First, there’s nothing wrong with the strategy at Planet Blue. The Malibu-inspired retailer and creator of brands such as Blue Life has tapped former Cotton Citizen and James Perse executive Eddie Bromberg to be chief executive officer following a recent close on new funding. But expect no major re-brand.
“It isn’t so much a reboot or restart,” Bromberg said of what the go-forward plan is. “It’s [about] OK, we have a true North and we’re all focusing on the same kind of growth plan and we now have the right amount of capital and funding in place to take this where it needs to go.”
The executive succeeds James Williams, who parted ways with the firm after a 10-year run to launch his advisory company JSW/Strategic, focused on fashion, retail, luxury and digital. Bromberg, who most recently was president at Los Angeles luxury basics brand Cotton Citizen and previously served as vice president at James Perse, joins the team following an undisclosed recent round of funding from investment firm Breakwater Management LLC.
Bromberg and company look to professionalize the staff, but the executive was quick to point out there was nothing wrong with the executive base or with Planet Blue in general. His charge, rather, is to seize on opportunities. In other words, take something good and make it better.
“We’re definitely trying to put together a very good, forward-thinking group and the best way to put this is to be respectful of the legacy,” Bromberg said. “We want to keep this brand authentic as a California, Malibu lifestyle brand, which is where it started. Most of us that are part of this evolutionary team are California natives and have worked with Planet Blue at different points in time.”
Among the more recent hires is vice president of retail stores Lauren Myers, who joined the company earlier in the year and previously served as president of Agent Provocateur.
The Planet Blue business is diversified, due to plays made by founder and creative director Ling Su-Chinn years ago, to insulate the company in many ways from shifts in the marketplace. Chinn realized that Planet Blue couldn’t be only one thing: That is, solely a retailer or solely a monobrand. She made the move at the time of the Great Recession to begin producing in-house brands, building out a wholesale business.
Today, Planet Blue consists of 13 stores, an e-commerce boutique and seven in-house brands sold at more than 330 stores, including Revolve, Urban Outfitters and Asos.
The privately held company doesn’t disclose financial information, but confirmed volume is north of $40 million.
“I had known Planet Blue when I was at James Perse. However, I didn’t know how much they’d expanded and the fact that they had their own proprietary brands. I was pleasantly surprised because I wasn’t auditing it on the daily,” Bromberg said. “They had so much depth and had grown to a level quietly without making so much noise. I had no idea they had this much volume. I did the due diligence to understand the opportunities here and they’re so vast and that was really attractive for me to bring my skill set and tool box here.”
The strategy is multipronged. The executive sees plenty of potential in growing out that wholesale channel and playing up brands such as Blue Life within its own stores as well as shops-in-shop at other retailers, while also bringing forth new brands to the market in the future.
At retail, the other component of the business, the initial play isn’t so much about expansion. The stores are all cash positive, the executive said, but the near term will be about getting to know the customer better to refine the in-store product offering in addition to a focus on boosting product knowledge for the store associate team, Bromberg said.
“We’ve had one specific lane, which has been festival-driven and we want to attract a wider range of customers,” he said. “One of our main points of distinction is to dive into having a more curated selection of product.”
If the company does open more stores, he said there’s potential for those locations to be a smaller format. The company’s doors are around 4,000 to 5,000 square feet allocated to multiple brands — a mix of its own and third-parties such as Agolde, Flynn Skye, Jen’s Pirate Booty and Mother.
“When we look at that evolution, I feel that a smaller, curated brand-specific store scenario is something that we would be looking at down the road in terms of expansion,” Bromberg said. “I can’t really speak as to whether they’ll be Blue Life-specific stores or shop-in-shop stores, but [the Blue Life brand] has been something that has always been there but not something that has been really exploited.”
Planet Blue also won’t get trendy as it relates to the pop-up wave. It’s not a format that really interests Bromberg as much as the experience in stores, which he said could very well mean activations of hero product there.
“Instead of thinking of pop-ups as an external thing, I’m thinking about pop-ups in our own environment,” he said. “We definitely can create the same impact within our own retail stores.”