The Free People pop-up shop isn’t selling products — it’s proposing a lifestyle. The SoHo-based center houses nutrition workshops and barre-less exercise classes hosted by Exhale Studio, and new FP Movement — its ath-leisure collection — and beauty items.
The shop serves as the brand’s next expansion to appeal to Millennial shoppers eager to participate in experiential retail that goes beyond traditional peruse-and-purchases. Here, Abby Morgan, director of brand marketing at Free People, discusses the strategy behind the opening, maintaining consumer loyalty and navigating the unstable retail market.
WWD: What in the current consumer climate warranted a pop-up shop?
Abby Morgan: In general, the current consumer climate for retail seems to have shifted due to the current oversaturation of products in the market and access to those products. Consumers are looking for more of an experience to connect them to the overall story of the product and want to identify with brands in a more authentic manner. Experiential retail gives the customer the platform to interact with brands they love in a much more connected way.
With our latest FP Movement Pop-up in New York, customers are able to attend free classes and workshops throughout each month featuring experts in the beauty and wellness industry that connect with our overall brand ethos and products.
WWD: What has been Free People’s approach to developing its appeal as a lifestyle brand?
A.M.: We have always depicted ourselves as a lifestyle brand because we believe that to fully grow with our customer, we need to cater to all the needs in our customers’ lives. In the last few years, Free People has launched two new product categories — FP Movement and Beauty and Wellness.
Born from a passion for yoga, a deep curiosity of well-being and wellness, and the belief in natural beauty, FP Movement was created as a destination to reflect a life well-lived from the inside-out. From the studio to the street — for yoga, dance, run and all workouts in-between — FP Movement is designed using signature technical fabrics that reflect the transformative power of movement.
Beauty and Wellness was created for the Free People girl who leads a healthy and active lifestyle and seeks to look and feel beautiful from the inside out. The curated selection of products available is all organic, natural, cruelty free, and uses the finest ingredients with lasting results. Whether the customer is in need of a wellness boost, wanting to enhance her features with makeup, skin care or hair care, Free People offers something for everyone.
Free People also hosts what are called FP Escapes. These are the brand’s wellness retreats aimed to nurture an intimate group of travelers in search of authentic experiences of culture and self. We partner with inspiring groups of health and wellness ambassadors to create educational and uplifting experiences for the brand’s community. Honoring regional biodiversity, each retreat is nourished by FP Gather chefs and nutritionists, infusing custom menus that celebrate the distinct culinary traditions of the area. Through each retreat, the brand promotes balance, vitality, creativity, exploration of self and surroundings, and the courage to be ones self.
WWD: Free People is a Millennial-favorite — how is the brand updating its strategy and infrastructure to keep step with these consumers?
A.M.: Free People aims to provide customers with much more than clothing. A unique and unwavering bond with customers sits at the heart of the lifestyle community. The brand delves into the lifestyle of the customer, encouraging self-confidence and self-expression. Free People has the ability to identify what the customer loves and helps to offer the best product assortment and experience possible. In terms of strategy, we are constantly finding channels to continue to inspire the Free People girl — from short-form video to social media and now retreats and events both in retail and bespoke.
WWD: In your opinion, how can retailers avoid collapse?
A.M.: Retailers need to pay attention to where their customers are receiving inspiration and how. It’s not only the channel, but also the story that they tell that inspires loyalty and purchase. The more authentic a brand is from concept development through execution, the better opportunity they will have for success. For example, we’ve noticed a shift in experiential marketing and its effectiveness. Therefore, we’ve started to incorporate experiential components in and out of our stores. It’s important to engage with the customer in avenues aside from the purchasing of products.
WWD: How has technology affected business operations and also consumer engagement?
A.M.: Technology is leading the change of consumer behavior, meaning there are now more ways than ever to constantly connect with them. Through our web site, social media, blog, retreats and press, we are able to reach our customer in multiple ways through various platforms.
WWD: As Millennials are heavy on social media, what have been key strategies to engage with them in this space?
A.M.: Through social media, Free People is able to connect, engage and share campaigns with customers across multiple platforms. Free People utilize channels like Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter to inform and inspire our followers. Key strategies include focusing on a balanced mix of reflecting the interests of our customers that align with brand ethos, coupled with posts that project the trend of our current product and how it can fit into the lifestyle our followers identify with.