Vera Bradley, the handbag and accessories brand, is launching its first bedding collection on Thursday, using bricks-and-mortar and online retailing as well as virtual reality to sell the products.
The Vera Bradley Bedding Collection of comforters, quilts, coverlets and pillows, created in the brand’s signature cotton fabrication, is priced from $29.99 to $179.99. It will be sold at select Bed, Bath & Beyond and Bon-Ton stores, on verabradley.com, and in a pop-up shop inside Vera Bradley’s SoHo flagship, at 411 West Broadway between Prince and Spring Streets in Manhattan. The pop-up will operate from July 27 through Aug. 23.
Additionally, 10 Vera Bradley stores will each have two virtual reality goggles so customers can see the bedding in 3-D room settings. The virtual reality presentation is in partnership with Obsess VR and Daydream by Google, and is considered a test by the company to explore some cutting-edge technology.
Virtual reality gives shoppers a different shopping experience. But considering the size of the 112 Vera Bradley stores — they average just 1,900 square feet each — it would be difficult to accommodate the bedding displays without crowding the selling floor. The flagship has 2,700 square feet. Vera Bradley also operates 49 factory outlets averaging 3,200 square feet.
The addition of home products reflects Vera Bradley’s efforts to evolve into a lifestyle brand. Business hasn’t been easy for the Roanoke, Ind.-based company and in May it revealed about a dozen store closings. But over the past four years, products and categories such as footwear and leather goods have been added, wholesale distribution has grown, the marketing has been updated, and new management was brought in to modernize the business. Though the brand is best known for handbags, particularly colorful, floral-patterned cotton quilted styles, there is also luggage, duffel bags, accessories, swimwear, gifts, jewelry, eyewear, stationery and fragrances in the assortment.
Company executives said the decision to launch bedding was based on perceived customer demand, and the brand’s reputation for prints, patterns and colors. Consumers in America have been shifting more of their discretionary dollars to spending on their homes than on their wardrobes, and up to now, Vera Bradley has just dabbled in home products with beach towels, throws and some back-to-school bedding for dorm rooms.
“We’re constantly talking to our consumer about where the opportunities are for the brand and we heard that she really wanted us to expand into the home category,” Robert Wallstrom, chief executive officer of Vera Bradley, told WWD. “Our business has always been heavily influenced by home. The brand actually started as a wallpaper hanging business.”
Wallstrom explained that the patterns and colors in the bedding collection are “reflective of different designs we have done but it’s not an exact duplication.” The bedding line will feature “intricate design details in complementary colors and patterns” and “vibrant pinks, soothing blues and neutral grays,” according to a statement from the company.
Asked how far Vera Bradley could take its home business, Wallstrom replied, “We do believe our consumer has given us permission to look at other categories of home. But at this point we don’t have any firm plans.”
“Creating a beautiful and comfortable home that expresses one’s personality and lifestyle has always been a passion of mine,” said Barbara Bradley Baekgaard, cofounder and chief creative officer of Vera Bradley.