”Don’t pursue it primarily as a marketing or PR effort — it is about building relationships and trust”

On why 2022 is the year when your company should start a repair service
January 10, 2022

Founded by creative director Maria Høgh Heilmann in 2005, Glæsel has been CEO and partner of the Copenhagen-based premium fashion and lifestyle brand Aiayu since 2011.

— I have always had a passion for doing business responsibly, she tells, and I deeply believe it is possible to do so while being commercially successful at the same time. This vision is what led me to Aiayu, with our deep commitment to sustainable practices, natural materials, quality, and craftsmanship and where the balance of responsibility, a top-quality product, and profitability is our driving force. For instance, many of our products are undyed as dyeing is a chemical-heavy and resource-intensive process. We are putting this initiative front and center now by expanding our undyed product universe and curating collections and campaigns of our undyed products so customers can more easily find these all-natural items.

In 2013, the brand hired an in-house tailor and initiated their own repair service, which, according to Glæsel, was instantly well received by their core customers.

— We know that holes, snags, and rips happen, but we don’t want this to be the reason that our items get replaced. Therefore, we have a complimentary repair program; for cotton styles, it is two years after purchase, and five years for knitwear. If it has been longer than that, we kindly ask the customer to cover the cost of shipping. The customer can either bring the item to the store that he or she bought it from or purchase the repair shipping fee on our website and send it to our repair station based in The Aiayu Market in Nordhavn, Copenhagen.

Was it a difficult thing to begin with? And how’s the feedback been?

— One of the most challenging aspects was getting the word out. At that time, it was not common for brands to have repair programs, so our customers did not expect it. The volume of repairs has grown organically over the years in conjunction with the expansion of our business and customer base — in particular when we launched the service online, so customers living outside of Copenhagen could also take part. Even though it is an established and, for many, beloved part of our business, we are still surprised more people don’t take advantage of it! Glæsel states. She adds:

— The feedback has been amazing. People are so appreciative that we have prolonged the usable life of the garment or home item, and that gratefulness converts into customer loyalty. Such a service lets us build long-lasting relationships and trust with our customers. We know they have invested a lot of money in purchasing our products, so the least we can do is ”walk our talk” and deliver on our promise that our items are made to last.

Except for extending the life cycle of garments, how come that you started with it?

— As we consider ourselves being a responsible brand, we must put our money where our mouth is and provide after-sale services. This creates strong customer relationships built on trust and loyalty. It is also a vote of confidence in our products, that we are willing to put time and resources into repairing them because we believe they are worth that investment. We also gain valuable insights through the service. We can see where items break down over time and how they can be improved. Since we create classic items that we re-release over many seasons, these insights are very useful for us from a product improvement point of view. It also shows which items people really connect to, says Glæsel.

What would you like to say to brands who are thinking about starting their own repair service but haven’t already? Can you share any do’s and don’ts?

— Just do it! I know it can seem overwhelming to forecast the cost and possible obstacles, but what you gain in terms of insights and customer loyalty is worth the initial uncertainty. And frankly, there is no responsibility or circularity without taking accountability for your products and the length of their life cycle. You do not need to overthink it. Start something small and simple with your core customers then scale as you gain experience. You can always formalize as you go, but try to get your basics straight, and be realistic in terms of how long it takes to repair a product. Last, but not least, don’t pursue it primarily as a marketing or PR effort. It is about building relationships and trust, so start by spreading the word about the service amongst your existing customers, listen to their feedback, and adjust accordingly. Afterwards, you can broaden your communication.

Have you gained any other insights from the service? And how will you develop it onwards?

— What we repair is still marginal in comparison to what we sell, so there are still many untapped customers. This does not come as a surprise; I believe it reveals a general mentality around getting your clothes repaired. I’m hoping we can help change this — both in terms of communicating the environmental importance of re-using what we already have, but also through digital workshops which teach people how to do basic repairs on their own. As a brand, we want to be part of a wider conversation of promoting repairs and creating a culture where we keep what we have for longer. Last year, we moved our repair station from our headquarters to our new retail space, the Aiayu Market, to make it more accessible and to increase customers’ ability to interact with the process. Hopefully one day, something visibly fixed will be considered just as beautiful as something new.

Lastly, how will you continue to work with circularity? And what else is coming for you?

— It’s a key concept in the industry right now and we are looking to take our circularity measures a step further by researching a take-back program and developing a collection made from deadstock material from our own productions. These are big challenges we cannot take on halfheartedly, so we are investigating how to do them properly, with maximum impact, and without sacrificing the product quality that we are known for. More generally speaking, we are expanding our retail presence through a new store opening in Copenhagen. While we are pursuing an omnichannel digital strategy, we firmly believe physical retail has an invaluable place in our business as to where we build our strongest customer relationships, Glæsel concludes.