If it was up to Lana Hopkins the word “store” would be banished from the retail vocabulary. “I hate that word. It should never be spoken,” said the founder and chief executive officer of Mon Purse, preferring “galleries” instead.
“When you walk into a Mon Purse gallery, you’ve got beautiful hand leather, inspirations of swatches that you can play with, hardware, an iPad — you are essentially that kid in the candy store.”
And yet setting up physical venues was not her initial choice.
When Hopkins launched her customizable leather goods label in 2014, she first built a web site, which uses PBR, a 3-D rendering technique developed by the gaming industry, for better visualization. “The single most important aspect was to be fanatically obsessed about our customer.” She delivered the first 100 bags to her clients personally. “Why did I do that? Because I wanted to see the reaction — that has been embedded into our business. We had just 15 million design combinations [in 2014]. Not a huge amount but enough for us to understand what it was that she was looking for. Fast forward to 2017, we have now 10 billion design combinations — all about easy-to-use, seamless integration.”
But nothing beats face-to-face communication, which led Mon Purse to experiment with a pop-up in Paddington, Australia.
“What we learned there is that not everybody wants to wait three to four weeks before they get their bag. Some people want a product right on the spot.”
It’s Mon Purse’s motto to have the customer be the boss all the way. “We don’t have fashion buyers in our business. We’re a Millennial brand. We need data scientists who can tell us in real time what the customer really wants. The stock in each one of our stores, whether it’s in New York, London, Birmingham, Manchester, Sydney or L.A., is very much driven by what people are buying online in that area. In London, it’s actually quite different from Sydney. In Paddington, we realized that we were close to $1 million in sales, when other retailers would not do more than $100,000.”
Incidentally, the majority of customers shopping in store tend to shop online after, she noted.
When Mon Purse partnered with Myer, Australia’s largest department store, for their first permanent flagship, “within a month, we were the top-selling handbag brand at Myer,” Hopkins revealed. Outposts at Selfridges and Bloomingdale’s followed. “We’ve got five more locations to roll out with U.S. stores this year and in addition to that, we’re opening our first flagship at Short Hills in New Jersey.”
Huge spaces are not a necessity, insists the entrepreneur. It’s about optimizing every inch. Today, the label’s productivity rate stands at $5,500 per square foot, compared to more established handbag retailers such as Michael Kors and Kate Spade, boasting $1,466 and $1,448 per square foot, respectively.