It’s taken a decade, but NSF is finally wading into physical retail.
Nick Friedberg, founder of the Los Angeles-based brand, and Jamie Haller, its creative director, sound genuinely enthused about the opening of NSF’s first retail outpost in the newly trendy area of North Sycamore, smack between West Hollywood and Hollywood. While it’s technically a pop-up, the lease deal with real estate developer CIM Group is flexible and allows the brand to continue on a month-to-month basis if the pop-up turns out to be a success.
“I think gone are the days of locking people into a lease for 10 years and watching them die,” Freidberg said, talking as he cleaned up screws from the floor of the as yet unopened 3,000-square-foot store. “[CIM said] keep the space raw, spend as little as possible and if it works, keep it.
“What these guys have done on this street is unbelievable,” Freidberg added. “And I couldn’t have asked for a better location. The stars aligned.”
Without the newfound flexibility in the real estate department (brought on by so many stores closing in major shopping areas over recent years, from Madison Ave. to Rodeo Dr.), NSF would have simply kept working on a wholesale basis, as its done since it started in 2010.
But even that model has brands concerned, given the sudden bankruptcy of Barney’s, a big account for NSF and so many other brands, big and small. Friedberg admitted that the impending closure of Barney’s Beverly Hills is “a huge blow” to NSF, but it did make him step back and take stock of where his brand could be found. It’s now only available in two stores in L.A. he said, so the time seemed ideal to venture into owned retail, a space where he can show the entire line if he wants, despite e-commerce sales being the fastest-growing area for the brand.
“This is a wonderful test and I’ve come up with a pro forma on what it will take for it to work for us,” Freidberg said, declining to share specifics.
But part of the plan is to understand the NSF customer more, Haller said, not just from online transactions and reports from wholesale accounts. While there are no specific plans for an extension of the pop-up just yet, it is possible that NSF will embark on a retail roadshow of sorts, opening in different CIM-owned locations around L.A., giving NSF a new opportunity to get in front of shoppers.
“This is the first time we’ll have the chance to sit in the store, and Nick and I plan to work in there some days, and meet people who come in,” Haller said.
She and Freidberg are also planning to bring some “experiential” elements to the store, maybe a night of T-shirt distressing or upcycling with dyes at a workshop area built in the back of the store.
“It’s all happened so fast,” Haller said, “but we have a lot of ideas.”