Specialty chain Flip Flop Shops, owned by Cherokee Global Brands, recently debuted its first “floating retail concept” at Stonebriar Centre in the Dallas suburb of Frisco, Texas.
The 240-square-foot standalone unit, which is shaped to resemble a flip-flop, is situated in one of the mall’s common areas and incorporates many of the features from a standard Flip Flop Shop: There’s the cork floor, the coconut-lotion scent and a selection of styles from brand partners such as Birkenstock, Rainbow, Cobian and Havaianas.
Brian Curin, president of the chain, explained that uncertainty in the marketplace was a key factor in developing the concept. “It was a way to meet the challenges of retail in general,” he said. “Everyone is trying to reinvent themselves and figure out the future of retail, but no one has yet.”
One particular concern is the recent spate of closings among mall anchors like Macy’s. “We have locations in those malls, where we get hit, so we have to figure out if we’re going to suffer through another year of redevelopment of a mall or relocate,” Curin said, adding that relocating an inline shop is significantly expensive.
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Standalone retail spaces and kiosks, by contrast, offer more financial flexibility. Melina Cordero, head of retail research for the Americas at brokerage firm CBRE, pointed out that, like pop-up shops, kiosks come with shorter leasing terms, lower rates and rollover options. And, she added, “Retailers have the chance to test a market before they commit.”
Other footwear companies, such as Keds, have dabbled with standalone concepts in the past, particularly following the economic downturn in 2008. Now, in today’s changing marketplace, they are becoming increasingly appealing to both retailers and landlords.
“Property owners are starting to curate tenants to better meet the needs of their community and create entertainment opportunities, whether that’s with pop-ups or restaurants,” said Stephanie Cegielski, a spokesperson for the International Council of Shopping Centers. “There is a trend away from the single-store retailer format to a broader experience.”
Curin estimated that Flip Flop Shops could open another five to eight floating shops before the end of the year. However, he emphasized that the company is not abandoning brick-and-mortar stores. The chain has 90 inline stores in operation, with another 100 in the pipeline. “This is not a replacement but a way to balance out our portfolio,” he said.
And with the help of parent Cherokee Global Brands, the chain continues to target international growth. Flip Flop Shops has franchises in South Africa, the Middle East, Canada and the Caribbean, and will soon enter the Australia and New Zealand markets. “This year our plan is to expand to parts of Asia and potentially Europe as well,” said Curin.
Other growth initiatives include the launch of an e-commerce platform in February. In May, the brand will debut its first private-label collection under the name Everyday California. The line, created in partnership with Cobian, includes five styles for men and women, priced from $24 to $44.
Despite larger market uncertainties, Curin said Flip Flop Shops is in a strong position: “We have positive comps year-to-date, we’re opening doors. We’re feeling pretty damn lucky.”
* This article has been changed from a print version to correct the square footage and list of vendors.