The ecommerce industry gets a lot of hype –– and for good reason. After all, it makes up about 10% of total global retail sales. But, retail sector’s most traditional selling channel is still holding strong: brick-and-mortar.
This brick-and-mortar draw is felt across the industry, no matter your vertical. It is why so many online stores sell wholesale to the likes of West Elm and Anthropologie, to name a few. It is also why so many successful once online-only stores are opening physical locations. Even Amazon, the online shopping behemoth, opened its own brick-and-mortar location in 2015.
For brands not the size of Warby Parker or Birchbox or ModCloth –– all online startups which once dismissed the need for an offline locale and of which now operate several –– is the brick-and-mortar strategy really a smart one?
The owners of men’s accessories store Two Guys Bow Ties sure think so. In 2015, their company opened their first, and what they plan to be their only, physical location –– right in the heart of their hometown: Tulsa, Oklahoma.
It might seem like an unlikely place to launch a brick-and-mortar operation. After all, the company did just receive funding from Daymond John on Shark Tank and has had quite a bit of success already under their belt. At face value, there’s little reason they would choose Tulsa over larger cities which might afford them higher foot traffic. Dig a little deeper though, and this company has big plans for their currently small statute –– and the Tulsa store opening is just the first of several innovative initiatives sure to provide the ROI needed to scale their growth.
We caught up with the Two Guys Bow Ties team over the holidays to take a look at the store and talk to co-founder Adam Teague about their strategy and where they’ve already seen success. Turns out some of the best retail ideas come simply from observation and execution. Read on below to see what we mean.
You launched your online store in 2015. Why did you chose to open a physical space this year?
Teague, co-founder of Two Guys Bow Ties: We got a ton of questions from people who wanted to try things on. Tulsa is a smaller market, but we felt like it was a spot where we wanted to be. In Tulsa, there has been a movement for revitalization and youth and vibrance. We already lived down there, so we wanted to be a part of that change. For us, the way to make that happen was to make our space a retail space.
I visited Taylor Guitar Factory, which is a big organization –– one of the top three guitar brands you can buy. They have a retail spot but take people on tours of their facility and show people how the product is handcrafted. That for us was one of the big reasons [to open a brick-and-mortar]. People could see from start to finish how the product was made.
Traditional brick-and-mortar is dying. I don’t see how it will sustain itself with the massive movement to shop online. Done in a good way, though, it helps people feel the passion you have and see that it goes beyond online.
Is the retail space providing revenue, too?
Yes, I was shocked at how much business we had done. If we did $500-$1000/month, I would have been happy. I just wanted to offset the costs and help improve my city. [This idea] wasn’t a huge revenue producer. Two weeks ago, we did $2,000 in a week.
That was during the holiday rush. How did you guys fare during the busy shopping weekend?
Cyber Monday was four to five times bigger [for us] than last year. Don’t devalue yourself with massive discounts. There is a cheapening of brands we see happening a lot. We have hand crafted quality work. We can’t just go and knock off 50%. It hurts us. We try to find different ways to reward customers. Black Friday, if you ordered a certain amount, you got a free lapel flower. For Cyber Monday, we had extra showcase pieces offered as a bonus.
Do you have plans to expand?
We will stick with the B2B model and are not likely to open up more. What makes this store unique is the fact that we are able to showcase our manufacturing there. People can see the little elves making the products. That is more of our heart and our brand rather than trying to find another flagship spot. Costs are high and manpower is high. We’d have to find someone we trust, a great location and it has to stand alone.
We can stand on our retail sales, but also use the space as our manufacturing facility. It’s our showroom and we can pull things from whenever we need. I can see us transitioning and releasing unique pieces that are not necessarily wooden. A place to test new products is the benefit of a showroom type space. Online it didn’t work, but maybe it will work in person.
Have you converted online shoppers to in-store shoppers (and vice versa)?
People realize we’re online, and then stop by because they realize we’re in the same town.
Have you been able to identify demographic differences between your in-store and online customer base?
In the shop, it’s very easy to upsell. We get people coming in for one thing, and they buy three things. It’s a lot harder to convince people to buy another thing online. You can better see how things pair well together. Our store has a lot of female visitors, too, in comparison to our online shop.
Finally, why do you think your brick-and-mortar space has done so well, so quickly?
Not everything translates online. There is a lot you have to touch, feel and see. Higher ticket items can be harder to sell online, too. Customers want to touch and feel that quality. Some of that is lost online. If you see someone else wearing it [in a store], you are much more inclined to take that next step.
The most successful retailers in 2016 are omnichannel, which simply means they have a selling presence online, offline and in marketplaces like Amazon and eBay. This is because consumer shopping preferences are no longer silo-ed to individual channels. Instead, consumers price compare on Amazon, make impulse purchases through social commerce, discover a brand through their website and ultimately purchase wherever it is most convenient.
If you craft your own goods, look into turning your manufacturing space into a retail space, as well. Two Guys Bow Ties isn’t alone in being able to turn their workspace into a profitable storefront. Son of a Sailor has done similar work in Austin, as has Tiny Pies and Modern Vintage Boutique. The concept is proven, the business model tried, true and tested. If you can swing it, swing for the fences.
Have any additional questions for the Two Guys Bow Ties team? Leave in the comments below.
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