Draper James opens stores ahead of the holidays

Erin Moennich, CEO of Draper James, has spent the past year planning the best way to continue growing the brand. Despite the rise of e-commerce in the apparel industry and Draper James’ strength in online sales, she came to the conclusion that brick and mortar retail was what the brand needed.

In addition to its three existing stores in Nashville, Atlanta and Kentucky, Draper James opened two new stores in November. One is located at the Houston Galleria in Houston, Texas, and the other is at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota. All of the brand’s other stores are street stores in markets where the brand already has a strong online presence. But the location of the Mall of America breaks with these two traditions.

According to Moennich, the Mall of America store is part of the brand’s grand retail experiment to see if it can use physical stores to generate the same customer acquisition that is becoming increasingly expensive online. While the Houston store has opened in Draper James’ largest online shopping marketplace, the Mall of America store is set to attract new customers who have never heard of the brand before. Draper Janes targets locals and tourists alike.

“There is certainly a increase in online customer acquisition costs, which has grown even further since iOS14, ”Moennich said. “We’re looking to retail as a place where we can recruit. We have strategies in place, such as a QR code at the point of sale to [prompt people to] sign up for SMS and get a discount on their order directly. It worked for us in our Nashville store, so we’re adding it to the new stores as well.

Like other retail brands, Moennich said Draper James didn’t necessarily find retail leases more affordable than they were before the pandemic, especially when looking at some of the centers. most successful sales representatives in the country. But she has found that with a large number of retailers closing their stores for good or moving them to other markets, the best locations have openings they didn’t have before. Even at prices similar to pre-pandemic leases, more store openings mean more flexibility in finding the right person.

“Simon [Property Group], who owns the Houston Galleria, has been very busy, in terms of movement, ”Moennich said. “There are a lot of brands that have taken the opportunity to move, which means there is an opportunity for us to move in. “

Moennich said another of the main draws of brick and mortar is that Draper James can sell more products at full price. Of the brand’s direct sales, excluding wholesaling, 80% are done online and 20% in stores.

The two new stores sell exclusive products in the form of jewelry that cannot be purchased online. They also host in-person events like book signings – for co-founder Reese Witherspoon’s popular book club books – and events with local influencers.

The timing of store openings was also intentional. Moennich said the team wanted to make sure stores were open before the holidays, so they had a clear idea of ​​their value during the most crucial time of year. In early 2022, she said she would assess the performance of new stores and decide how many new stores to open next year. Right now, the plan is to open 5-10 stores over the next two years. This amount and schedule may change if the two new stores are successful.

Retail analysts have been saying for months that, even with the increase in online shopping, the physical presence of retail can still be significant. This is especially true for clothing. According to Michael Osborne, president of Wunderkind, some brands may get ahead by opening several expensive stores in expensive locations without really knowing whether the return will justify the price. Instead, he said that Draper James’ strategy of a slow test and learn approach is the perfect way to experience physical retail.

“Brands want to focus on the web, but they also want a physical visual presence for their brand,” Osborne said. “Even though the investment is expensive, if you do it carefully and figure out what consumers want to buy in person versus online, it can make sense. “

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