A Pea in the Pod is back in the brick-and-mortar business.
Two years after closing more than 500 stores, the brand has partnered with Leap, a turnkey retail operator, to open two stores. The first opened in Chicago last week and the second will open in New York today.
A Pea in the Pod and its sister brand, Motherhood Maternity, are now owned by Marquee Brands, which also owns Martha Stewart, Bruno Magli and BCBG Max Azria, among others. The company was founded in 1982 by Dan and Rebecca Matthias as a mail-order catalogue under the Mothers Work Inc. name. Renamed Destination Maternity, the company at its peak operated more than 900 stores. It filed bankruptcy in the fall of 2019 and in December of that year was purchased by Marquee.
During the bankruptcy proceeding, Destination Maternity closed around 200 stores and the remainder were shuttered in early 2020 as the company focused exclusively on its digital efforts.
But Marla Ryan, executive vice president of A Pea in the Pod and Motherhood Maternity, said that their customers, many of whom are pregnant for the first time, were asking for a physical location where they could try things on their changing bodies.
“So we chose our two biggest zip codes,” she said, and contracted with Leap to find spaces where they could open stores.
“After we completed the sale to Marquee two years ago next week, we focused on direct-to-consumer. That’s still the backbone of the company going forward, and it worked very well for us during the pandemic, but we got feedback from our customers that they wanted brick and-mortar. So we decided to work with Leap to help us do it quickly.”
The Chicago store is located at 1723 North Damen Avenue in the Bucktown neighborhood. “Leap did a great job with staffing,” Ryan said. “There’s a ton of attention to detail on how to sell maternity,” she said.
The 1,800-square-foot store, which is operating under the name of the more-luxe offering A Pea in the Pod, is carrying “the best of A Pea in the Pod collection — a balance of basics and everyday essentials — and a curated designer assortment.”
Among the brands offered are AG, Seven for All Mankind and Articles of Society Denim jeans; Splendid knit tops, and Ripe dresses and nursing tops. The company’s collaboration with Something Navy is also offered along with a few of the most popular styles from the essentials-skewed Motherhood Maternity.
The store offers a bra-fitting service, which she said is “super important” to this customer.
And while it’s still early days, Ryan said the customer response has been positive.
The New York store, at 1042 Lexington Avenue between 74th and 75th streets, is just under 900 square feet so it will offer a smaller assortment that will include the brand’s Secret Fit Belly products with cooling yarn, Bump Lift Secret Fit Belly and other products designed to help women navigate their pregnancy in comfort.
In both locations, the stores will serve to create a community where women can interact and share experiences about their pregnancy. It is working with Light Box to provide an interactive digital experience in the stores where customers can access the brand’s entire product offering, and the Stark Group to host events and activations each week. Those will include influencer and shopping events along with other interactive programs where moms-to-be can interact with each other and the staff.
Ryan said there are no plans to add other stores this year, but the company is “kicking around a couple more cities” where it is considering expanding its footprint next year.
“We will continue to listen and learn from our customers as we explore additional store locations,” said Ryan. ‘It’s important to select the right locations where our customers want to shop as we continue building our motherhood community. We want slow growth and we want to get it right.”