Posts tagged with "Everlane"

Online brands open stores in the suburbs to be closer to customers

April 14, 2022

As in-store shopping returns, small direct-to-consumer retailers like Allbirds and Parachute Home are counting on bricks to drive more clicks, reports NBC News.

Long before the pandemic forced the slow-moving giants of retail to fast-track their online operations—or risk going out of business—a growing number of online companies, including Everlane, Burrow ,and Allbirds, were catering to shoppers who preferred to scroll social media rather than roam their local malls.

Now, as the pandemic moves into its third year, many of those Millennial shoppers have traded in city life for the suburbs, where they can work remotely. And as many of those online brands open their first stores or add new ones as in-store shopping returns, they’re meeting their customers where they are—close to home.

The result is a “tapestry of stores,” which are narrowly targeted toward specific but often different types of customers, said Ethan Chernofsky, vice president of Marketing with the retail location analytics company Placer.ai. He points out that, as more of these digitally native companies expand into brick-and-mortar, they are starting to reshape shopping districts across the country.

“Pre-pandemic, the predominant store growth plan for more traditional store openings was starting with the A malls in the country and then street retail,” said Vince Tibone, a senior analyst with the commercial real estate research and advisory firm Green Street.

“Post-pandemic,” Tibone says, “you’re still seeing them open in those two venues, but also more suburban locations that are closer to people’s homes.”

That expansion comes on the heels of a boom in e-commerce during the past two years that shows no signs of letting up, despite the full reopening of the economy. Online sales now make up 14% of retail sales overall, and are expected to top $1 trillion this year, compared to just over $760 billion in 2020, according to the Adobe Digital Economy Index.

Still, brick-and-mortar remains the most powerful part of the equation. A recent report from Deloitte InsightQ found that 55% of shoppers who began their product search online made the purchase in a store. That trend is fueling a growing recognition that the combination of stores and websites produces the biggest payoff.

Retail was always part of the strategy,” said Ariel Kaye, founder and CEO of Parachute Home, which began in 2014 as a direct-to-consumer company selling bedding products and grew into a high-end boutique retailer selling a curated collection of furniture, mattresses, and home goods. 

“Customers want to see and touch and feel products in person, and we knew there was an opportunity to improve and think about the retail shopping experience differently.”

Parachute has opened 15 stores since 2016 and plans to add another 15 this year. Unlike traditional furniture stores, with their expansive showrooms of products, Parachute Home’s stores are Instagram perfect, with an abundance of natural light, bleached wood, and minimalist furniture arrangements. Kaye said that in markets where the company has stores, she’s seen traffic to the website climb by 50%.

Like the vast majority of online retailers, Parachute Home has collected mountains of data on its customers, which it relies on to shape decisions about where to locate new stores. “We look to see where they [shoppers] are located and use proprietary data about their shopping behavior ” she said, adding, “We do love being in neighborhoods because a lot of people work from home. They step out on their lunch break and shop, and being close makes it easy to have that access.”

Being close is still a challenge for bigger retailers, which are only beginning to find their footing with smaller, more-targeted stores. Nordstrom has opened seven Nordstrom Local stores since 2017 that focus on services rather than just shopping. Customers can pick up and return online orders or arrange for alterations.

Macy’s new Market by Macy’s stores are less than one-quarter the size of a traditional Macy’s and offer personalized styling services along with a collection of products popular with shoppers.

Indeed, today’s retail landscape is no longer dominated by a few companies with hundreds of copy-and-paste stores across the country. It’s driven by a broader group of companies, often with online roots, that plan to open only a few dozen to a couple hundred shops nationwide, said Chernofsky with Placer.ai.

Allbirds, whose sustainable wool shoes became popular in Silicon Valley and quickly caught on nationwide, opened its first store in 2017. By the end of last year, it had 35 locations worldwide. Travis Boyce, Allbird’s vice president of Business Development, said that people who shop with the company both in-store and online for at least a year spend 1.5 times more than shoppers who buy through a single channel.

“Brick-and-mortar retail has been central to our growth as a brand,” Boyce said.

“Online-only doesn’t work,” Chernofsky agrees. “You still need stores. I think that’s why they [internet retailers] generate so much excitement,” he added. “Because they’re this kind of amazing testament to the power of physical retail.”

Research contact: @NBCNews

‘Wigs are the next big thing’: Boston beauty startup simplifies purchase process for Black women

June 24, 2021

Mary Imevbore bought her first wig online in 2017 when she was attending Williams College in Massachusetts.

Like many Black women, she had decided to “go natural” years ago—forgoing damaging hair straightening treatments. But she had trouble finding a Black hair stylist in the rural Berkshires, and as a double major in political science and computer science, didn’t have much time to style her hair in a dorm room.

“I wanted something quick and easy, so I discovered wigs—but the shopping experience was terrible,” Imevbore recently told The Boston Globe.

It struck Imevbore that a better buying option didn’t exist “because the consumer is a Black woman.” So she teamed up with two Williams classmates, Tiiso McGinty and Susana Hawken, to create the kind of brand they would want to patronize.

After three years of work, the cofounders have officially launched beauty startup Waeve —pronounced “wave”— dropping a product line of six trendy, beginner-friendly wigs on a website designed with bold colors and a Gen Z aesthetic.

“We believe wigs are the next big thing in beauty and fashion,” Imevbore said. “We are building the ultimate destination.”

The 24-year old, who was born in Nigeria and grew up in Connecticut, said wigs are popular among Black women because wigs allow them to reclaim the time they would have spent styling their natural hair. She called them an “extension of the natural hair movement,” since Black women who ditched chemical relaxers were looking for other ways to express themselves through their hair without ruining it.

“The perception is that a wig is a utility, like you have one umbrella,” she explained to the Globe, “but that is not how people are wearing wigs … people are building wig collections.”

In college, she and her friends would spend hours vetting companies, comparing contradicting product reviews on YouTube, and grappling with varying delivery times and changing prices. That was in 2017, when companies such as eyewear retailer Warby Parker and beauty products seller Glossier were disrupting markets by reaching customers online instead of through stores.

Imevbore figured the same thing could happen with wigs, and although she never considered herself an entrepreneur, she began thinking like one.

“Wigs are an expensive product that is growing in demand; people are spending hundreds of dollars on them multiple times a year,” she said.

The market for wigs and hair extensions in North America is expected to reach $2 billion by 2026, according to French research firm Reportlinker, with Black consumers accounting for a big chunk of that spending.

The trio started with $30,000 after winning two business competitions in 2018—one at Williams and the other at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology—to launch a direct-to-consumer wig business.

That same year Imevbore, McGinty, and Hawken were finishing up their senior year of college, and they all happened to be headed to Boston and moved in together. Imevbore worked as a software engineer at online pharmacy startup PillPack in Somerville — which was acquired by Amazon that year — while McGinty pursued a program at Boston University, and Hawken started on a PhD at MIT.

The momentum started building in 2020 when the company raised $2 million in a funding round led by Boston venture capital firm Pillar VC, with participation from Maveron, an investor in consumer companies such as Allbirds, eBay, and Everlane. Waeve also garnered high-profile support from three current and former executives of Glossier. And TJ Parker and Elliot Cohen, cofounders of Pill Pack, also participated in the round. (Imevbore worked at Pillpack through the Amazon acquisition until last year, when she decided to pursue Waeve full time).

Waeve exists in a world that hasn’t always welcomed, understood, or catered to Black hair. While that allowed the startup to fill a gap, it also led to challenges behind the scenes. Imevbore said there was a learning curve with potential investors, who didn’t immediately understand why consumers would buy more than one wig.

The numbers were not in Waeve’s favor, either: Crunchbase found that in 2020, less than 1% of all venture capital funding went to Black founders, and a similarly small slice of money went to startups founded by women.

“As a team, I remember us griping,” Imevbore said. “If we were selling lipstick or shoes, we wouldn’t have to explain why someone wants those things. People are buying [wigs] like handbags and sneakers, but [that] is something I had to convey to investors.”

The Waeve team began interviewing Black women about their hair experiences, gathering testimonials and videos to show investors they were tapping a segment that had long been overlooked. It worked and also became the foundation for Waeve World, a grassroots effort to build a community around the brand through shared experiences and hair advice.

According to the Globe, Waeve’s first collection, “Days of the Week,” is inspired by the idea that wigs are an accessory that can constantly change. The company worked with a manufacturer in China to design six initial styles—which range from a curly, middle-part wig to a platinum blonde, straight cut—and it will drop a new line every quarter. Ranging in price from $72 to $398, the wigs are delivered to the company’s distribution center and office in Boston, where employees package them into “starter kits” filled with additional supplies.

Imevbore said she wants to build the type of cult-like brand loyalty for Waeve that other online brands enjoy, and it’s starting with Boston. Waeve has nine full-time employees and more than 5,000 followers on Instagram, and is already hosting community events, such as a recent picnic in the Public Garden.

Research contact: @BostonGlobe