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How a Small Retailer in the BC Interior Amassed Over a Million Social Media Followers in 4 Months

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A small clothing retailer in Trail, B.C., is setting the social media world on fire as a clear example of how to think outside of the box and grow business through a strong digital presence.

JJ’s Fashions, which has been operating since 1973, has amassed a stunning just shy of 1.5 million followers on TikTok with its “Hot Boss” segments with female employees swooning over their boss Rhylan Streloff, who manages the store, which is about 1,800 square feet at 1330 Cedar Avenue.

“It basically started as a one-off spoof. We were basically brainstorming ideas on how to grow our Instagram account. Our Instagram is shopable, linked directly to our website. We were trying to figure out ways to drive traffic to our Instagram page and one of the young girls that worked here told me that TikTok would be a great way to do that. So she started a TikTok account for us and then started making videos,” said Streloff.

“The videos are not related to selling anything really. They’re more around the idea of me being the hot boss and the relationship my employee and I have and how she reacts to her boss being hot. So it’s a little awkward but it’s more along the entertainment side of things.”

JJ’s has 28.6 million Likes. Views on videos are well over 100 million. On the Instagram account, it has 73,000 followers. Streloff’s personal Instagram account has 180,000 followers. Employee Madicyn Dobie’s Instagram account has about 25,000 followers.

“The reach is pretty staggering. This is all within four months. That’s the crazy part of TikTok. It’s dumb luck a lot of it to be honest with you but we found something that people liked and we’re just always trying to learn from the videos that get views, what people like, and trying to figure out what the algorithm likes,” said Streloff.

“Our first video was definitely a fluke but we pay attention to it closely and kind of figure out what works for us and what doesn’t and I think we’ve kind of found a weird little niche that’s working. The reach is just astounding. It’s crazy for me because when I started trying to develop our Instagram account it was an absolute grind — the following, the Likes and Commenting, trying to build your following organically through Instagram with hashtags is a very slow and tedious process. TikTok is wild just how fast it will grow. I’ve seen my account jump 30,000 followers in a couple of days when we have a good video that goes viral.”

Streloff’s grandparents first established the retail store as Kootenay Clothes Closet. His father took it over for awhile as well as his uncle.

Exterior of JJ's Fashion store. Photo: Google Images
Exterior of JJ’s Fashion store. Photo: Google Images

“We’re just like a standard retail clothing store. We do women’s and men’s. We have everything from sportswear, accessories, and menswear — men’s casual, men’s formal. We kind of try to hit everything from the young crowd of anywhere from 14 all the way up to the older crowd. I’d say our main customer base is from 20 to 45,” said Streloff.

He said social media is a great tool for retailers to grow their business.

“We’re having a lot of fun. There’s a lot of energy behind it. A lot of momentum. It’s really exciting to see. It’s a life changing thing. We were all of a sudden able to turn this tiny little business that was struggling to keep the lights on into something that is limitless. There’s a lot of room for growth here and it’s just really exciting to be part of,” added Streloff.

David Nagy, founder of eCommerce Canada, said TikTok, and other social platforms, offers a “level playing field” for small brands like JJ’s Fashions to compete with large brands that have deep pockets for marketing.

“TikTok stands out as a content creation platform, perhaps more so than any other social channel. It is fundamentally entertainment and you need to think about that when you create content for it,” he said.

“Creativity and storytelling are at the core of any great brand initiative and JJ’s has nailed this. They aren’t pitching, they aren’t selling. They’ve created a story related to the day-to-day existence in the shop – and it resonates because it’s real, it’s funny and it entertains us.

@jjs_fashions

You ask we answer 😉 #hotboss#shoplocal#familybuisness#smallstore#hottestboss#hotbossesoftiktok#caffeine#suits#ComfortFood#GoodMorning#MakeItVogue

♬ original sound – JJ’s Fashion

“Does that mean this is easy? Heck no! Creativity is hard. You have to be in the moment and recognize when something has a good feel to it that others will enjoy. Executing that vision is the next challenge. I actually don’t believe that this is the domain of marketers. I think a good TikTok ‘marketer’ is a really creative person who uses the platform a lot and understands it’s toolkit. TikTok and platforms like SnapChat aren’t really something that you can conceive material for if you don’t use them regularly.”

Does an example like JJ’s Clothing turn into commerce? Well, it’s possible, but that shouldn’t really be the purpose of this type of concept, explained Nagy.

“What they should hope to achieve is a big bump in awareness that translates into an increase in trust and affinity of their brand. It’ll be important to piggyback off of the traction they’re getting today and ensure there’s a next step in this concept to continue to develop that customer journey. Without some semblance of an ongoing engagement strategy, a brand’s success can be pretty short-lived and amount to ‘five minutes of fame’,” said Nagy.

“Eventually, the transition to a place where you can nurture and track a customer relationship is still important. Your email list, your website, even brand searches on Google. These are still places where you can better control the conversation and nurture your relationships because you have more access to data and better ability to affect the User Experience.

“So, while TikTok is a wonderful place to create top-of-funnel awareness, always consider how you can progress that customer journey by leveraging that awareness into visits to other social channels, your website or even your physical storefront. One day soon, platforms like TikTok may become commerce behemoths, but today your focus should be about creating entertaining and authentic experiences that help you be discovered by new people and existing audiences alike.”

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He now works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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