NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. — When Ecko senior vice president Matt Fontana was deciding where to put the company’s first full-priced store, he scanned the local radio dial to see if there were sports, hip-hop and rock stations in the vicinity.
This story first appeared in the November 25, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“Not every market has that kind of overlap — and that’s what our customer is about. We cross a diverse set of interests,” he said.
Ecko celebrated that diversity — and its 10th anniversary — by opening a 3,000-square-foot store it calls a “one-stop shop for youth culture” in the Emerald Square mall here. The mall is a youth-flavored property, with Wet Seal, Charlotte Russe and Vans stores, about 20 miles from Providence, R.I., and 50 miles from Boston.
“We wanted to pick an ‘everyplace’ where we had a customer and where we could learn,” said Fontana.
Neither Ecko nor the company’s retail partner, Casual Male Retail Group, would disclose revenue projections or how the store has performed since its Nov. 14 soft opening; however, a store associate estimated they’d sold more than 100 copies of 50 Cent’s new album, “Beg for Mercy,” in three days. The store had the exclusive early release of that CD because of its joint partnership with the rapper on the G-Unit young men’s clothing.
The fast-growing Ecko Red junior sportswear, projected to hit $70 million next year according to Fontana, takes up about 25 percent of the selling space.
Overall, the store gives urban sportswear a more upscale and grown-up presentation, with low, glass counters, spacious dressing rooms and a blowup of its David LaChappelle ad campaign in the front window.
The entry is bamboo, the floor is slate, and the walls and ceiling are whitewashed brick and pressed tin, a nod to the Brooklyn apartments many Ecko staffers live in.
Unlike many youth chains, the music isn’t pressingly loud, nor is the floor crammed with merchandise.
A listening station, denim bar, magazine wall and sitting area with coffee table books fill the rear of the store.
All branded categories — men’s and women’s sportswear, denim, outerwear, watches, sunglasses, handbags and the G-Unit collection — are represented. An additional 15 percent of the merchandise is ancillary items, such as magazines, toys and books that are part and parcel of the Ecko lifestyle.
Under its new license with Los Angeles-based manufacturer Paul Devril Inc., the Ecko Red collection sticks closely to themes used in the young men’s collection, the core business of $450 million Ecko Unlimited.
A $72 Ecko Red rhino hoodie, for instance, had buttons “splattered” across the front, mirroring the splattered graffiti embroidery on the young men’s fleece. But there are pieces, like hook-and-eye-fastened jeans and a $90 velour jumpsuit, that are pure, girlie fashion.
The firm is considering launching a women’s basics business of logoed fleece among other items, to reach girls who still buy the men’s clothing.
David Levin, chief executive of Needham, Mass.-based CMRG, which operates Ecko stores, said decisions on further rollout of full-price units hinge on the performance of this door. CMRG runs 22 Ecko outlets under a 50-50 partnership with Ecko Unlimited and plans to have a total of 75 in the next several years, although there are no space commitments yet.
“We want to understand the dynamics of the full-price model, start fine-tuning and of course, work out the bugs,” Levin said.