The popularity of online shopping and rising store rents have put pressure on specialty retailers. Many have either been forced out of prime real estate or out of business altogether. In response, brands are experimenting with the function of their physical stores.
This year, J.Crew-owned brand Madewell announced ten store openings on top of their 129 existing locations. Madewell’s strategy is simple yet effective: design stores to be experiential, community-driven and hyperlocal, and bring each location’s uniqueness to life through social media. In order to get customers off their phones and to stores IRL, the brand hosts millennial-centric, in-store events including local artisan pop-ups, shopping parties for new collections and even in-store yoga classes.
In addition to offering in-store events, Madewell is shifting its focus towards themed stores, opening a Denim Edit store in Nashville, Tennessee in March 2019, for example. The brand maintains a store-dedicated Instagram Highlight, an in-store events Facebook calendar and a searchable events page on the Madewell site. As such, Madewell moved up from Average to Gifted in Gartner L2’s Digital IQ Index: Specialty Retail.
Madewell’s method is tried and tested: the brand saw a 22% increase in same-store sales alone in the fourth quarter of 2018, which bodes well for the it’s plan to open more creative retail concepts in the future. By increasing the multi-functionality of stores, specialty retail brands have an opportunity to connect with online consumers offline and delight in-store visitors with e-commerce options. For example, if a Madewell store lacks a shopper’s desired size, the brand will ship the product directly to the consumer, free of charge.