Fashion brand Bebe just announced it is shutting down its retail presence and focusing entirely on e-commerce after losing $200 million over the last four years. It is following in the footsteps of brands like American Apparel, Wet Seal, and the Limited.
In the midst of this harsh retail environment, I’m always surprised to hear about brands whose brick and mortar stores are driving the business forward. One such brand is Eberjey, which launched in 1996, but only opened its first retail store five years ago. That store did so well, it will have a total of five by the end of this year (including it’s first New York store).
Mariela Rovito, cofounder and president, attributes this success to an obsessive attention to customer experience. This means tailoring the clientele in each and lighting candles, like you would in your home. But mostly, it means training store representatives. “We ask our staff to treat each customer as a guest in their house, and we mean this literally,” she says. “Would you give your guest a glass of water when they come through the door? Would you talk their ear off if all they wanted was to come and hang out?”
Employees are also encouraged to always try to accommodate customer requests as much as humanly possible. Last week, one customer came to the with an elaborate plan to surprise his significant other with a scavenger-hunt-like experience that required the help of the staff. They immediately agreed. Rovito believes that each customer that has a superlative experience will advocate for the brand and, so far, that’s proven true.