What is WSS’ identity?
We’re ‘city specialty.’ Our stores are 12,000 sq. ft. to 14,000 sq. ft., operated exclusively in [urban] neighborhoods. That makes us unique. We’re not comparable to big-box businesses because we are almost exclusively footwear. For example, at Villa, a chain that we’re compared with, shoes support the clothing. We also have a high-low pricing strategy, so if you’re looking for a $20 shoe you’re going to wear three times, we’ve got it. If you’re looking for the latest Jordan retro launch, we’ve got that, too.
How do you differ from both national chains and influential sneaker shops?
We’re able to offer a footwear selection for the entire family. Boutiques operate out of smaller stores and focus on higher-end shoes, so they aren’t a place for the family. They’re a place for sneakerheads to look for a particular shoe. Foot Locker’s stores are smaller and tend to carry the better, high-end selection – also not family-friendly. They have access to products we don’t have, but our neighborhood customers are not necessarily looking for that product.
You recently spent $5 million to open a flagship in L.A.’s historic Young’s Market. What’s the goal for that location?
We want to expand our influence to not only attract our core Hispanic demographic west of downtown L.A. but also the young, urban professionals living and working in downtown L.A.. Our marketing will target folks who haven’t traditionally been WSS customers.
The flagship features a Jordan Brand retail concept. Why was the important?
Jordan doesn’t sell product to everybody. There’s a unique subset that has access to the product. Within that subset, it gives us a special point of differentiation. It’s about upgrading the consumer experience: When you walk into that flagship store, it makes a huge statement to people. It’s one of a number of tactics we’re doing to upgrade the experience for our customers.
Are more stores planned?
We’re expanding in concentric circles from our core, which is Southern California. We’re working our way up to Sacramento through the San Jose-San Francisco area. Last year, we built our first store in Las Vegas and we’re now getting ready to open our third and fourth stores there later this year. We are actively looking at sites in Arizona and will begin scouting sites in Texas next year.