On any given day at Extra Butter’s New York City location on the Lower East Side, you’ll see both male and female sneaker addicts from the city and out of town perusing the store, stalking the Adidas, Nike and Asics silhouettes on the walls and relaxing in the store’s movie theatre-like lobby.
Sneakers have become a hot commodity for shoe retailers these days, especially for market experts like Extra Butter. But since opening his first location eight years ago, co-owner Jason Faustino said the customer base hasn’t changed that much. It’s just grown — a lot.
“The past few years have brought more of a variety of customer. We’ve had more women, and the market has a lot to do with that,” said Faustino, adding that Extra Butter’s sales this year are up 48 percent from 2014.
But Faustino and his partners — Nick and Ankur Amin of Renarts — certainly deserve the lion’s share of credit for the chain’s success. The first Extra Butter shop, on Long Island
in Rockville Centre, N.Y. — and the second one, the NYC store, which opened in 2013 — gained early popularity because of their kitschy movie-themed aesthetics.
But maintaining strong growth has required business and merchandising savvy as well.
“We’re always trying to strengthen internally, to grow into a more solidified organization, to get all the moving parts on our back end, our web store, logistically up to speed,” said Faustino.
Understanding the consumer is another priority for the retailer. “We have to pay stronger attention to the buying patterns of our customers at each store because they are different — the Lower East Side has a lot more variety of customers and is a bigger space, so we can offer more of a range,” he said.
One of the clearest points of differentiation is Extra Butter’s marketing efforts. Faustino and his team make a point of meticulously illustrating the stories behind its brand collaborations through promotional endeavors.
Earlier this year, the team toured the city in a custom Halal food truck for the Reebok Street Meat collaboration, and they also created a scavenger hunt for customers interested in
buying the Adidas Vanguard Collection before its release date.
“The culture, the sneaker-boutique business, all the creative stuff happening in our niche market — they started from being different,” said Faustino. “I want to keep true to the culture’s roots and do something exciting and get back to the most important thing in all of this: the experience.”
Extra Butter’s storytelling abilities and brand loyalty have impressed its vendors. “They have a clear point of view for all of their collaborations, which always ties back to the store and their general aesthetic,” said Kyle Anglin, director of sales at Reebok. “Many retailers get caught up in showcasing their own brand, but Extra Butter works with vendors to be truly collaborative in a positive way for both parties.”
Running a growing business does have its challenges, though, especially in managing personnel. Faustino pointed out that Extra Butter’s staff has ballooned from four or five people working in Rockville Centre to about 20 split between the two locations.
“It’s a big change and an adjustment to get used to everyone and get everyone in the same mindset and approach for work,” he said. “A lot of people coming into this business are not really aware of what they’re in for — how much work goes into what we do day-to-day.”
Faustino devotes much of his efforts to the Manhattan store. “I don’t spend as much time in Rockville Centre as I’d like,” he said. “It doesn’t get as many opportunities to do activations because brands want to do them in a high-traffic area with visibility, like the Lower East Side.”
While Extra Butter made a name for itself with brand collaborations, the retailer will slow the number of releases for spring ’16 and beyond — but not because the market is oversaturated, as many people suggest. Faustino believes there’s a different problem that is making collabs less desirable.
“There are too many weak ones that follow a formula, with lame stories — that’s what needs to be cut down,” he said. “When someone has a good story and can create a good product, I don’t see why there can’t be one every week. The last few years, every week we’ve been stacked with not just one collab but multiple, [and] if they’re good, they sell.”
For other next steps, Extra Butter has considered opening a third location, but the owners maintain they’re in no rush to add a shop elsewhere. And if they do open another business, it might not even be a sneaker store. “What could stop us from opening a movie theater or a place with food, burgers or desserts? Or a video store? We can take that route and not compromise [our identity],” Faustino said. “A sneaker boutique can develop as a brand because you’re not just selling sneakers, you’re selling a lifestyle. And that allows flexibility to grow in different directions.”
[Editor’s Note: This story first appeared in print 11/16/15]