If you’re Shinola selling the tagline “Where American is Made” and a legacy brand dating all the way back to 2011, you win the battle for customer acquisition through storytelling in store. And this year will see a big push to tell those stories at brick-and-mortar for the Los Angeles market.
This story first appeared in the January 22, 2016 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“This is a brand that’s so story-driven and experience-driven that we have got to open stores to be able to say, ‘Hey, our doors are open. Come experience the brand, feel the product, the quality of the product and learn more about what Shinola is doing in the U.S.,’” said president Jacques Panis. “That’s the primary reason we want to open stores and are being aggressive about it.”
Shinola is part of Texas-based brand development company Bedrock Manufacturing Co. Filson, started in 1897 and headquartered in Seattle, is also under the Bedrock fold after it was acquired in 2012 from Brentwood Associates for an undisclosed amount.
Shinola expects to open eight to 10 doors this year, three of which will be in the Los Angeles market. It’s about on par with the rate of openings last year and the company will push to accelerate openings if it can scout out the right locations, Panis said. It’s also looking at Tampa, Atlanta and Chicago. International expansion will likely be seen in the next three to five years.
Up first in early April is an outpost on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice, Calif. that will total about 2,000 square feet. A store, totaling more than 2,500 square feet, at Caruso Affiliated’s Grove shopping center in Los Angeles is tentatively slated to open in June. That will be followed by a 4,000-square-foot unit in downtown Los Angeles’ Arts District in late summer. The three join a door in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles that bowed in 2014.
“It’s a very important market for us and the interesting thing about this market is just the influence this place has on people far and wide,” Panis said of Los Angeles.
The L.A. stores come on the heels of a Palo Alto opening and a San Francisco door set to open in February just before the Super Bowl.
The mother ship, though, is in Detroit, where the company is based. That store totals 11,000 square feet, has a coffee shop and patrons can come in and see Shinola bikes built and watch dials printed and painted. Each store radiating from there has some unique feature built in to make it easier for consumers to understand the Shinola brand.
The downtown Los Angeles store will fully realize that, maximizing on its footprint. It will bring Saved Tattoo from Brooklyn as well as an outpost from New York eatery The Smile. The store will be the first Shinola with a tattoo parlor.
“Look, we don’t want to be another store on another corner in another city,” Panis said. “We want to be able to give the consumers a unique experience, whether they’re buying from Shinola or not. It’s important that people understand the mission of the brand, which is creating jobs in the United States….We think that’s important for the longevity of the brand.”
The company has begun toying with how to also translate that brand story in its wholesale business, where possible, opening a shops-in-shop concept within a Neiman Marcus store in Dallas last year. The company’s currently in more than 600 doors in the U.S.
“You can’t forget quality,” Panis said. “People today are making an investment into what they’re buying. They might have saved up for it or they might be able to spend the kind of money that they have to buy a Shinola watch or leather good or whatever it may be. We are so focused on quality at Shinola and that quality component speaks to also the store experience that we’re building, which is critical.”