A business with an emphasis on brick-and-mortar seems as dated as a flip phone in the age of Amazon. But Bulletin’s Ali Kriegsman and Alana Branston don’t see it that way. Bulletin, a Y Combinator company, is lowering the barriers to entry for its IRL marketplaces for designers and brands.
Bulletin last month opened a 2,000-square-foot SoHo unit where each designer pays about $2,500 a month to rent space. Kriegsman said the rent at the SoHo store or Bulletin’s 600-square-foot unit in Williamsburg can be lower if a brand uses less display space. Designers merchandise their own areas and control their inventory.
The SoHo store focuses on women’s brands with Ixmucane Skincare’s coffee and cardamon body scrubs, $38 each; White Rabbit’s soft bamboo boyshort, $16; Shhhowercap’s colorful Laguna cap, $43, and Beloforte’s blush Setina workout leggings, $132.
Home products are showcased at the folksy, plant-filled Bulletin Williamsburg, along with Jonathan Castro’s ceramic grip cups, $30; Live Bare’s scented candles, $22; Dandy Farmer’s modern bonsais, $75, and hand-drawn geometric prints from Haanmade, $250.
Bulletin’s two stores are operating under six-month leases, but the company may pursue longer-term arrangements in the future. “This is a good intermediary step,” Kriegsman said.
Bulletin started as an e-commerce web site for designers and artisans and created a shopable magazine. But as Kriegsman and Branston opened pop-up shops for some of the brands, they discovered that the performance of the pop-ups was more promising than e-commerce.
The large supply of empty storefronts in prime real estate corridors pointed to a real estate bubble. “Retail space is at a premium and brands don’t think it’s worth it,” said Kriegsman. “We know it’s really difficult for brands to get their products into stores — pitching retailers, signing long-term leases or doing temporary pop-ups is time-consuming and expensive. We realized brands don’t need another online channel. They needed help finding affordable, flexible retail space. Because of e-commerce, retail now operates more as a marketing/advertising channel for many brands.”
Bulletin promises to put brands in front of a store-based audience within five days or less of receiving an application. Bulletin offers turnkey retail space that’s “as flexible as selling online and capitalizes on the empty storefronts throughout the U.S.,” Kriegsman said, adding that the rent at the SoHo store includes staffing, buildout and POS system.
For businesses that can’t get their products to New York, Bulletin suggests selling via its e-commerce site.
Three more locations are planned for later this year. Bulletin Wellness will focus on fitness, apothecary and vitamins. Bulletin Pantry will offer emerging food brands. Both locations have yet to be determined, while Bulletin Baby will open in Brooklyn.
Kriegsman and Branston try to lease space in areas near naturally occurring foot traffic. Bulletin’s Brooklyn location is on North 7th Street, a popular retail block in Williamsburg, while Bulletin’s SoHo unit is next to Mansur Gavriel, Warby Parker and Apple.
.“We realized that type of opportunity where designers can be face-to-face with new customers and have built-in traffic is more economical and profitable for them than putting money into the online channel,” Kriegsman said. “With a Shopify or Squarespace site, it’s harder to stand out, and it takes a good amount of time and money to cut through the noise and generate traffic through SEO.”