This weekend, before Kim Kardashian took to Snapchat to share a controversial video of a phone call between Kanye West and Taylor Swift, she was snapping video from Revolve’s latest summer party in the Hamptons, which she was hosting.
Kardashian was the latest celebrity to play host at the Revolve House, a waterfront mansion property in the Hamptons that online retailer Revolve has taken over for the prime summer months. Each weekend sees more fashion bloggers, style stars and celebrities like Olivia Culpo, Hailey Baldwin, Danielle Bernstein and Jamie Chung attending Revolve’s private party. Moet Chandon provides the champagne for the gatherings, and each guest promotes Revolve through the social media hashtag #RevolveintheHamptons.
Revolve’s high-profile events use celebrity factor and beachfront scenery to attract brand buzz during the crowded summer months in the Hamptons, where it’s grown difficult for a retailer to stand out among the competition. Over the past six years, the Hamptons’ beach towns have become increasingly populated by pop-up shops in the summer months that pick up and leave by Labor Day, with brands like Gucci, Stuart Weitzman and Aquazzura coming and going over the years.
“The Hamptons are always a desired consumer audience that brands are trying to connect with,” said Maurice Bernstein, co-founder and CEO of experience brand agency Giant Step. “It’s seasonal, though, it doesn’t make sense for most brands to set up there all year.”
Hamptons real estate groups have been, for years, fighting to get more retailers to sign up for leases year-round rather than a few months. Still, pop-ups are too attractive an alternative to paying for pricey full time property, which costs $100,000 a year on average for a 1,000-square-foot shop, according to real estate firm Town and Country.
Small, niche luxury brands in particular are looking to get their names and products in front of the wealthy customers that populate the Hamptons, even if it’s for a short period of time. New this summer to the area are luxury brands like The Line, a clothing company that opened its first seasonal store in Amagansett and is using the retail space to host events with designers like Joseph Altuzarra. California-based designer Jenni Kayne’s Southampton pop-up is the brand’s first turn testing the waters on the East Coast.
“The Hamptons is less about revenue from sales as publicity and connection to the influential audience who will be there — who in turn will share their presence on social media channels,” said Lucie Greene, worldwide director of The Innovation Group at J. Walter Thompson. “Providing an experience, novelty, and visually striking activities are key here.”
Competition for summer space has increased: locations are secured as early as the fall before the next summer season, and some brands have doubled up with a pop-up within a pop-up, like AUrate Jewelry did when it hosted leather goods brand Upton in its temporary store this year.
Established brands are using their existing equity to offer more to high-maintenance Hamptons dwellers, like exclusivity and convenience. The Revolve House heightens the brand’s image by hosting much-photographed summer parties (#RevolveintheHamptons has 3,390 posts), but it isn’t necessarily an effective play in driving sales to regular shoppers.
“It’s not about the immediate sale. It goes beyond that,” said Revolve co-founder and CEO Michael Mente in a previous Glossy interview. “It’s about developing a relationship with the customer, and when we have that connection, retention increases over time.”
Other retailers are playing up that relationship with the customer while still setting up a direct way to drive sales. Net-a-Porter brought its same-day delivery offering, currently available in New York City, to the Hamptons in June, beefing up offerings to cater to high-spending vacationers. In addition to same-day delivery, Net-a-Porter, along with menswear counterpart Mr. Porter, set up a concierge line that customers can call for personalized style tips and extra errands, like picking up sunscreen, to be included in their same-day order delivery.
Along with the delivery roll-out in June, Net-a-Porter launched a $1,400 “Getaway Kit” offering a curated selection of summer gear and two tickets on the Blade, the chopper that takes wealthy weekenders from Manhattan to the Hamptons.
“That is definitely a stunt, but it’s still a great idea,” said Bernstein. “It’s providing a big service to consumers, and more brands should set up services to take people to the Hamptons. That’s a great way to capture consumer engagement beyond giving them a few drinks.”
For both online-only retailers Net-a-Porter and Revolve, the Hamptons are a prime offline playground for expansion.
“Pure play retailers like Net-a-Porter and Revolve are seeing the benefits of an offline strategy,” said Harrison Lewin, strategy associate at L2. “It shows they’re paying close attention to consumer behavior.”
Image via BFA