The footwear brand Loeffler Randall’s first retail store, opened in 2021, was in NYC’s SoHo neighborhood, a common destination for fashion brands. But the second store, which the brand will open later this fall, is in a less expected location: Charleston, South Carolina.
“It’s definitely a little outside the box,” said Brian Murphy, co-founder of the brand. “Historically we’ve had a really strong Southeast regional business, both wholesale and direct. So we wanted to develop that region. And Charleston, particularly King Street where we’re opening, captures a wide variety of customers from that region. There are people traveling from Nashville, Atlanta and Fort Worth who come to shop on King Street.”
Loeffler Randall is already thinking about its next four stores, Murphy said, though they likely won’t open until next year. He said the brand will take a similar approach, looking at regions where there’s strong demand and then finding a central location that can serve the larger area, like Dallas for the Southwest or L.A. for the West Coast.
Right now, Loeffler Randall’s business is split evenly between wholesale and direct-to-consumer, which works, according to Murphy. He said physical retail will play a key part in the brand’s direct sales going forward.
Another reason the brand’s founders chose to set up shop in Charleston is that it’s a friendlier retail environment than other parts of the country. The Charleston store is 1,450 square feet, significantly larger than the 625-square-foot SoHo store, but the costs are similar.
Loeffler Randall isn’t the only brand to recently open a store in Charleston. Zara and Veronica Beard are both opening stores there in the next six months, and the retail platform Leap announced in March that Charleston will be its next major market expansion. Rebecca Fitts, vp of real estate development at Leap, told Glossy that brands should look to markets with strong foot traffic outside of traditional retail hubs like New York or L.A., particularly if they already have an audience there.
“If you’re a brand that’s never had a store, you need organic foot traffic,” she said.
Charleston stores bounced back to pre-pandemic foot traffic levels by early 2021 when shops had nearly 30,000 visitors per day.
Murphy said physical retail provides something online sales can’t: collaboration with nearby brands. He said the brand will benefit from the vibrant shopping fashion scene on King Street, including stores from Louis Vuitton and Chanel. And Loeffler Randall is forging an even closer relationship with the brands that have stores in the same building.
“That’s a nice part of retail: You develop a little network with your neighbors and you can talk about things that you share, like the outdoor lighting and building access,” he said. “In SoHo, we’ve had a great relationship with [earrings brand] Studs, which is right next door. Minnow Swim is opening a store next to us, and we’ve known them forever.”