Anything But Brandless

Offline Matters, So Does Brand

Two interesting news items about DTC related brands are important to take note of. Last week, Fourpost, a retail concept aiming to give a home to DTC brands, announced it would be closing shop. Then, less than a week later, Brandless told employees that they were shutting down as well.

Why does this matter? Because it reinforces two critical points that are defining the next wave of retail. First, DTC companies don’t need a generic offline landing spot. They are finding the ideal path on their own, often through a small number of retail partners or an owned retail presence. Second, brand matters so unbelievably much in retail. 

DTC Continues Its Offline Expansion

Everlane, Warby Parker, Casper, and many others are leading the wave of online-only brands deciding to become anything but. Why is it happening? Because it’s incredibly difficult to build a big, profitable, online-only company in retail. But also because the early returns for DTC offline success are promising.

Beyond Rent the Runway-type partnerships with Nordstrom, which are likely to give these brands a better sense of their offline potential, DTC brands with offline presences are already seeing the impact.

Looking at visits to Warby Parker locations nationwide shows a brand seeing more visits year-over-year in each month of 2019. This included an end-of-year spike in December 2019 that brought visits 27.1% above the baseline for the period from January 2018 through January 2020. While some of this is buoyed by new stores, it is an impressive trajectory that matches the success of other product-oriented companies like Lululemon and Nike.

Looking at an Everlane location in New York City shows a similar path, with traffic on an obvious upward trend for the specific location over the last two years. The site saw traffic rise 55% above the baseline for weekly traffic four times in 2019 when analyzing the period from January 2018 through January 2020. This was something it didn’t achieve once in the year prior.

Trending to Brand

This is something significant to watch because of the similarity between these brands and retail titans like Nike and Lululemon. Brand matters now, more than ever. This is why Levi’s is expanding its store presence while wholesale numbers decline, or an increasing number of brands are investing more in expanding and enhancing their owned offline presence.

Brandless, Fourpost and even one-stop-shop retailers like Kmart and Sears are all struggling from the lack of brand identity. Whether it be Target or Walmart serving as examples for how big-box retail ‘brands’ can be built or other retail players pushing to evolve their identity, the trend is clearly being seen. 

What should we expect? More DTC and product-oriented retailers are going to increase their offline presence and more big-box retailers are going to place bigger bets on moves to solidify their distinct identity in a market that is making this a more critical aspect.

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