents out designer handbags, jewelry and sunglasses for a few days, weeks or months. Renters pay anywhere from a few dollars a day for lower-end products to hundreds per month for high-end labels. Renters can also pay $5 to $10 a month to become a member of the site, earning discounts on rental fees.
To take full advantage of its 10 seconds in the limelight, Bag Borrow or Steal has been heavily trumpeting its affiliation with the movie, with graphics on its site, a sweepstakes for tickets and even a contest on YouTube. It also has been readying extra servers to handle a possible flood of orders. But the small firm also has had to perform a balancing act when it comes to the new products it hopes to sell -- ordering enough inventory to meet demand, but not so much that it ends up with a glut of merchandise.
It's an experience that serves as a lesson for any small company that unexpectedly finds itself with an opportunity to quickly boost its sales.
A mention in a movie has the potential to be "a defining marketing moment" for a small company, says Michael Levine, founder of Levine Communications Office, a public-relations firm in Los Angeles. As long as the movie doesn't flop, he says, it should prove a long-term boost to the company's cache -- and its sales.
Ramping Up Publicity
Unlike a traditional product-placement deal, Bag Borrow or Steal didn't pay for the mention in the movie. Executives say they got a phone call from New Line Cinema, the movie studio that made the film, about six months ago and found out that writers had included the line about the company in the script.
That saved the 75-employee company a substantial sum. Companies often pay millions of dollars for the rights to serve as a promotional partner to a big movie -- something Bag Borrow or Steal executives say they would never be able to afford.
So with New Line Cinema's approval, Bag Borrow or Steal set out to make the most of the free publicity. The company created a "Sex and the City shop" on the site, where customers can browse through handbags and cocktail rings "inspired by" the four main characters. On the same page is a quiz where people can see which character they most resemble -- and thus, which accessories they might prefer.
It launched a sweepstakes to win tickets to see the movie or credits toward rentals. It also held a contest on YouTube, where entrants submitted videos explaining which of the show's characters they most resemble. A grand prize winner, which is expected to be announced Tuesday, will attend the movie's New York premiere.
The company wouldn't disclose how much it has spent on these efforts.
Just How Big?
One of the biggest challenges for the firm, Ms. Watson says, has been "planning for something big without knowing how big it's going to be."
Executives have performed stress tests on the site to see how much extra traffic it can handle. Extra servers are ready in case of overload. The company can't afford to hire extra customer-service representatives, says Chief Executive Michael Smith, but he may ask part-time employees to work extra hours if calls start pouring in.
In recent weeks, the company also has enhanced the site, adding multiple views of the merchandise and more product details. And it added sunglasses, a new category.
One big complication: Bag Borrow or Steal executives haven't seen the movie yet. New Line Cinema has kept much of the movie under wraps, afraid of spoilers. That means they aren't sure which handbags made the final cut.
A spokeswoman for Bag Borrow or Steal says it's "extremely unlikely" that the line itself could be cut from the movie, though that's always a remote possibility until a film premieres.
So for the past few months, company staffers have scoured the Internet for paparazzi photos of the movie being filmed, zooming in on the handbags that are captured.
"We've been able to sleuth out some of the products that are featured," Ms. Watson says.
Still, the company knows they won't have all of the bags. With cash tight at the growing business, they can't afford to stock too much inventory. And some designer bags are limited editions, meaning few if any pieces are available. Mr. Smith says the company is prepared to buy some bags retail if demand is particularly strong, instead of buying directly from designers as they usually do.
"We know we'll be short on some things," he says. "We can't afford to make a huge bet -- start-up retailers go out of business because of inventory."
Plans also are in place for customers to be placed on waiting lists, and some may be given credits toward future rentals if they can't rent the merchandise they want.
Bag Borrow or Steal has projected a big month-over-month membership jump in June, though executives decline to cite specific numbers.
"Companies don't everyday get a gift like this," Ms. Watson says.
[Via - StartupJournal.Com ]