Generally, when a brand decides it wants to open a pop-up store, team members have months to plan and some idea of how to carry it out. But with the lofty goal of opening a 2,000-square-foot pop-up shop in under four weeks, the Brooklinen operations team had to move quickly. Before opening the pop-up in New York’s SoHo neighborhood in November 2018, the Brooklinen team managed both to find the ideal location and centralize its merchandising efforts to deliver the right products to its shoppers.
Brooklinen, a direct-to-consumer brand selling luxury bed sheets, pillows, comforters and blankets, had been an online-only seller since its inception in late 2014. Co-founders/husband-and-wife duo Rich and Vicki Fulop launched the company on Kickstarter, and within two years grew it to $25 million in revenue. But in late 2018, the retailer found a “great real estate opportunity that we couldn’t ignore and we had to jump on it,” and decided that it was a necessary move to get a minimum number of viable products in front of its audience.
“It all came together very quickly,” Rich Fulop said in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “We had our eyes on a physical retail execution for a long time, and we knew the holiday season would really be the best time to get a sample of the shopper’s appetite. Carrying inventory at our one retail location and all of our future relocations was absolutely imperative to us. We didn’t want to go with the showroom model where we would just ship from a warehouse. We wanted people to be able to take away.”
Brooklinen partnered with Stitch Labs, a retail operations management platform, both to build the pop-up and, ultimately, to learn more about what its customers wanted, what its customer experience should involve, and even how much space and inventory were necessary to operate a brick-and-mortar store. Like many of its online-only counterparts, Brooklinen’s decision to open the pop-up shop came down to being where the customers are, according to Fulop. He noted that whether it’s on Google or through social platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest, it’s all about establishing a presence in front of consumers.
“As the brand has grown and evolved, it has to manifest and grow itself in a physical way,” Fulop said. “We have a much wider breadth of products now than we did even a year again, and much more than two years ago, so it was really an opportunity to showcase that we’re not just a one-trick pony.”
Pop-Up Motivates Inventory Centralization Efforts
To get a pop-up store off the ground, the DTC brand needed to create a centralized replenishment workflow for the entire Brooklinen team.On the operational side, Stitch Labs specifically helped Brooklinen sync its inventory across its e-Commerce platform, warehouse management system and POS solution, so as to not disrupt other areas of its business. Fulop noted that at the time, Brooklinen didn’t have a specific executive in place to head up physical retail, nor did they have a visual merchandiser or a retail operations team.
“We had multiple warehouses that we shipped from, with a pretty complex logistics and supply chain setup between our freight carriers, our shipment carriers and so on,” said Fulop. “We needed some software that could take it to the next level and work well with our infrastructure, to execute on our ideas on how we wanted to run the back end of our business.”
One of the biggest challenges upon opening the pop-up store was understanding how to build a workflow that would allow customers to order a product in-store and have it shipped to their home, or automatically fulfill from the store if the items were in stock. Because the pop-up store doesn’t carry all 2,000 of its SKUs, Brooklinen wanted to acknowledge each customer’s request in a timely manner.By partnering with Stitch Labs, Brooklinen could connect its various disparate sales channels while ensuring that the pop-up store would open on time.
Many Shoppers Were Already Brand-Aware And Ready To Buy
Upon opening the pop-up, Brooklinen discovered that many of the shoppers entering the store already had known about the brand in the first place and came on with an intent to buy.
“If you think about our price point and our categories, it’s not like you’re strolling by and then you suddenly decide to buy a few hundred dollars’ worth of pillows,” Fulop said. “You come there because you were looking for the best pillows. You’ve been wanting to purchase from this brand and now’s your opportunity to interact with it.”
The pop-up store remained open for nearly four months, until late February 2019. The company has since extracted learnings from the SoHo location to further develop its physical store expansion aspirations, which are to “open many stores nationwide,” said Fulop. Given that Brooklinen has achieved much of its success in dense urban areas, Fulop sees many opportunities for the DTC brand in metropolitan markets going ahead.