Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Catbird, fast becoming the jeweler of choice for the artisanal-leaning selfie generation, has dived further into experiential retail.
The company this month opened an offshoot retail unit called the “Welding Annex” where consumers can pay $94 to have a thin, 14-karat-gold chain permanently welded around their wrist. The shop, located at 540 Driggs Avenue in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, was previously the location of Catbird’s wedding annex, which has since relocated to a larger space. The welding annex is open on Fridays and Saturdays only.
Using a small laser welder — the tip of which is no larger than a sewing needle — shoppers can painlessly “get zapped” and acquire a seamless bracelet. “It’s so exciting, a little thrill, not unlike a tattoo to some,” said Leigh Batnick Plessner, Catbird co-creative director.
The program — which Catbird plans to bring on the road to the West Coast in coming months — is intended as a memorable token. “We’re so lucky to have customers visit us from around the world, and to have had our shop in the same neighborhood since 2004. The Welding Annex is a chance for us to offer a very special Williamsburg souvenir to our friends and customers,” Plessner added.
The resulting piece is aesthetically in line with many of Catbird’s other demi-fine, delicate fine-jewelry offerings.
No matter how delicate, the company takes care to bestow each offering with a whimsical name — adding allure to the thinnest of gold rings. It has deigned the thin gold material used for welding annex bracelets as the “Sweet Nothing Chain,” while other styles are called “The Dollhouse Locket,” “Moon Flower Earring” and “Dewdrop Bracelet.” These monikers are consistently repeated in promotional materials and on Catbird’s social media channels — fostering a strong brand identity.
The company’s e-commerce accounts for 60-plus percent of general sales, the remaining portion coming through its sole flagship at 219 Bedford Avenue. In 2018, e-commerce is expected to chart 25 percent year-over-year growth.
In March, Catbird moved its headquarters to a 12,000-square-foot space in the Brooklyn Navy Yard — adding jobs that will help scale in-house production on its own jewelry line. With an expanded staff, which includes a four-person design team, the Catbird line intends to roll out two new designs per month. The company says it has not taken investment and continues to be independently owned and operated.
Plessner added further about the company’s approach to experiential retailing: “We talk a lot about how to connect with our customers outside of transactional moments, especially as our e-commerce continues to grow at a faster pace than our intimate storefront. A welded bracelet really spoke to this desire to give our customers an experience and memory, not just a product. Alongside this, if you attend one of our community events — a book swap, cocktails with the Catbird team, our annual spring party — the jewelry is often secondary to the conversation and connection.”