Catbird, the direct-to-consumer jeweler, has opened a new flagship that is a considerable upgrade: it’s more than 10 times the size of the brand’s original 220-square-foot flagship in Williamsburg in Brooklyn, N.Y.
While the company was known for its jewel box-sized space, it had fast outgrown the store, particularly in this age of social distancing and increased ventilation.
Founder Rony Elka Vardi said after opening a Catbird location in SoHo in late 2019, “We started to feel like, ‘this is what it’s like to have space.’ It’s just a better experience and a huge part of it is giving customers the experience they deserve: to hold people’s hands and have a conversation about jewelry, which is so personal. It was becoming increasingly difficult to manage that as we grew.”
She labeled the new store, with its leprechaun-green detailing, black lace curtains and retro glass vitrines, as an “emporium,” which will also sell a wider assortment of apothecary and home goods.
The new Catbird flagship, at 108 North 7th Street, occupies an entire building, but is opening with just the first floor in operation. It will expand upstairs in about six months, with that space becoming Catbird’s love and engagement department.
Chief creative officer Leigh Plessner said the extra space was more necessary than she even thought. “I thought before today that it gave us a lot more room to explore, but now as we are filling up the shelves and giving our assortment room to breath and live, I don’t think it’s as big as I thought. We won’t be making any left turns or radical departures, but there will be more explorations for sure,” she said.
Catbird will continue to push its welding experience, in which the jeweler permanently “zaps” a gold bracelet to shoppers’ wrists with a laser solder so it does not require a clasp. The new flagship has about six seats for simultaneous welding appointments.
At its pre-pandemic peak, Catbird was selling about 2,000 pieces of jewelry a week. Once COVID-19 hit, Elka Vardi admitted that about 90 percent of that business dried up overnight. But women’s evolving attachment to jewelry has ultimately helped the jeweler grow — it’s now selling 5,000 pieces a week, across its e-commerce platforms and physical stores.
“With the expanded square footage, zapping services and merging the Catbird Ring Annex into our new flagship in early summer 2022, we expect around a 70 percent lift in year-over-year revenue from the 219 Bedford location,” Vardi said of sustaining further growth. She expects that the larger store will skew annual sales slightly further toward physical retail, with about a 72 percent share for e-commerce and 28 percent in-person.
“Catbird is also built to be seamless across channels, so we anticipate the new flagship will drive repeat purchases online, particularly among foot traffic not local to Brooklyn,” she added.
Flush with new space, Catbird will also look to add ear piercings as an experiential option at its flagship, as well as a full calendar of cultural events. The company will host a series of pop-up shops across the U.S. this year, beginning with Los Angeles in June. It will take up residence in a vintage glass elevator shaft in Rockefeller Center each weekend in April, where it will offer welding appointments on a first-come, first-serve basis.