A 2,000-square-foot Modcloth Fitshop — the brand’s service-oriented showroom-cum-retail concept where consumers choose looks with the help of a stylist — bowed last week on Fillmore Street in San Francisco. It’s the second permanent Fitshop, following a larger unit in Austin Tex. that opened in November 2016. Three additional Fitshops are scheduled to open this year in Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C., and the digital native brand is bullish about the retail format.
Walmart Inc. in 2017 acquired Modcloth for a reported $50 million to $75 million, the same year it paid $310 million for Bonobos. The men’s wear brand and Modcloth are offered on Walmart-owned Jet.com, but not on walmart.com.
Elizabeth Cooksey, vice president of retail and customer experience, said, “At this time it would be premature to talk about walmart.com” when asked whether Modcloth would expand its distribution to the site.
“We’re looking toward dozens of Fitshops,” said Cooksey. “It just makes sense. We’re not committing to a certain number, but we definitely have plans to run fast with this.” Cooksey said the difference in store size is by design. “We’re going to roll out in the near future across a variety of cities and we’re implementing different formats and testing different models.”
Cooksey’s confidence comes from Modcloth’s original pop-up shop, which opened in 2015 on Union Square in San Francisco for what was intended as a three-week engagement. The pop-up stretched to eight months due to demand. After that, “We launched the In Real Life Tour and took Modcloth across six cities and used the events as a lab to understand how Modcloth could do retail and what the assortment should be,” Cooksey said.
“Our aim with Fitshops is to give access to even more customers to learn about the brand and to use the Fitshops as a marketing tool and for customer acquisition,” Cooksey said. “Offline and online go hand in hand. The current plan is to open Fitshops across those dominant markets. The inverse is also beneficial, to go places where Modcloth is less dominant and we have less of a customer base.”
Cooksey said certain nuances that are specific to each market Modcloth enters will determine the form a Fitshop takes. “How we show up in different markets will vary,” she said. “The consumer behavior and the way the brand comes to life has difference nuances. In Austin, where music and SXSW are important, we can dive in and be relevant in a local way. We focus strongly on the experience. Our model is special and we take a lot of pride in offering a high-touch, white glove, personal shopping experience with no fees and no price of admission.”
Fitshops provide a full sensory experience, which can include a scent and a playlist that play tunes that are the Modcloth vibe. Clients are measured and receive sizing and silhouette guidance, and consultation. “Styling is the outfit component of dressing her from head to toe,” Cooksey said, adding that an extended size range of XXS to 4X is available. “All of the clothing can be tried on. We also offer accessories, jewelry, handbags. Appointments aren’t required, but they’re encouraged. We place the order like an online order and typically ship overnight or within two to three days. It’s hands-free shopping. It’s great because so many customers are tourists and they don’t have to worry about it fitting into their luggage.’
Cooksey said that Modcloth Fitshops could locate at regional shopping malls, lifestyle centers or neighborhood retail districts. “It’s most important that we open in markets and locations that really authentic to the brand and who are existing customer is,” she said. “It’s also important to be relevant in highly-trafficked environments where tourists are or to be near universities where students are. Want to balance being in locations where the customer knows us and will find us and also sent the brand message to new customers.
“We benefit from being a digitally native brand,” Cooksey said. “Even three years ago, before we did our first pop-up shop, we had a decade’s worth of data. Now, three years later, we have all the more online data, plus the pop-up tour information. We feel good about the more objective data points.”