This Digital-Native Shoe Brand Is Using Stores for the Customer Feedback

While traditional brick-and-mortar retailers are investing in their online platforms, a number of digitally native brands have been doing the reverse and expanding into physical locations. At Soludos, the opening of its pop-up shop in Soho last year revealed a new opportunity for the brand: access to customer feedback in real-time. Now, the brand has just added two more stores and made Soho a permanent outpost.

“It was fascinating for the whole team and myself to spend time in the Soho shop and meet our customer, to see what she likes about certain styles and what we can improve on others,” said Nick Brown, founder and CEO at Soludos. “To get that feedback to inform design, and inform the business categories that we’re looking at, has been fantastic.”

Although there have been many recent reports of store closings, the overall retail real estate outlook for 2019 has been positive, according to CBRE. The brokerage firm has forecast significant investment into store locations throughout the year, as companies pursue a successful omnichannel strategy.

The latest Soludos additions are in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and on Abbot Kinney in Los Angeles. And the brand said these locations were an obvious choice as that’s where its customers are.

“Williamsburg and Abbot Kinney are literally a dream for established and trendy startups,” said Joseph Aquino, president of brokerage company JAACRES, which was not involved in the Soludos deals. “Rents in both markets range from $150 to 200 per square foot. You can find everything from established brands like Adidas and MAC Studio to internet players-turned-brick and mortar stores such as Warby Parker.”

Soludos LA Store Display
The Soludos range includes its signature espadrilles, sandals and mules, which are well-suited to LA’s warm climate.
CREDIT: Lisa Raphael, Soludos

When setting up Soludos’ outposts, Brown wanted to ensure that the customer experience in each store was personal yet cohesive. Each space has approximately the same square footage and layout as Soho — consisting of a central seating area with displays along the walls — but there are unique color schemes for each location; Soho has yellow touches, while L.A. is mostly white. The tiles in the stores are all imported from Mexico, while the fabrics are handwoven in Oaxaca, to play into the customer’s love of travel.

The Williamsburg location will also be home to the brand’s first Customization Station — a service that is already available online. Shoppers can opt to customize a pair of smoking slippers or mules with embroidered patches and slogans. And in-store, they also will be able to play around with these styles in-person before submitting their final choice digitally and receiving their item in two weeks.

“We’re really fortunate to have a large community of very engaged customers who are sending us [customization] requests, so this seemed like such a natural growth of that,” said Brown. “Later on, we’ll have new artwork, new fonts and new designer collaborations; we don’t want it to be static.”

Opening physical retail has presented some challenges for the brand, though, such as managing inventory and supply chains during busy summer periods. Still, Brown believes there is a lot of opportunity to be found in brick-and-mortar. In response to customer feedback, Soludos recently launched the Ashore, a fully sustainable sneaker, and next up will be a new range of apparel, to be available in Williamsburg and online in the coming weeks.

Watch the video below to see top footwear players share more advice about the industry:

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