It’s hardly contrarian these days to say retail isn’t dead as can be seen with the plethora of online brands flocking to physical retail. Bandier already knew this.
Now, it’s a matter of scaling the concept and how.
In October the company brought on hedge fund C Ventures — led by Adrian Cheng and Clive Ng — as a minority investor. Around that same time it also installed Stephen Ippolito, founder and managing partner of Veritus Holdings, in the newly created position of president charged with helping grow physical retail while also expanding the customer base online, where the business is now growing in the triple digits, according to Ippolito. The goal, overall, is to maintain the business roughly evenly divided between bricks-and-mortar and the online in an omnichannel balancing act.
Ippolito’s combination of financial expertise in addition to his understanding of the retail business was seen as key, according to founder Jennifer Bandier, in bringing him on board, “to focus on growth for the next phase of Bandier.”
Ippolito said the firm is likely to go out this year, and is looking to raise $20 million in another minority interest deal with the help of its investment bank Ohana & Co.
New flagships on Bond Street and the Flatiron District at 16th Street and 5th Avenue are set to open this year with the first West Coast outpost, in West Hollywood, likely opening in the third quarter, Ippolito said. Another store is also being worked on for Hong Kong, which is likely to bow in June of next year.
Why retail works and why Bandier continues a focus on the physical spaces is part of an ongoing refinement of the company’s stores, all of which saw positive comparables last year, according to Ippolito.
New flagships are set to see the company expand into apothecary, with both executives declining to get into the specifics on what brands and how many will fill out the assortment. New stores are also set to see the addition of food and beverage.
“We’re always evolving and when we come to a new flagship location, we’re always pushing the boundaries,” Ippolito said.
It’s about adding components — regardless of whether it’s apparel or a hard good — that makes sense within the active lifestyle, but all through what Bandier called the “Bandier lens.”
“Our flagships are 100 percent built around community,” Bandier said. “We’ve always had the fitness studio and we’ve tried a ton of experiential events and we’re looking forward to, in our new store, having — whether it’s coffee or smoothies — whatever may end up taking our concept to the next level.…Really, we want to be everything for the active lifestyle, whatever that is.”
It’s an arms race within the ath-leisure sector as higher-end concepts — whether they be multibranded retailers or brands — refine their business strategies in a space that’s now become crowded. Carbon38, which nabbed in January a $15 million infusion from Foot Locker, is another multibranded ath-leisure retail play which, unlike Bandier, started out online and just last week announced its first permanent door at Palisades Village. That’s in addition to a deal with Neiman Marcus that places its private label line in the department store’s Newport Beach, Calif., Las Vegas, Chicago, Highland Park and Boca Raton doors starting Friday.
Bandier itself launched its private label We Over Me in January, sold exclusively through its retail channels and Net-a-porter.
“I think what separates Bandier from a Carbon or many other retailers is the fact that Bandier started off in retail and proved a retail concept was viable and then entered e-commerce,” Ippolito said. “We’re not doing a reverse-engineered model. We don’t necessarily believe that e-commerce has to carry every single style or sku. We believe that’s how you get led to an outlet type business and Bandier is a lot less promotional than it ever was before. We’re down to two friends and family sales. So it’s elevated and it’s also proven at retail.”
The goal is continuing to stay ahead of the pack when it comes to delivering on what the world of Bandier looks like in the physical realm.
“We’ve defined what an experience is and it’s not just touching product,” Ippolito said. “We started with Studio and we’re entering other things like food and beverage. So it’s [about] what is a health and wellness experience?”