Loeffler Randall’s retail store in Manhattan’s Nolita neighborhood features an array of blush tones … [+]
Opening a retail store during a pandemic is risky, but it may be what shoppers are looking for.
For Loeffler Randall, which just opened its first-ever retail store at 10 Prince Street in New York’s Nolita neighborhood, near its Soho headquarters, the celebrity-favorite brand is banking on the latter.
“I have always dreamt of having this store. I love that we can showcase our brand in 360 degrees and create a warm and welcoming space for our customers,” says Jessie Randall, designer and co-founder of Loeffler Randall, who runs the business with her husband, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Brian Murphy. “Our customers are like family, and this is the first time we can welcome them into our brand ‘home,’ where they can truly see themselves not only in our designs, but also in our environment.”
Still, Randall admits it’s a strange time to be opening, but “we’re super excited.”
“The store is like a little jewel box,” says architect Poonam Khanna, who collaborated on the … [+]
The 625-square-foot boutique was designed by architect and interior designer Poonam Khanna, in collaboration with Randall and her team, and features a soothing and sophisticated mix of blush tones—the brand’s signature palette, petal fabric light fixtures, curved walls, velvet seating, natural wood and light-colored plaster finishes. Drapery panels toward the back of the store replicate the brand’s hand-made pleats first created for its popular Penny sandal.
“The store is like a little jewel box,” says Khanna. “It’s small but we feel like we’ve filled it with precious little moments.”
The store’s assortment includes everything from shoes—including the top-selling Camellia Bow Heel for $395, bags, jewelry, accessories and ready-to-wear. The store features other items from brands and makers including hand-woven bracelets by Mayan Hands, brass candle holders by M+A, overalls from The Hey Gang and other gift-y items and treasures.
The brand, which sells at premier retailers like Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s and Net-A-Porter and whose celebrity fans include Margot Robbie, Kristen Bell and Gabrielle Union, saw a surge in business when it launched its e-commerce site, Randall says.
“When we launched our website, it was really positive for our business and our wholesale business,” Randall says. “I feel like the store will do the same thing.”
“It’s hard to tell our brand story without our own space,” says Jesse Randall, designer and … [+]
Business, from a wholesale perspective, is strong, Murphy notes, with projections to return to pre-pandemic levels this year.
“Coming off the fast growth in ‘19, 2020 was over 30% down,” Murphy says. “Coming off that, we’re seeing great online business up 30%, 40%. Q2 and Q3 are good quarters for us historically.”
The pandemic also shifted what people were buying and the brand needed to react. Randall even introduced the brand’s first slipper, which sold out immediately.
“We had to pivot our product mix, I’m kind of a casual person, we always sold casual stuff,” Randall says.
“Things like pumps—nobody is buying pumps, people are buying casual stuff, while our dressy stuff continued to be strong sellers. People were still buying [the dressy styles] for weddings or saving up to get them for future events. We tried to react and readjust our stock levels, to think about how our customer is living.”
The Loeffler Randall store opening is a brave and hopeful move, says Marie Driscoll, managing director of luxury and fashion for Coresight Research, an advisory and research firm.
“Opening in Nolita will help bring the neighborhood back to life and Loeffler Randall will benefit from the pent-up demand for physical retail and social shopping,” Driscoll says.
The Prince Street location in proximity to its Soho headquarters offers another benefit, the analyst says, “providing the merchandising and design team with the perfect petri dish to see how the consumer reacts to the brand and styles first hand.”
Overall, 2021 is showing positive signs for retail. Year to date, U.S. retailers have announced 2,409 store openings, compared to 2,261 store closures, according to Coresight.
In-store apparel purchases appear to be on the upswing, a sign that consumers are returning to brick-and-mortar retail, according to a report from Coresight, which points this upward trend to the coronavirus vaccine rollout.
And for the week ended Feb. 22, shoppers began to shift buying from online to offline, according to Coresight’s analysis.
“The proportion of consumers that reported purchasing clothing and footwear in-store surpassed the proportion buying online, as online shoppers declined for the fourth week in a row,” reads the Coresight report.
In addition, data from a U.S. consumer tracker shows that consumers are willing to return to stores, Driscoll adds.
“Avoidance of shopping centers hit a new low, at 49.3% of our respondents currently avoiding shopping centers,” Driscoll says. “Consumers are eager to return to a sense of normalcy, visit shops to explore and discover new products and brands and socialize with friends and family at restaurants and cafes.”
The Nolita store may be Loeffler Randall’s first store, but it won’t be the last. For starters, Randall says they could envision opening a store in Brooklyn, where she and Murphy live.
“We’ll have to see how this goes,” Randall says. “It’s a huge undertaking from a staffing perspective.”
The brand, founded in 2004, has a strong following across the nation in cities like Dallas, Charleston, Nashville, Austin, Minneapolis and Chicago, Murphy says.
Perhaps locations for future boutiques?
Without naming specifics, Murphy says, “Ultimately, we’d like to open six to eight stores in the next five to seven years.”
One can do the math.
I’m a Chicago-based writer with more than 20 years of experience covering fashion, retail and beauty. My experience includes reporting on fashion for WWD and Life & Style