Tech accessories retailer Soda Says, short for School of the Digital Age, is ready to gain ground in the U.S.
The multibrand retailer and lifestyle site for all things stylish in tech is in the midst of opening a New York headquarters and expanding its retail distribution Stateside via Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom. It bows on Thursday a shop-in-shop within Neiman Marcus’ Dallas store and the retailer’s web site. The company on Nov. 16 is set to launch on nordstrom.com as well as 10 Nordstrom stores in New York; Los Angeles; Chicago; Seattle; Austin, Tex.; Dallas; Orange County, Calif.; Bellevue, Idaho; Toronto, and Vancouver. Fashion photographer Rankin has also teamed with the company as an adviser and spearheaded a video campaign for Soda’s Neiman Marcus launch.
The company’s curation of consumer tech products — a mix of third-party brands and about 11 percent produced in-house ranging in price from $25 to $445 — is already sold at Selfridges in London, where the company outperformed and ended up doubling revenue projections. That success led to the move into Brown Thomas in Dublin. Online and direct still remain the main growth driver for the overall business with revenue there expected to double over the next 12 months.
Soda got its start in 2016, founded by Grace Gould, originally as a pop-up space in west London. Gould, who clocked time at Apple and Index Ventures before starting starting the business, found the store to attract mothers looking for well designed tech products that didn’t require them to go into a big box, but also had the breadth of offerings that perhaps a well designed Apple store might not have.
“I was looking to say why is no one bringing all this exciting innovation to consumer electronics,” she said. “It’s super focused on big-box retailers and big black speakers or there’s all these beautifully designed Apple products.”
Take holiday for example, when Soda will round up products such as a $445 coffee-maker alarm clock and a $50 USB-enabled fabric shaver. It also teamed for holiday with London graphic designer Emma Shipley on iPad cases and a keychain power bank.
Being in the mix of other brands at retail has helped position the brand as a fashion lifestyle line, Gould contends. It’s an interesting play not all tech-related firms can lay claim to. At Brown Thomas London, for example, the Soda concession is located in the women’s contemporary department.
The longer-term aspiration, Gould said, is to position the business as a Goop for the tech set. People already come to Soda for advice and information on product or trends related to technology in much the same way Gwyneth Paltrow started Goop as an e-newsletter rounding up a curation of different across food, travel and fashion that eventually evolved into multiple product categories and stores.
A lot of the move to that goal will come down to collaborations and working with third-party brands on colorways or product exclusive to Soda, Gould said. She pointed to last year’s collaboration with Fiorucci in which a range of tech accessories was created and said the capsule did well.
“We would love to replicate that more with other partners,” she said.
The other aspect in building out the business will also rely on content, which has always been a part of the Soda DNA from the start. Gould said the company is ramping up its editorial efforts, with articles on topics from when parents should first expose their children to a cell phone or computer screen to suggestions for smart home systems. A new web site bows Thursday. Some of that content and the discussions had with customers have also been brought to life through an event series. E-mail newsletter open rates hover at 30.7 percent, while click-through is 3 percent.
“It’s super interesting how, with us, a lot of the demand has come from our customers,” she said. “When I first started working on this business, I didn’t initially plan to have it targeting women. We really sort of grew that. Our customers come to us asking for information on all sorts of things about how technology impacts their life.”