Retail Entrepreneur: Going from Online to Off Line & Local: One of the Top Ten New Stores in NYC
This is a guest post by Joanne Wilson, a guest writer for The NextWomen based in New York. She is involved with various startups as an advisor or investor, has also invested in a few restaurants, is an early supporter of the Highline project, and sits on various non-profit boards.
I have followed the retail world as far back as I can remember. Not only did I work in retail in high school and college I have always been into the latest and greatest when it comes to fashion or any trend for that matter. I watched with interest when Erin Crandall opened up a new store, Man and a Woman, at 14 Christopher Street, NYC, this past year. Erin is part of the University of Wisconsin contingency that fills Christopher and Waverly Streets starting with Joseph Leonard, Jeffreys Grocery and even Kettle of Fish.
I believe we are undergoing a shift in the retail space. Either people want to return to supporting their local shops and go somewhere where they feel welcome, or they go online and get a bargain at places like Gilt Group.
Every store seems to be carrying the same merchandise from one end of the world to the other so having a local store that can curate those lines that work for you is key. Although my guess is, that there will be an explosion of new designers entering this space over the next couple of years, as people are becoming more entrepreneurial and following their dreams.
So why go offline when you are selling online?
Erin, who is originally from Madison, Wisconsin started working in Marshall Fields during college and eventually began to work at Bop. Bop was the first and only store that eventually became ShopBop. Erin had a good eye and had been there from the start and eventually became a buyer for their ecommerce site when it launched.
After graduation she helped set up the buying office in NYC and continued to work for ShopBop as they grew. But sometimes good things come to an end and ShopBop was bought by Amazon and everything changed. She continued to work at ShopBop until her contract expired and then spent some time thinking about what is next. She loved the intimacy of Bop and then the growth of ShopBop and didn’t want to work in the large company it became. She missed the feeling of wearing a bunch of different hats and the vibe of a young company.
She did some freelance work for Warby Parker during her hiatus which included a summer at the beach. She knew that what she wanted to do would come to her.
One day it did and she thought I want to take everything I’ve done, loved and learned and open my own store. She had socked enough money away to go out on her own and so she did. As all entrepreneurs find out, particularly those in the retail world, there is a lot of on the job learning to be done. She negotiated a lease, started to buy clothes for the store and began to curate what she wanted the store to look like. Carrying both mens and womens clothing she quickly realized that each item is key. How each piece from one designer works with another piece from another designer is what is needed in a independent store. Slowly building a clientele in the neighborhood and figuring out who that customer is.
Eventually Erin will move again into the ecommerce world but one step at a time. That piece is the next layer on to the business. It must be the right extension of the brand.
Given the nod by the Huffington Post as one of the top ten new stores in NYC this past year to open Erin is definitely making her mark. As a consumer, I like the vibe, the mix and the locals that continue to come back in to see what’s new once a week. In a city that seems so crazy and large, Man and a Woman has made the strip of Christopher Street feel like a small neighborhood.
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