Pop-ups had their time. Now, brands are realizing the energy and investment they require aren’t worth it, considering — by definition — they’re short-lived. Many are opting for permanent storefronts instead, while others are turning to new wave of retailers doing the grunt work: They’ve got a location ready to go, they’re partnering on marketing — they’re making it easier to test the brick-and-mortar waters.
One example is Batch, opened in fall 2017 in San Francisco. The idea is that, about every two months, a new “batch” of brands fitting a set theme hits the sales floor. The brands pay Batch to be included.
It came from Lindsay Meyer, now CEO, an entrepreneur with a background working with consumer commerce companies. Meyer had experience at One Kings Lane which inspired the idea: At One Kings Lane, people were largely making small purchases of a couple hundred dollars, max, despite the fact that the site was heavy in furniture in the $5,000 to $15,000 range. The absence of a return policy was one factor, but there was also the lack of a storefront. Once the company opened “studios,” where people could view pieces IRL, things shifted; the average cart value skyrocketed.
Creating a shopping experience feeling more like a residential environment became her North Star — not the most original idea in the retail world (The Apartment by The Line, Anthropologie), but new in the pop-up space. The 102-year-old firehouse that was converted to the store is now broken up into rooms — bedrooms, living rooms, workspaces, outdoor spaces — and serves a marketing activation hub for direct-to-consumer brands looking to try their hands at physical retail in the Bay Area. The overall space is dedicated to one theme, which is updated five times per year — new themes are timed with the seasons and holiday, and each lives for 9 weeks. There’s an 8-day transition period when the store is closed.
The current Batch, deemed Batchelor and wrapping October 27, is focused on pieces for the modern man in Batch’s target audience of shoppers in their mid-20s to late-40s — that’s when most experience life transitions, Meyer explained, saying people spend three-times as much in years when they move. It features 21 brands, including LA-based furniture company Croft House, casual apparel brand Faherty, accessories line The Goods LA and Ratio Coffee, maker of sleek coffee machines. Each brand features upward of a couple dozen styles.
A perk of being featured in the store is the marketing Batch takes on: Beautiful photography is a key element, according to Meyer, and the marketing mix includes email, online ads, Batch’s blog and social media channels, as well as in-store events. A first, the Batchelor edition was paired with an influencer marketing campaign including five San Francisco-based men with a range of occupations — one is a designer at Apple, the other is a popular bartender.
Of course, the included brands drive area shoppers to the store, as well. BirchboxMan, the sole grooming company in the Batchelor, sent out an email announcement and posted about the opening in its social media channels. Additional marketing plans include driving to the store regularly on social and hosting an in-store event in October.
BirchboxMan marketing director Luke Harrison said he became interested in selling through Batch because it was easy and it was the right audience.The fact that the included brands were desirable in terms of alignment clinched the deal. Prep work included a training session with the Batch staff on the product selection.
“A test-and-learn is how I would describe it,” said Harrison, who noted that many shoppers don’t come in for grooming products specifically, but often gravitate to the BirchboxMan setup. “We are on the East Coast and don’t really know the local market. Continuing to have a presence like this is going to be important for us.”
He said brick-and-mortar plays perfectly into the brand’s current strategy of becoming less reliant on digital advertising.
To grow Batch, Meyer has launched “showcases,” or additional, satellite pop-ups within residences in the area, working with builders and developers to gain access. The spaces are also photographed, and the included pieces are sold on visitbatch.com. Long-term goals include opening Batch locations in every first-, second- and third-tier city in the U.S.
“We’re building Batch with venture capital backing, and we have broad ambitions,” Meyer said, adding that from August 2017 to August 2018, Batch’s register sales increased 50 times over.
Other retail founders on their new store models:
Matt Alexander, co-founder of Neighborhood Goods
“We’re offering something dignified, something memorable. Traditional department stores are, by necessity, transactional. Their design is predicated upon selling a raw number of products. Their customer service is built purely around sales. And so on. For brands, this approach often results in a lack of storytelling or graceful experiences; design and experiential elements are sacrificed and their products become subject to discounts, sales, and other such tactics to off-load inventory. And for consumers, the traditional department store approach is becoming less palatable. We’re helping brands create amazing, narratively-driven experiences in our space, where they can sell products in a dignified and fitting way. We’re empowering our team to focus on sociability and experience rather than just extracting dollars from wallets. The transactions still occur. The brands still grow. But it’s just done in a way befitting modern customers and brands alike.”
Sam Payrovi, founder of Consortium
“We offer a curated marketplace that enables consumers to discover, see, touch and feel brands that empower them to custom-design their own apparel and accessories. When consumers get exactly what they want, they sense a much more meaningful relationship with that individual product and brand. In turn, our marketplace offers customizable brands much more than their first taste of third-party retail distribution. Brands benefit from media exposure, brand awareness, tremendous retail feedback and, soon, our proprietary technologies built to solve challenges experienced by customizable brands. Finally, retailers reap tremendous benefits to cure the modern challenges they face. Custom made-to-order brands require no inventory, no inventory capital at risk and no stockroom. There’s no theft and no seasonal discounting. All of this means retailers experience a much higher cost-per-square-foot and ultimately a greatly improved bottom line.”
Alana Branston, Co-Founder and CEO of Bulletin
“Our retail membership model allows us to bring in new brands and products quickly and efficiently, unlike department stores operating on a traditional wholesale model. That means Bulletin shoppers enjoy a reactive, ever-changing store experience coupled with a consistent brand promise of affordable apparel and accessories for women. Many department stores struggle with stale inventory and offer a less-focused brand promise. ”
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