After what was a good long stretch of quietude for many, a flurry of brands and retailers are once again hosting influencers and in some cases shoppers for in-store events.
Often guised as cocktail parties, talks, collaboration debuts and community gatherings, these meet-ups are increasingly being held once again in stores. Aside from sparing the expense of renting a hotel bar or event space — never mind all the financial accoutrements that are tied to that — retail events provide prime opportunities for people to see products up close and absorb the essence of brand.
Even before the Commerce Department reported that May retail sales slid 0.3 percent compared to April, companies were well aware that inflation concerns are flaring. That said, serving up some generic white wine in plastic cups on department and specialty store floors just doesn’t cut it. Fashion companies are trying to rev up the attraction, as Talbots recently did by hosting a book launch for TikTok and Instagram star Barbara Costello, who is better known as @Brunch With Babs.
An intergenerational crowd of 175 people turned up at the retailer’s Hingham, Mass. flagship books-in-hand before her arrival. Others spent more than $75 at Talbots to get a copy of “Celebrate With Babs: Holiday Recipes & Family Traditions” as a gift with purchase, a company spokeswoman said. They also got a good look at the newly renovated store.
In its 75th anniversary year, Talbots is planning additional appearances for the social media star and other store events to connect with consumers. “It is interesting and exciting to see that our Talbots customers are happily attending our trunk shows, shopping events and, of course, Babs’ appearances. It definitely feels like a return to the beginnings of normalcy,” a spokeswoman said.
Other indicators were how guests waited in line to speak with the author, hugged her and spoke of how her motherly advice, hacks and recipes were their salvation during the pandemic, the spokeswoman said.
Another anniversary — Alice + Olivia’s 20th — was nodded to on June 15 with a prom-inspired extravaganza with live music from Gracie Abrams and DJ Kiss. Founder Stacie Bendet hosted the event for 700 fans including Ella Emhoff and KidSuper at The Close East Lawn behind The High Line Hotel. Many turned out wearing looks from the label that were 10 to 20 years old, as well as more of-the-moment styles. Twelve hours later, Alice + Olivia’s site traffic and social media were buzzing more than normal, according to a company spokesperson.
Burnett New York welcomed 200-plus people to “MetaBurnett at Musica NYC” and 300 more in the Metagami Mall in Decentraland Metaverse on June 15. The fashion and crypto crowd were the first to see the ready-to-wear and NFT metaverse wearable collections, which launched Thursday. Creative director and chief executive officer Emily Burnett is forecasting a sellout. It was important to bring those two communities together for an in-person event “to experience the power of experiential Web3 luxury commerce for multidimensional sales opportunities,” she explained Thursday.
Earlier this week, Live Rocket hosted a Mercado Global in-person and virtual shopping event for female professionals in the investment industry, in partnership with Firework. The Brooklyn-based Mercado Global empowers Latin American women to become entrepreneurs in Central America. Organizers declined to provide sales figures.
To celebrate the release of Fern Mallis’ second “Fashion Icons” book, Nordstrom hosted fireside chats with her and the retailer’s women’s designer fashion and editorial director Rickie de Sole in its stores in Nashville, Dallas and at the Mall of America. (Nordstrom had welcomed a hearty fashion crowd to its New York City store for an all-out party for the book’s launch last month.) How the recent three-city trip impacted store sales and how other events are keeping shoppers coming back to Nordstrom were topics Nordstrom declined to discuss.
To mark the opening of its Madison Avenue store and the debut of a collaborative collection with Carolyn Murphy, Adeam tapped Charlotte Groeneveld to host a cocktail party on June 14. Guests like Sophie Elgort, Hyebin Yang and Carolyn Lim sipped Champagne and left with Lady M bon-bon boxes. They also got a better sense for the “East meets West” aesthetic that Adeam’s founder and creative director Hanako Maeda has developed from living in Tokyo and New York.
With Costa Brazil’s first pop-up store up-and-running, cofounder Francisco Costa described the customer traffic as “tremendous,” with many people responding so much to the space’s peaceful environment. “To me, it’s such a refreshing signal of what is needed out there. Maybe people are lacking a little beauty. Everything has become so homogenized in this world. We are offering something that is very calm and beautiful,” he said at the opening night party.
While the space was unveiled to launch the brand’s Aroma fragrance, the collection has been selling “big time” with many buying all of the rituals — a $700 investment — and wanting to learn all about them, according to Costa. The average shopper spends between $200 and $250.
Monday’s party with Cherry Bombe magazine attracted 140 guests, who are foodies that are also interested in art, style and beauty, Costa said. That was the start of many in-store events. More tuned into the demographics of Costa Brazil shoppers, the company has created “a diverse and engaging calendar to offer clients what they actually expect and want from us,” he said.
As the former creative director at Calvin Klein, he expected the Costa Brazil clientele to be in their 50s or 60s, but they are 19 to 45. As for whether the shaky economy has made beauty a replacement for fashion, Costa said, “People are buying less, but they are buying better. Having a space is very engaging because they have a beautiful experience going into the space. We have wonderfully trained people, who go through every single product with the client explaining what it is and where it comes from. Downstairs, there is an incredible space for facials.”
Another element is a gallery-like area that shows off limited-edition T-shirts by the artist Curtis Kulig and fragrance customization of the bottle by Nicolas Ouchenir. Acknowledging how beauty’s market share is becoming more important, Costa said more than anything the pop-up offers consumers a moment for themselves. The fact that all products are genderless relays an all-are-welcome feeling. Asked if he ever imagined he would be so fashion-free, Costa said he has always been fashion-free. “Calvin was really never about the fashion. Calvin was so seminal. It was really about a lifestyle, if you think about the quality of the work. The magic was that he captured the zeitgeist of the time and he was able to fill the void,” Costa said.
Tuesday’s opening night party for the Anne Barge/Flora on Madison store has already helped to drum up interest. Socialites and social media influencers, as well as press, helped to spread the word. Forty-one appointments have been scheduled for this month and five dresses were sold on the first day of business Wednesday, including one to a bride who walked in, said president and creative director Anne Barge.
Mentioning how many brides scaled back the size of their weddings during COVID-19 but went ahead with their nuptials, as others had during the 2008 recession, Jacobs said she is hopeful that will also be the case should another recession hit. Even though the New York store offers a greater percentage of higher-priced goods than the Anne Barge store in Atlanta, that assortment can be altered to include lower price points, should the economic climate change. On average, the total offerings are about 15 percent higher.
Year-to-date Anne Barge’s overall wholesale business is 88 percent ahead, Jacobs said. However, having been watching the news and following what economists are saying, she will be tightening some things up and putting some money aside so that if a recession does hit, “the company can weather that storm.”
Earlier this month, Zero + Maria Cornejo hosted a cocktail party in its Bleecker Street store for a tie-up with the eyewear and fine jewelry label Vada. While the event helped to generate some sales, “on a broader level the get-together was meant to restore the idea of the store as a place for people to gather,” said the designer’s business partner Marysia Woroniecka. “We have a community of clients and the thing that we have all missed over the last couple of years is that ability to feel comfortable gathering together,” she said.
Before the pandemic set in, the company had renovated the store to allow for such gatherings as the one for Vada. The brand and Cornejo’s label have a personal connection, as Woroniecka happened to have bought a pair of Vada and received many compliments. Vada is based in Austin, Texas, where the Cornejo team travels to regularly for the boutique ByGeorge, which is also where Vada was first sold. A small selection of Vada is being offered at the Zero + Maria Cornejo store for a month or two.