This week, we take a look at the rise of retail townhouses and mansions. Plus, Tanya Taylor is among the latest fashion brands to enter the booming home category.

At a time when more people are getting used to shopping from their couches, more retailers are opening stores that look and feel like homes. 

During Glossy’s Fashion & Luxury Summit Worldwide last week, Holli Rogers, chair at U.K.-based luxury fashion retailer Browns, said that when the company moved its flagship from London’s South Molton Street to Brook Street in April, it was intentional about upholding its reputation. “People often said that coming into Browns was like coming home,” she said. The original flagship was set in five attached townhouses. Retaining the same vibe included inserting a restaurant, called Native at Browns; an “Immersive Room,” allowing for brand takeovers; and Residencies, offering rotating in-store experiences, like tarot card readings and nail services.

Ouigi Theodore, founder of the 15-year-old brand and Boerum Hill-based store The Brooklyn Circus, told Glossy early this month that “the ultimate goal” for the physical aspect of his company is what he’s calling the BKc Mansion. “The mansion would include an actual retail store, a dining experience, lodging — maybe a small Airbnb situation — and a gallery.” 

MatchesFashion embraced a similar idea prior to the pandemic: In September 2018, it opened its 5 Carlos Place physical retail concept via a five-story townhouse in London’s Mayfair neighborhood. At the time, it had planned to host 20 in-store and live-streamed events per month, ranging from book signings to fireside chats with fashion creatives. It set up a café floor housing restaurant takeovers, and another floor was transformed into a podcast studio. 

Stores with a homey feel could prove a less jarring step for people wanting to ease back into physical shopping. But striking the right balance between providing comfort and ensuring their stores are worth the trip is set to be a challenge for retailers.

Jess Christie, chief brand officer at MatchesFashion, said that foot traffic at 5 Carlos Place is up by 90%, compared to July 2020-October 2020 when the store reopened prior to England’s second lockdown. However, it’s far from back to pre-pandemic levels as international customers have yet to return. 5 Carlos Place is at the center of tourist hotspot Mayfair, and international shoppers typically account for 85% of its business. But sales are “very strong,” she said. “The people coming in are quite serious about shopping.”

Below, Christie breaks down how MatchesFashion is setting the stage for retail’s big return via 5 Carlos Place. 

Bringing in more inventory:
“We really changed how we merchandise the house. There’s a lot more product than there used to be, because we were like, ‘If you’re actually taking the time to come into the space, it needs to be quite magical, with a lot of inspiration.’ We wanted to [represent] a lot of newness, as well as that [signature] Matches mix of established and new designers. And we wanted to include lots of storytelling. When people are coming out of a crisis or a recession, they want to celebrate. So if you come into [5] Carlos Place, it needs to provide an emotional connection, and it should feel fun… We just did a big project with Marni, called Marni Market. It was all exclusive homeware and bags and accessories. It was a value-adding experience; we’re giving the customer more reasons to come in.”

Taking advantage of the space:
“Everything is spaced out over the five floors of the townhouse, so except for some space within the café, we can be open relatively normally [right now]. We can do private appointments, plus we’re finding that more people are coming with friends and more couples are shopping together. Because we have private shopping suites, it allows for [shopping] to be more social; there aren’t the same [space-related] restrictions that you find in other [stores]. We can bring in food and drinks, and people can get comfortable and stick around.”

Operating at a slower pace:
“The biggest update we’ve made is slowing certain things down. When we opened, we were doing so much programming. At the time, it was really exciting and it felt right. It was a dynamic way to launch a new space and a new concept, and engage with so many of our brands. But now, everybody wants to shop and socialize in a more considered way, so we’re giving everything a bit more time. With events, we’re talking about how to make them feel smaller and more intimate — less ‘party-party.’ And with installations, we’re thinking about what we can do to ensure people will want to engage with them for a bit longer.”

Catering to the online shopper:
“You always need the functionality of really good digital service, because you’re never going to have the full inventory in the physical environment. We’ve got 90-minute delivery [in New York and London], and you can have those pieces sent to your house or we can have them sent to the store so you have more to try on. We’ve set it up to always be as accommodating as possible — to just let the customer decide how they want to shop. Online is always going to stay really important, and it’s going to continue to grow. But also, luxury fashion shoppers are interested in how things are made and their story and their fabrication and their quality. You can see so much of that online, but it’s quite inspiring to actually see those clothes and fabrics in real life. People are missing that component.”

Providing constant inspiration:
“We’ve created quite a lot of content for social [media] about the things we’re doing in the house. [When the store was closed] we basically used it as a broadcasting space. We did some fun virtual styling sessions, like with [influencer] Tamu McPherson from All the Pretty Birds. We did another one from the attic, all on fine jewelry and what pieces to invest in. And we did one with [Vogue alum] Lucinda Chambers that was around homeware. It was quite nice to create these worlds for the customer. Showing our own homes in the background was fun, at first — but in [5] Carlos Place, you can see more clothes. It’s more inspiring.”

How Tanya Taylor used IG Live Shopping to enter the home category 

On June 12, Tanya Taylor hosted an IG Live Shopping session from her Hamptons home featuring pieces from her namesake brand’s new home collection. The 18-minute segment took place ahead of a 70-person Hamptons launch party for the collection. It was also four days before the collection’s launch on TanyaTaylor.com.

“We’ve always launched new categories direct-to-consumer on our website,” said Tanya Taylor, the brand’s founder and creative director. “But it’s an added bonus to be able to speak directly to the customer before [that point].” 

The segment had more than 5,000 viewers, and reserved quantities of items including napkins, placemats and pillows in the two available prints sold out. Seventy-five percent of sales were from first-time Tanya Taylor customers.

It was a fitting pre-launch, considering the idea for Tanya Taylor Home came from the brand’s Instagram followers. In January, when the brand’s namesake founder and creative director posted images of her mother’s Barbados home — full of headboards, curtains and lampshades fashioned from signature Tanya Taylor prints — many followers DM’ed the brand, asking to place orders. The brand has 160,000 followers, and more than 6,000 people engaged with the posts. 

“Over the last three months, [IG Live Shopping] has picked up within beauty, but in fashion, a lot of people haven’t used it,” said Taylor. “The way it goes is: We promote [the event] and people tune in, and as I’m walking through the products, they’re able to double-click their screen and buy them. We talked to Instagram, and they helped us with all the logistics on the backend. [Shoppers] check out through Instagram, but it’s all through our own Shopify on our website.”

The brand posted a countdown sticker to its Instagram Stories on each of the two days leading up to the event, as well as on the morning of. Followers could swipe up to be taken to an on-site signup page, allowing them to view the items and their pricing. 

The IG Live session was slated to include larger one-of-a-kind pieces including a hammock, a sofa, two chairs and paintings by Taylor, all sold via an auction. “People can DM their bids,” Taylor said the day before. However, thanks to the strong response to the tableware, the brand opted to keep the focus there and to plan a “separate moment” at a later date for the other pieces, said a spokesperson.

On the collection’s official launch date, on June 16, it was promoted on the brand’s homepage and in dedicated emails. Ahead of time, the company linked with Lauren Bozicevich “a PR consultant who knows home” to secure press coverage. 

With the pandemic inspiring more consumers to make their homes a sanctuary, and giving them time to do so, home decor sales have been on the rise. In turn, fashion brands have increasingly entered the space or expanded their home offerings. Since March 2020, that’s included Norma Kamali, Jenni Kayne, Johanna Ortiz and Gap. In April, Christian Siriano announced the launch of an interior design firm.

Tanya Taylor first hosted an IG Live Shopping session in May, to kick off its swimwear category. It sold 30 swimsuits. Among takeaways were that, as all products are immediately shoppable during an event, most sales occur in the first 15 minutes. What’s more, swimsuit shoppers viewed the posted video of the Live following the event for more information on the products. Though the swimwear event featured models, the home event didn’t, to make it “less hectic,” Taylor said.

Tanya Taylor has been in growth mode. In the last year alone, it also launched swimwear, kidswear (“Mini”) and pajamas, all “in a low-lift kind of way,” said Taylor. For example, Mini is made up of one mommy-and-me dress, offered in four prints. The pandemic meant adding in more buffers to the launch timelines, said Taylor, who noted that, “There have been hurdles with all the products we produce.”

Prior to the pandemic, the brand planned to open multiple pop-ups to debut the full Tanya Taylor lifestyle, but now it’s planning to do so via shop-in-shops “with [retail] partners that have been really committed to us through this time,” said Taylor. It will use those shops to test markets for branded physical retail.

Thus far, the brand has managed the manufacturing of all categories, and it’s launched all of them DTC. Maisonette has since picked up its kidswear, and Bergdorf Goodman and Shopbop now sell its swim styles. 

“With home, before [considering] licensing or retail partnerships, I wanted to spend some time experimenting and building some visuals around the spirit of what our table design looks like and what our dream pool house looks like,” said Taylor. “It’s an anchor to say: This is the feeling of the collection.” 

Tanya Taylor is privately owned. Taylor said that remaining “super frugal” during the pandemic has allowed it to build on its current momentum. 

“Our sales have been really strong in the last three months,” she said, adding that the brand hosted 25% of its recent market appointments for the resort season in-person. ”What we’re experiencing and the conversations we’re having, compared to last year, is like night and day.” 

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