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High-end Fashion ‘A La Carte’

Former mystery buyer named eBay Canada's 2012 Fashion-preneur of the Year.

Tina Kastana started off her high-end fashion sales on eBay as a small venture, selling about 40 items in the auction format in 2002. Fast forward 10 years, and the one-woman operation is close to 2,000 feedbacks on eBay, and has been named eBay Canada’s 2012 Fashion-preneur of the Year.

The owner of Fashion A La Carte specializes in high-end clothing and accessories, and was “ecstatic” when she learned she had won the award.

Getting the title of Fashion-preneur of the Year makes Kastana feel her hard work and struggles of selling online paid off.

“It’s not easy being the buyer, the photographer, writer of descriptions, the poster and the shipper at the same time,” she notes.

But Kastana seems to handle it pretty well. The Quebec resident made more than $60,000 in sales in 2011. This year, she expects her sales to reach six figures.

“It’s not easy being the buyer, the photographer, writer of descriptions, the poster and the shipper at the same time”

Passion for shopping inspires business

How did Kastana get where she is today? It all started in 2002 when the fashionista was a mystery shopper. The gig gave her a chance to visit lots of clothing stores to tell the companies who hired her about her shopping experience, how prices compared to competitors, and provide other market research. Her salary was a flat fee, plus she was able to keep all the items she bought when she popped into shops.

“I had so many free items expensed that I decided to auction them, and this is how Fashion A La Carte was created,” she tells us.

After a few years, her high-end fashion sales grew, and in 2006 Kastana opened an eBay Store and reinvested some of her profits back into her business. She even opened her own online store by the same name, www.fashionalacarte.com, though she admits that most of her sales are still through eBay.

‘Flirty and fun’

Kastana knew there was a market for a shop like hers. Not everyone has a high-end boutique in their area that sells the clothing and accessories they want. Those are the buyers she caters to, she reports.

And shoppers have plenty to choose from at Fashion A La Carte, including dresses by Allen Schwartz, bathing suits from Gottex, sandals by Kate Spade and tons more. Most of the clothing and accessories she sells are for women, but men will also find designer duds to make them look elegant. Her top sellers are J Brand Jeans, a brand that lots of celebrities wear, she says.

Kastana’s logo is playful, playing up her love of fashion and inviting visitors to look further. To come up with the design, she worked with Cavviar.com, which provides design, Web development, social media and other services to entrepreneurs. She tells us she told the designer she worked with she wanted a “flirty and fun” design, and he ran with it, coming up with a few options. The logo that now displays on her stores was her favorite.

When we asked Kastana for suggestions about how other online sellers can get inspiration for their logos and store designs, she suggested looking at other websites. “[Search] keywords under your theme, such as ‘clothing’ or ‘home décor’ [to get inspired],” she says.

Secrets of success

Kastana says fast shipping and adding between 30 and 40 new items weekly to her high-end fashion shop have helped catch buyers’ eyes. She ships orders the next day, so buyers get items quickly, and she offers free shipping on several of her products, regardless of where buyers live in the world.

“A lot of potential sellers believe that it’s a quick sale, but it takes time and research [to have success]”

Shoppers love it, she notes.

Research has also helped her succeed. In fact, the fashionista regularly scours eBay to see what dresses, tops, jeans and jewelry are selling. That’s a “must” when you sell online, she adds. She’s also a regular on fashion forums, searching for items shoppers want; add her 10-plus years of working in retail, and it seems Kastana has a fashion recipe for success.

Accepting refunds and offering coupons in her packages have also been a key to keeping shoppers happy and returning to her stores, she continues. But what might surprise some is that taking risks has also helped. She finds that unique clothing sells very well.

“The flashier, the faster it sells,” the merchant says.

Tips from a fashionista

We asked Kastana to share some of the tips she’s learned during her years of selling high-end fashion online. Her first was that sellers should offer free shipping when they can, and post Buy It Now listings with the Best Offer option to entice shoppers to buy. And when merchants start off, they should start slow, like she did, she continues.

“A lot of potential sellers believe that it’s a quick sale, but it takes time and research [to have success],” she says. “Start with five to six items of your own and test the water; see where it goes from there, and don’t give up just because you didn’t sell that first week!”

Using Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest to showcase her items has also been helpful. Again, she notes that selling online takes hard work, but it does pay off.

Visit Fashion A La Carte on eBay.

About the author

Olga Munoz
Olga Munoz is editor of TheOnlineSeller.com. In addition to writing news and feature articles about e-commerce, selling trends, online marketing and other topics of interest to online sellers, Olga manages the site's social media efforts. A journalism graduate of Chico State, Olga says her favorite part of being a journalist is learning interesting facts that help put stories into perspective, attending industry events and meeting interesting people "that leave you smiling, even in tough situations." Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.

  • Patricia Tobin Lewis

    Great story and info. Congratulations Tina



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