Birdies thrived during the COVID-19 pandemic through its direct-to-consumer strategy. Casual slippers and sneakers became all the rage as people stayed at home, and Birdies reaped the rewards online.
But now Bianca Gates and Marisa Sharkey, the brand’s co-founders, are betting on brick-and-mortar with a second store in Los Angeles, which opened today. The debut on Abbot Kinney Blvd. in Venice had originally been slated for 2020, but then the pandemic took hold.
The opening comes four years after Birdies opened its first store, a flagship in San Francisco.
“We get a tremendous amount of insight from our San Francisco store — about how our customers are wearing our product, where they’re going, what they’re looking for, what they would love to have,” said Sharkey. “We have really good ways of incorporating that into our product development, and we want to do that with more people.”
Gates and Sharkey followed the market and a continuing surge of customers in L.A., but they also already had ties to the area since Birdies, founded in 2015, is a title sponsor of the Angel City Football Club, a women’s soccer team based in Los Angeles. (They have plans in the works to tie the two projects together.)
The opening comes as Los Angeles, like many other parts of the country, has seen COVID rates increasing, with new variants spreading quickly. Birdies will follow CDC guidelines and mask mandates with the aim of making in-person shopping as safe as possible. The founders are confident it’s the right time to open the location, with vaccines being readily available and people looking forward to getting together again.
As they embark on expansion, Sharkey and Gates reflected on lessons learned during the past year.
“You have to be flexible and nimble,” said Gates. “At the end of the day, we always have to think it’s about the people that we serve and the people within our organization. If their health and wellness is not top priority, then nothing else is.”
The pair is forging ahead, with plans to open additional locations throughout the U.S. in the next year — assuming the LA opening goes well.
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