2019 has been nothing short of stellar for Delugs. We consider this to be our first proper year in operation, even though we started selling our first straps in late 2018. And even then, we didn't take things seriously until June 2019. Since then, our product offering and community have grown so much. Looking at where we are now, it's crazy to think that everything really happened in just the past 6 months.
But our vision and action plan has not changed. We want to provide the watch community with straps and accessories that their watches deserve. Not to settle for straps that are made from "genuine leather" and with shoddy construction. Not having to pay bespoke prices just for simple, well-made straps. And judging by the support of the community and the reviews of those that have gotten our straps, we think we are on the right path.
Yet there is still a lot for us to work on and improve. We have barely begun to keep our straps in stock, our range of leather has expanded to a decent number but there's still so many interesting leather out there to be made into watch straps. And thus, we end 2019 with a review of how Delugs is doing, both quantitatively and qualitatively. This review would help us to compare on important metrics year-on-year, and also serves as a reflection in order to improve for the next year. Hopefully this will be a recurring post at the end of every year! Let’s start off with the milestones and numbers:
Jan 19: Started offering Buttero and Waxed Camouflage as made-to-order straps
May 19: Released 6 colours of Shell Cordovan Signature straps, stocked up in 3 lug width and 1 length
Jun 19: Started offering Alligator straps as made-to-order straps
Jul 19: Started selling Italian Veg Tan Side-Stitch straps
Aug 19: Switched to another team of leathercrafters that had much higher quality of crafting
Sep 19: Released Whiskey Chromexcel Signature straps, stocked up in 5 lug width and 2 lengths
Oct 19: Stocking up Barenia Signature straps in 5 lug width and 2 lengths
Oct 19: Started to stamp our logo on the lining of straps
Oct 19: Organised our first Bargain Bin sale
Nov 19: Started selling Epsom Slim straps with 15 colour samples
Nov 19: Started selling Apple Watch straps
Nov 19: Straps were reviewed on Fratello Watches
Dec 19: Smashed sales expectations during Black Friday Cyber Monday
Dec 19: Released and stocked 4 new colours of Chromexcel Signature straps, along with buckles with our logos laser etched
Dec 19: Started selling Stingray Side-Stitch straps with 11 colour samples
Number of countries Delugs straps were sent to in 2019: 29
Number of leathers used across all our straps: 10 (Shell Cordovan, Buttero, Waxed Camouflage, Chromexcel, Epsom, Barenia, Italian Veg Tan, Alligator, Lizard, Stingray)
Number of styles available: 5 (Signature, Slim, Side-Stitch, Rally, Apple Watch)
Number of collections in stock for 5 widths x 2 lengths: 6 (Chromexcel - 5 colours, Barenia)
Number of customers new to Delugs: 343
Number of customers with more than 1 order: 68
Number of reviews on the website: 55
Number of Instagram followers: 2568
But numbers and milestones can only tell us so much. We asked you on Instagram for some thoughts on what you liked about Delugs, and how we can improve. In addition to that, through my conversations with various Deluggers, I've distilled a few key points for a qualitative review of Delugs in 2019.
What Deluggers liked:
Quality of strap was good and improving. Definitely the biggest thing that people liked was the quality of our straps, which allows Delugs straps to stands over and above the rest of the straps on this crowded market. The leathers on offer were well-selected, and construction was also largely positive.
Responsive customer service. Deluggers also liked that their queries were quickly responded to, and through all the various channels (email, IG, Whatsapp, iMessage). As a one-man operation managing it all, there's no customer service team that puts the customer through multiple hoops just to get the answer that they want.
Large variety of leather, styles and colour choices. While we started 2019 with just a very modest offering, things quickly changed around the middle of the year and today there is a large variety in the straps we offer. And this is not set to slow at all - 2020 will see even more leather types and styles. Deluggers liked that we are always innovating and trying out new things too.
Ability to custom make. Another large plus is that we offer customization options for all our straps. If our lengths or widths don't work for you, we can custom make it to your requirements. If you want to change the stitch colour, we can do that as well. Heck, if you wanted to even specify the distance of the strap holes, that's possible too (and lots have made this request!) That's because each strap is individually handcrafted by our artisans, so we can offer such a service.
Areas for Improvement:
Long waiting time, caused by large percentage of MTO. But directly related to the ability to custom make is our Archilles heel. Our biggest problem is that if you order a custom or made-to-order strap, it takes a significant amount of time before the strap is crafted and sent out to you. This problem was made much worse during BFCM weekend, where we received such a large number of custom orders that it was frankly quite overwhelming (and our crafters are still working hard to fulfill all orders!)
Mistakes made in custom and made-to-order straps. Similarly, because of all the various requests coming through, it inevitably leads to some orders having their requests not captured correctly. This is incredibly frustrating because from the end customer point of view, mistakes like that should not happen because the request was very specific and understood. Yet, when there are 10 different orders that each have their own specific requests, and when these straps go through multiple crafters hands from start to finish, it can be difficult to ensure that things are 100% correct.
Confusion over what is in stock vs made-to-order. Our website isn't organised intuitively to show which straps are in-stock and which ones are made-to-order. While we do specify it on the product page, it still leads to confusion and incorrect expectations.
With 2019 in the rearview mirror, here's some areas we would like to focus on going into 2020. These are meant to address the areas of improvement and also bring us closer to our vision.
We will have more straps in stock in the standard 5 lug widths (18, 19, 20, 21, 22) and 2 sizes (105/65 and 115/70). The biggest way to solve our top 2 areas for improvement is to simply offer more straps in stock instead of as made-to-orders. We hope to stock up on what we already sell as MTO (Waxed Camo, Epsom, Buttero, Alligator) in selected colours. While this would mean a significant investment and risk in holding inventory, we believe that things will work out with the strong support from the Deluggers :)
Source for more unique colours or texture for alligator, as custom orders. Towards the tail end of 2019, we have been sourcing for alligator skins that are unique, whether in colour or texture, and offering these for small batch orders. We hope to continue doing this in 2020 as it keeps things very fun, and we love a good excuse to continue buying more alligator skins.
Expand product offerings into related watch accessories. While we currently do sell some accessories such as deployant clasps and spring bar tools, there's a lot more products that we think we can offer that would bring value to the community. Some examples include quick release spring bar replacements, more buckle options, strap hole punch kit, watch/strap roll, watch cases etc.
Develop a stronger community within Delugs, helping watch owners to define their style. We want to develop a strong community of Deluggers. We don't aspire to just be an e-commerce website selling watch straps. Watches (and straps by extension) are accessories with the ultimate end goal of expressing your style and personality. We want to build a community that helps each other to discover their style and personality, and build confidence in the process. We want to be here to engage and have conversations with you, to talk about watches, leathercrafting, business or just have a casual chat.
Provide inspiration on various watch and strap pairings to the watch community. We have received quite a number of queries on suggestions on which strap pair well with a specific watch. While we can give some suggestions, the best advice would come from someone that has already been through such a decision or have that specific watch. We will try to get our hands on the most popular timepieces from various brands to showcase our straps on, but the best way is for the community of Deluggers to share their watch and strap combo for others to gain inspiration from.
Educate the community more on leathercrafting. If you enjoy the idea and significance of a mechanical timepiece, you would also enjoy the work that goes into handcrafting each strap. We hope to share more on the process of leathercrafting, and how our skilled craftsmen take various raw materials and transform them into a piece of art that stays on your wrist. In this day and age, we should all take some time to slow down and appreciate the finer things in life.
Having typed out and internalised our focus in 2020, it seems like quite a lot of work to do and frankly I don't know if it's something that can be achieved in just a year. But if it can't be done in 2020, it will be done in 2021, and 2022 and so on. With your support, whether it's a purchase or just sharing about Delugs with your own community and friends, it spurs us to continue moving ahead and towards our vision for the brand. Thank you for your immense support in 2019, and we hope to see you around in 2020!