Piperlime Gets Physical With First Store
For well over a decade, chains have built a knowledge base on how to successfully extend a retail brand to the online world, but what do you do when you’re a web-only retailer designing your first physical store? Piperlime’s answer is to play off many of the features its online fans have come to love.
Piperlime is one of two Gap brands that began strictly online, but unlike the other — Athleta, which has its own line of activewear — Piperlime presented the challenge of merchandising numerous designer labels ranging from cheap-chic to pricey. Jennifer Gosselin, the brand’s general manager, quoted by Bloomberg, believes that no matter how loyal a brand’s following is online, a physical presence builds a proper relationship. "In terms of experiencing the brand, it’s the difference between having a relationship over e-mail versus one in person," she said. "It really does come to life here."
The here of which she speaks is Piperlime’s new 4,000 sq. ft. location on Wooster Street in New York’s chic SoHo neighborhood. The company used the occasion of Fashion’s Night Out on Sept. 6th to stage its opening. (That may have accounted for the "calm after the storm" feel to the store when we visited the next afternoon.) According to The Rack, Piperlime decided to explore a permanent physical outpost following a very successful pop-up experience during Fashion’s Night Out 2009.
In contrast to many boutiques in Manhattan, Piperlime is airy and the merchandise is given space to make a statement. Although the website includes offerings for men and kids, the store sticks to women’s apparel, shoes, jewelry and handbags. Labels include Milly, Fry, Citizens of Humanity, Tinley Road, Ash and Maison Scotch.
Shoes are a big star, displayed cleverly on a big, wrap-around show wall that demonstrates the brand’s "disproportionate love of shoes," according to a press release.
When beginning with an "endless aisle" online inventory, editing the mix is crucial, and there’s a sense that management took this challenge quite seriously. The store is built on sections reflective of those on the website. For example, there’s the "Girl On A Budget" area where "everything’s under $100," and tightly edited racks displaying picks from celebrity editors: Rachel Zoe and Olivia Palermo.
There’s also a seasonal section, "Color Clashing," which is one of the "Top Ten Fall Trends" borrowed from the website. Signage is simple to facilitate frequent changes.
Associates were attentive but not pushy with customers during the visit. A company news release talks about "kiosks throughout the store that link directly to Piperlime.com." We saw only one that was clearly positioned for customers, however. (Perhaps more are coming.) A second is set on a desk by the dressing rooms for use by associates.
- Piperlime Opens First Store in New York’s SoHo Neighborhood – Gap Inc.
- Gap’s Piperlime Whips Web Into Reality With SoHo Store – Bloomberg
- Piperlime Opens Its First Brick-and-Mortar Store in Soho – Racked
Are there fresh lessons to be learned from online-only retailers now opening their own physical stores? Do you think techniques such as “Editor’s Picks” and seasonal recommendations will translate well into the physical world?