As many retailers and brands decrease their brick-and-mortar presence, streetwear shops are moving in the opposite direction.
The first half of the year saw store openings in New York from Palace, Off-White, Planet X, Drake’s OVO, and relocations from Fool’s Gold and Carhartt Work in Progress, which moved just a few doors down from Supreme’s New York flagship on Lafayette Street in SoHo. These openings were coupled with news that Supreme would open a second New York location in Brooklyn and Round Two, a popular second-hand retailer, would plant its first flag in Manhattan.
Streetwear, a category that caters to young people known for evading stores, is inciting this customer to stand in line, purchase product, or simply peruse the racks for a sense of belonging.
Aaron Levant, who founded the Agenda trade show, told the audience at WWD’s Men’s Wear Summit earlier this year that malls and trade shows were dead. But despite Millennials and Generation Z’s constant online activity, connecting to this customer IRL, or in real life, is paramount. At ComplexCon, a direct-to-consumer festival Levant ran with Complex last November, fans paid $55 to shop. Last year’s event generated $10 million in sales, on site, over a two-day period.
“The only metric that matters is energy,” Levant said. “And trade shows and malls have no energy.”
Multiple product drops generate this energy, but Instagram-worthy spaces that lend themselves to community building also help. For example, Off-White’s shop mimics a gallery — it’s peppered with fake plants and is void of a storefront. Supreme’s Brooklyn store will include a bowl for skating, while Round Two’s newest shop will probably also serve as a backdrop for its popular YouTube series that draws tourists into its stores. Jazmin Venus Soto, also known as Venus X, previously told WWD she wants to hold activations, whether it’s a poetry reading or an album release party. A GHE20G0TH1K radio show airs from the store and live DJs come in on a monthly basis.
“Creating content in the space is very important to me and we want to make sure that we aren’t just focused on selling clothes,” she said. “I think the best place to sell our lifestyle, as opposed to a T-shirt with a logo, is in a store where like-minded people can sit down and hang out.”
For multibrand streetwear stores, expanding their retail presence is connected to fulfilling demand and providing a gathering spot for customers, but it also bolsters online sales and helps with sneaker allocation — meaning when companies such as Nike or Adidas decide how many pairs of shoes to give retailers, they keep their global presence and impact in mind.
“The store is a very important ingredient in our whole business,” said Erik Fagerlind, the cofounder of Sneakersnstuff, a Stockholm-based sneaker boutique that also operates locations in London, Paris and Berlin. “We are working hard to be the most relevant partners and most relevant store for the consumer to go to. We need to show these companies the traffic we get and our expansion plan in order to build stronger partnerships with them.”
Going forward, store growth within streetwear will continue, but retailers will begin to focus on underserved regions with lower rental feels — Kinfolk tested out Atlanta earlier this year with a pop-up and party. These brands will also have to figure out how to grow without becoming less desirable and so far they seem to be achieving that with unique retail experiences and product for each store.
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