There’s more room for shoes at The Webster’s first West Coast outpost, where the curated luxury boutique’s founder, Laure Heriard Dubreuil, has made footwear and accessories the primary focus of her fourth store.
“I used to say The Webster is my big closet, and now I can have even more of the things I like,” said Dubreuil, about the 4,000-sq.-ft. shop’s opening this month at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, Calif. “I like to do location-specific things special for the area,” Webster added. “Here, I’m focusing a lot on accessories, shoes and little bit less on ready-to-wear. It’s an opportunity to keep the same vibe, but twisting it around.”
Dubreuil — who opened her first Webster location in Miami Beach in 2009 — has been expanding the company’s roster of stores during the past year, opening locations in Bal Harbour, Fla., in 2013, and in Houston prior to the one at South Coast Plaza. “It’s still about the Webster DNA — having some exclusives and capsule collections,” she explained.
Among the major labels and emerging designers stocked at the store are Alexander Wang, Balenciaga, Balmain, Hardy, Proenza Schouler, Off White and Stella McCartney.
The Webster joins South Coast Plaza’s more than 250 luxury boutiques and department stores in a growing hub for affluent Asian shopping tourism, according to the shopping center’s market research, which showed that many of the consumers come from China.
With more than 22 million visitors and net sales that reach $2 billion annually, according to the plaza’s data, the location has been a hot spot for many retailers looking to expand. “I’m always opening in new locations where my clients are asking,” said Dubreuil, who sold to the West Coast through Farfetch and now its own e-commerce site. The retailer is also reaching more Asian consumers than ever before with its online business.
Dubreuil stressed the importance of “organic” and “natural” business initiatives for the Asian consumer, citing her previous study of Mandarin and travel in the region. She recently returned from a tour of Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. “It’s interesting to see how the fashion industry has evolved — how much more daring consumers are, how much more eager they are to learn and discover,” she said. “It’s about having timeless pieces that you can wear over and over again. My way of buying and curating is getting closer to what Chinese consumers are looking for now.”
The Webster continues to expand as the retail landscape undergoes rapid change. “We’re getting into a very saturated market — there are so many stores and brands,” she said of challenges facing luxury retailers. “Also, with social media and the whole see-now, buy-now thing, consumers are overwhelmed with everything going on. In a way that’s good for The Webster because we curate, and consumers can find a very edited selection.”
Footwear sales are “good” at all stores, she said, with Stella McCartney’s platform shoes outperforming other brands. “They launched a few seasons ago, but now it’s a carry-over,” she said. More generally, she said consumers are buying a wider range of styles: “In Miami, we were only selling high heels, but now there are more sneakers and flats — maybe because women want to be more comfortable and you are seeing it more on the runway.”
Looking ahead, Dubreuil said she would continue to rely on her instinct for store expansion — and she’s not in a rush. “I go with my gut — sometimes I’m right, and sometimes I’m wrong,” she said. “[Seven years ago], if I had asked people about opening a store in the middle of South Beach on Collins Avenue, everyone would have said, ‘You’re crazy to put luxury there in Miami.’ ”