As building a bond with customers becomes increasingly important, fashion retailers are working harder to welcome shoppers into their worlds. Opening physical stores with a home-y feel is trending as a go-to strategy for brands across categories.
In early September, luxury online retailer MatchesFashion opened 5 Carlos Place, an experiential store in London’s Mayfair neighborhood set in a historic five-story townhouse. On Friday, Ralph Lauren–owned Club Monaco introduced a new store concept in Las Vegas, inspired by the idea of a meeting place for the community and the look of a Tribeca loft.
This week, we talked to the CEOs of both companies about the drive behind the residential feel of their stores, as well as the stores’ unique components. Both noted the need to provide a worthwhile experience, seeing as customers can get anything they want online in a snap. For them, that’s translated to offering next-level personal service and a curated selection of inventory, and moving away from a hurried environment focused on sales transactions.
Here’s a breakdown of their current road maps for achieving success in-store.
MatchesFashion’s model: A cultural events hub
MatchesFashion first tested the concept of bringing a sense of community into a physical space in 2017, in Paris, New York and Los Angeles. At each pop-up location, the company brought in experts and creatives, including artists and designers, to lead events that it broadcasted across digital channels.
“We wanted the events to be very inclusive, in terms of the access to them, but very exclusive in terms of the quality of the content,” said Ulric Jerome, MatchesFashion’s CEO. “For us, content is not just about sharing what to wear, it's about communicating a lifestyle.”
The idea was for the stores to be more brand awareness plays than sales drivers, and their success in terms of traffic, both online and in store, nudged the brand to make a go of a physical location built on the same principles.
Since opening 5 Carlos Place on London’s Bond Street just over three weeks ago, the corresponding hashtag (#5CarlosPlace) has reached 45 million people worldwide, said Jerome. He owed it to the Instagram-perfect space, which the company took great care restoring, including working with several architects to give it a “warm, cozy, welcoming” feel.
Also contributing, greatly, are the 20 events the store hosts every month, which it livestreams on Facebook and MatchesFashion.com.
Jess Christie, MatchesFashion’s chief brand officer, said the idea was to create what feels like a cultural calendar, allowing customers to pick and choose what they want to view or attend, based on interests from art to cooking to interior design. Events to date have included a book launch and signing in honor of photographer Mario Sorrenti’s tome dedicated to images of Kate Moss — Sorrenti and Moss hosted — and a fireside chat between creative director Garance Dore and Gauthier Borsarello, style director of the line Holiday Boileau.
“There’s a reason nobody else in the world has done this, “ Jerome said, in regard to the managing the events, from production to corresponding shopping opportunities. “It’s god damn hard.”
In addition to the livestreams of the events, a landing page on MatchesFashion.com -- titled “What’s On” and accessible through the homepage -- houses a form of access to every floor of the townhouse. For example, click on “Floor 5: Listen,” and you’re directed to a collection of the brand’s “The Collector’s House” podcasts, recorded in-house. There are also opportunities to book an appointment with a personal stylist (two floors of the townhouse are made up of private shopping suites), RSVP to events and watch recorded livestreams of events — most of which are paired with corresponding, shoppable products.
Also within the house is a cafe floor that sees regular takeovers from local restaurants.“It’s changing all the time, so there’s a bit of discovery,” Jerome said. “People can come, have coffee, have a croissant — just enjoy themselves.”
And two floors resemble more traditional shopping areas, with an assortment of fashion available to peruse — though they feature a number of unique details. The rooms’ displays and components are also constantly evolving, with exclusive designer collections are rotating in regularly.
Technology does play into the experience, though it’s at the visitor’s discretion. They can download an app, which notifies store associates of who they are when they arrive and what their style preferences are based on past behavior. Through the app, they can also scan QR codes to learn more about features, like the artist behind the artwork on the walls and the making of the garden featured on the first floor.
“For us, the digital-physical, physical-digital talk doesn't resonate anymore,” said Jerome. “We just care about what the customer wants — and that’s to not to have in-your-face technology when they walk into a store. They want a personal experience.”
Club Monaco's new store concept
Club Monaco’s model: A recharge and refresh station
During New York Fashion Week, Club Monaco launched a revitalized brand direction focused on connecting with customers. Its new store concept is the physical manifestation of that direction, said CEO Francis Pierrel. It kicks off at The Forum Shops in Las Vegas’ Caesars Palace on Friday, and the second store will open in Miami’s Aventura this fall. Key locations within its 200-store roster will be updated with identifying elements from the design, and all future stores will be opened with the new concept. "We wanted the new concept to look and feel closer to home -- like a loft in Tribeca, for instance," said Pierrel. "At the heart of the store is a relaxing lounge space that acts as an interactive customer hub. The fitting area, cash wrap and customer service area are all included, and it’s designed to feel personal, warm and unique to the in-store shopping experience. And we have new, extra-large fitting rooms with high-quality mirrors and lighting: Each is equipped with four unique light settings that can reproduce various moments throughout the day."
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