Bonobos is looking to capitalize on the success of its Guideshops store concept.
The New York-based men’s digital brand, which got its start being a go-to for pants, opens three stores Thursday with as many as 20 total doors opening this year in a mix of both new and existing markets.
The three new stores are located at Westfield Century City in California; The Summit in Lexington, Ky., and the Southport neighborhood of Chicago. Next week the company plans to open a store in Denver, a new market for Bonobos. Lexington also represents a new market for the business.
Bonobos, which ended last year with 30 stores, will likely get to about 50 by the end of 2017, according to Erin Ersenkal, Bonobos chief revenue officer and head of Guideshops (the name the company gives to its stores).
Ersenkal declined to peg a longer term store number target for Bonobos but said the company is bullish about retail growth.
“I think the fact that we are able to take smaller footprints and we are able to be very scientific about where we place them, gives us the ability to have a huge opportunity but as far as giving you a specific number, I think that we still have a lot to learn….How high is high, I guess the future will tell,” he said.
The executive also confirmed the growth focus is domestic with plenty of room still to grow in the U.S.
The Bonobos strategy runs counter to much of the larger news or retail store closures that have dominated headlines. Still, it remains to be seen if the challenging market for the competition bodes well for Bonobos, Ersenkal said.
“It’s tough out there. I think that if you look at a lot of the news out there, the closures from what I can see are not really happening in these top, top-tier centers and so I think the jury’s still out in terms of whether that becomes an opportunity for us,” Ersenkal said. “We’re really focused on doing what’s right for our business, and if it so happens we can take advantage in a market where we’re interested, certainly that could be good for us.”
Bonobos made headlines last week when reports surfaced of a possible sale to Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and sources confirmed to WWD at that time the two are in advanced talks on a deal. A Bonobos spokeswoman declined to comment on a possible deal or the company’s financial performance. The company’s sales are said to be more than $100 million with distribution through its site, stores and Nordstrom.
The Bonobos Guideshops are considered a model of success at retail, with the company stocking only samples in its doors. Customers come in and are personally tended to, spending anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour figuring out what their needs are. Orders are placed online and then the product is delivered to customers’ homes.
“What’s unique about the model is because we’re not stocking inventory like a traditional retailer, it actually enables us to do a couple of things,” Ersenkal said. “We’re able to shift a lot of the energy that, typically within a retail store, goes toward managing inventory and all of the other operational complexities that go with stocking inventory to customers. The other thing is that because we’re not stocking the inventory and we’re able to leverage our web inventory, which is held in one place, we’re able to offer a higher likelihood of being in stock than you would typically find in a traditional retail environment, in addition to being able to offer a size range to the customer that is exponentially greater than you would find in a typical retail store.”
Ersenkal pointed to the company’s well-known chino pant. It comes in a number of colors, fits and sizes that, in total, amounts to more than 3,000 permutations — too much inventory of any one item for a single store to handle.
“If we were a traditional store, we would need a [space] that was twice the size of our stores, which typically are around 1,200 square feet,” he said, “and that’s just to carry one pant. Because of our model, we’re able to stock that one pant on a table.”
For More on Bonobos in WWD: