Pop-Up Mall Concept Turns Permanent
What started as a month-long pop-up shop for Los Angeles–based contemporary brand XCVI has become a chain of seven stores across California with plans to expand.
“We started with one shop in Thousand Oaks in 2012. It was a full-on experiment,” said Daniela Zeltzer, XCVI’s marketing and communications director.
The store remained open for a month, then XCVI took the concept to Santa Barbara. In February, the company returned to Thousand Oaks to open a permanent store at The Oaks shopping mall, and next month the Santa Barbara store will move to a new location in La Cumbre Plaza.
XCVI’s other California stores are at The Shops at Mission Viejo in Mission Viejo, Fashion Island in Newport Beach,
Stoneridge in Pleasanton, Hillsdale in San Mateo and Hollywood & Highland in Los Angeles. The company has also tested the concept at Santa Monica Place and Westfield Topanga, as well as one outside California at Pioneer Place in Portland, Ore.
Dubbed “traveling stores,” the XCVI boutiques are located in shopping centers, are typically about 3,000 square feet and remain open for anywhere from a year to two.
“We’re not considered permanent because we don’t have such long leases,” Zeltzer said. “We like the idea of dabbling in the market, seeing where our customer is and meeting the women. If it works, it turns into a permanent space.”
Zeltzer said the company wanted to find a way to boost its presence in shopping malls and showcase the full scope of XCVI’s collection.
“We are finding that there’s more and more demand for our brand, but mall stores and, in particular, department stores are buying it very differently. They are focusing on items,” she said. “In order for us to really show our line the way we want it to look and to show how comprehensive and versatile it is, it’s really up to us to open our own mall stores and have that mall presence to tell our story.”
At each retail location, the company also brings in local artisan jewelry lines and local art. If XCVI also sells to a specialty boutique in the area, the company will cross promote merchandise to try to drive traffic to the boutique, as well. For example, Zeltzer said, shoppers at an XCVI mall store might receive a discount coupon to buy XCVI merchandise at a local retailer.
“We do still have a thriving specialty boutique business,” she said. “Obviously, we don’t want to compete with them, we just want to have a better presence in malls.”
The mall stores introduce the mall shopper to the XCVI brand, and the cross promotion introduces her to the specialty boutiques, as well, Zeltzer said.
The company is finding that the mall stores are also driving traffic to the XCVI e-commerce site (www.xcvi.com).
“Our line is huge,” Zeltzer said. “Even when we work with our specialty boutiques, they have limited budgets and they can’t buy every item in every color.”
Return to retail
The XCVI traveling stores are a return to retail for the brand, which launched in 1996 after founders Gita and Marik Zeltzer decided to launch their own clothing line from the back room of Better Be Wear, their retail store on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. Eventually, they opened a second store carrying only XCVI merchandise and began wholesaling the brand, as well. As the wholesale side of the business grew, the Zeltzers closed the stores to focus on manufacturing. These days, Daniela Zeltzer and her brother, Alon Zeltzer, have taken the reins from their parents in running the business, which includes the branded XCVI division and The Trend Chasers, a separate division focusing on full-package production from design development though production.
With much of XCVI’s production based in Los Angeles, the company is able to quickly deliver merchandise to the traveling stores.
“If a store is doing well with a certain top, we’re able to replenish that immediately,” Daniela Zeltzer said. “That’s an advantage to being your own manufacturer.”
The company can also create special capsule collections for each store, and inventory is replenished weekly.
“Retail is a hard business,” Zeltzer said. “We know that from our own retail customers. But I think we’re at an advantage because we have a brand and loyal following and we’re making new styles. It’s a little bit easier for us. Now that it works, we say it’s a no-brainer.”
Brand building coast to coast
Although all of XCVI’s traveling stores are based in California, the company has its eye on other markets.
“We are looking to expand to Arizona and make our way through the Southwest and hopefully make it to the East Coast at some point,” Zeltzer said. “We’ve had a lot of requests. We’d love to open shops all over the country.”
In addition to courting the mall shopper and helping drive traffic to its specialty boutiques, the XCVI traveling stores help the company build the brand and refine its message. This is a strategy XCVI has been pursuing since it began showing its collection on the runway at Los Angeles Fashion Week.
“We’re doing a lot more of our own talking,” Zeltzer said. “We relied so much in the past on having other retailers tell the story and show our line the way they understood it. It did well, but we think we can express it more fully. We’re able to really tell the full story through the runway shows and [the retail stores] and marketing to the consumer directly.”