LOS ANGELES — After 50 years of wholesaling women’s fashion to Macy’s, J.C. Penney, Kohl’s and other department stores, Byer California is finally taking the step to create its own retail brand.
As retailers place priority on their own private labels on the sales floor and manufacturers realize they need to preserve their profit margins, the call of going direct to consumer has resonated with the San Francisco-based company, founded in 1964 by Allan Byer and now run by his children, chief executive officer Phil Byer and creative director Jan Byer. Byer California is prepping to sell directly to consumers in its own branded stores and e-commerce channel. Unlike other brands that might try scouting the hippest neighborhood to unveil its retail debut, the 800-person company that racks up more than $100 million in revenue is opting to open a series of stores in outlet malls.
While the e-commerce site will launch on Wednesday, the first of three planned stores for California will open in December in Tejon. By next August, it hopes to bow two more units in Napa and Livermore. It’s also eyeing locations in outlet malls in Florida and New Jersey.
“We feel now is the time to step out and build a direct to consumer relationship with the customer,” said Jan Byer. “Right now outlets are the hot part of the business. Online seemed a natural progression.”
Having churned out thousands of designs sold under brands such as BCX at Macy’s, By & By at J.C. Penney and IZ Byer at Kohl’s, the company has worked on its direct-to-consumer strategy for nearly a year in an effort to turn its manufacturing operation into a brand. The challenge is that while its retail customers know and rely on Byer California as a vendor, consumers may not. Plus, in the young contemporary space where it’s aiming to secure a foothold, it’s competing against seasoned retailers such as Uniqlo and Forever 21 as well as buzzworthy e-commerce site NastyGal.com, which is readying to open its first brick-and-mortar store in Los Angeles.
“We’ve never done a lot with brand identification,” Byer acknowledged.
To forge stronger ties with shoppers between the ages of 18 and 35, the company formulated a new logo with the image of a yellow sun. Its signature colors of white, black, charcoal and yellow enhance the clean and modern decor of the new stores stocked with day-to-night looks, including $38 sheer halter tops dotted with gold circles and $68 colorblocked sweater dresses. Appealing to customers who seek value online and in its stores, it’s introducing a new concept, dubbed the Byer Basic Box, which bundles a pair of pants, a skirt and blazer, all in black, with a shirt in white or pink for $98.
“We’re trying to have a more up-close and personal relationship with the consumer,” Byer said.
Declining to disclose sales projections, Byer said she expects the direct-to-consumer operations to be “a very small portion” of the business at the moment.
“We’re looking for a lot of growth in the next five to 10 years,” she said. “We want to be somewhat in charge of our own destiny.”