LOS ANGELES — Calypso St. Barth is in a California state of mind.
This story first appeared in the May 16, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Over the last two months the brand has expanded in Northern California by opening stores at the Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto and Santana Row in San Jose, and now it is heading to Southern California, where stores are due to open at Westfield Century City in Los Angeles in July and later this summer in Malibu and Montecito. The retail expansion in California is part of a larger domestic store push that will take Calypso from 39 units now to 45 by the end of the year.
The brand is choosy when it comes to retail real estate, according to president Stefanie DiRienzo-Smith. It prefers lifestyle centers or streets for its stores. The company looks for locales it believes have a strong concentration of potential customers, often evidenced by zip codes responsible for a raft of e-commerce orders or the brick-and-mortar purchases of customers when they travel to a city with an existing Calypso St. Barth store. Stores range primarily from 2,000 to 4,000 square feet.
“Jim’s properties are good examples of what we love,” said DiRienzo-Smith, referring to the shopping centers owned by Jim Rosenfield’s company JS Rosenfield & Co., including the Brentwood Country Mart and Marin Country Mart, which both house Calypso St. Barth stores. “They are places where a customer can come and get a lot of things done, not just shop in an apparel store. Being in a lifestyle center or outdoors on a main street is so much more our brand than being behind doors in a mall.”
As Calypso St. Barth stretches across the U.S., DiRienzo-Smith said, its customer differs little. However, she acknowledged brand awareness does, and the relatively unknown Calypso St. Barth has to work hard to attract people to its stores, where she is adamant they will turn into brand loyalists. DiRienzo-Smith emphasized “old-school” clienteling is key to Calypso St. Barth’s success.
“The goal is to really embed ourselves in these neighborhoods and ingratiate ourselves to those consumers, and hopefully we will gain them as great fans,” she said, adding, “Every single sales associate has a client book. We ask her [the client] how she wants us to communicate, and we text, we e-mail, we call, we set up a ton of one-on-one appointments. We don’t rely on a lot of external factors. It’s sort of a lost art, but it is something that sets us apart.”
In its stores, which are merchandised by color, Calypso St. Barth has been increasing the presence of its own brand. Outside of accessories and bottoms, the brand accounts for 70 to 80 percent of the assortment covering everything from cashmere to caftans. Its broad merchandise reach leaves few desired categories untouched, although DiRienzo-Smith did mention that further development of the home fragrance and scent category would be welcome. “We are doing so much right now, but that is one category that the customer loves from us, and we could offer newness there,” she said.
The wide-ranging selection is essential to Calypso St. Barth’s strategy to fully outfit its customers. Accessories and apparel are priced mostly from $200 to $850. “We really try to show her a full expression of a look over and over again in the store. The sales associates need to complete the picture for her. Our customers really want that. It is not an item business,” said DiRienzo-Smith. “She has told us that in so many ways. When we don’t have the jewelry, we hear it from her. If you don’t have that third piece, the cashmere cardigan, we hear it.”
Calypso St. Barth has six lifestyle stores incorporating the home category and two home-specific stores. For the most part, DiRienzo-Smith said, expansion will come from accessories and apparel stores, but the brand will evaluate lifestyle opportunities on a case-by-case basis. “With some real estate and in some areas, it is obvious that home would do well, you can tell. There are other places that you know it is just about apparel and accessories,” she said. Citing one example, she continued, “Marin [County] was one of those places that they wanted home.”
Solera Capital LLC-owned Calypso St. Barth’s current retail focus is the U.S. After this year, though, DiRienzo-Smith indicated the brand could start thinking more seriously about putting stores abroad. “There are a lot of overseas opportunities for us, for sure,” she said. Two years ago, DiRienzo-Smith told WWD annual sales for the brand would hit $60 million. She declined to elaborate on the brand’s sales this year or on its same-store sales results. “As you can see, we are growing,” said DiRienzo-Smith. “Things are going quite well right now.”