RON ROBINSON ERA ENDS
Ron Robinson To Phase Out Bricks-And-Mortar
Pioneering boutique retailer Ron Robinson will be closing his bricks-and-mortar stores by early 2020. His digital shops, www.ronrobinson.com and www.apothia.com, will continue to do business. In a recent email to his vendors, he said that he is not retiring, the shops were thriving financially and relations with landlords were good.
“I am announcing the Farewell Tour of the Ron Robinson retail stores at the end of this year,” Robinson wrote in an emailed announcement dated Aug. 20. His shops reached a 41st anniversary this year. Robinson held back a formal announcement because he did not want it to interfere with or affect Ron Robinson’s annual sale, which takes place in September. He will make an official announcement after Oct. 15.
“We have been fortunate to have reached not only a milestone but a pinnacle in the retail community, and this decision is made while we are at the top of our game,” he wrote in the email.
In the note, Robinson promised that the brand would produce events and new collaborations through the holiday season. He also noted that he was looking forward to spending more time with family and friends and exploring new creative ventures.
“While this decision may come as a shock to some, rest assured it was made with great consideration and intention for the future. In this season of my life, the time feels right to make changes in order to make room for fresh experiences,” the email continued. “Life, as they say, is a journey—not a destination—and I feel myself being pulled more and more toward the new adventures, new ways of reconnecting with family and friends, new ways of expressing my creative vision.”
Robinson’s decision to close his bricks-and-mortar stores is happening during a time of mixed fortunes for physical retail. Los Angeles–headquartered LF Stores announced in August that it would shutter its fleet of 26 physical stores but continue business with its digital channel, www.lfstores.com. Forever 21 forecasted that it would close around 178 stores as part of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy that it declared on Sept. 29.
At the same time, formerly pure-play retailers such as Everlane are expanding their bricks-and-mortar fleets. Everlane opened its third physical shop on Aug. 22 in Los Angeles’ Abbot Kinney neighborhood. On Sept. 12, it also opened a shop in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Syama Meagher, a retail strategist with the consultancy Scaling Retail, said that Ron Robinson shuttering stores could shed light on this moment in retail.
“There is a change of guard in retail, and bricks-and-mortar is feeling the hit the strongest,” she said. “Ron Robinson is one in a string of retailers that is rethinking how they will survive, let alone thrive, in the new retail economy. Unfortunately, just shutting down bricks-and-mortar doesn’t solve the problem. E-commerce advertising is saturated, and simply adding more dollars to that channel won’t increase the market share in a substantial way. We must rethink the future of retail, and the first step is to acknowledge that we have to flip the script on old models.”
End of an era
The closing of bricks-and-mortar Ron Robinson shops marks the end of an era in Los Angeles boutique retailing. Robinson was one of a handful of Los Angeles boutique retailers who started business in the late 1970s and early 1980s, developing boutiques with celebrity followings that became influential around the globe.
These shops continue to hold a prominent place in Los Angeles boutique retail and include Tommy Perse of Maxfield, Mark Werts of American Rag and Robinson’s neighbor on Melrose Avenue, Ron Herman, who runs the self-named Ron Herman stores.
Ron Robinson was a pioneer who helped to develop a unique way of organizing shop floors in Los Angeles fashion, said Bernard G. Jacobs, a fashion stylist and image consultant. Jacobs said that Robinson was the first retailer that he was aware of who developed shops-in-shops. “Now there are boutiques-in-boutiques wherever you go,” Jacobs said.
“Ron Robinson was a leader and a pioneer in making a bridge between new and old designers,” Jacobs said. “He mixed high-end art books with low-end jeans. It was a whole shopping experience when you went to Ron Robinson.”
Robinson’s flagship in Santa Monica, Calif., is scheduled to cease operations by the end of October.
The 5,600-square-foot Ron Robinson shop in the former Fred Segal compound on Los Angeles’ Melrose Avenue will remain open through January. Robinson said that he did not know what tenants would move into his shops after January. But he intends to make the last few weeks of running his physical stores a big party.
On Dec. 5, Robinson will host a farewell event, named the Happy Ending Party, for vendors, customers and those on the company’s email list.
For the holiday-shopping weekends after Dec. 5, he will be hosting Happy Ending Hour. From Thursdays through Saturdays during those weekends, shoppers will be treated to drinks and conversation with Robinson, his staff, as well as designers who sell wares at his shops.
“It’s a chance for me to say thank you to the wonderful people who have supported us throughout the years,” he said. “It’s time to say thank you and farewell during a wonderful time of the year.”
Not slowing down
Robinson promised that he wouldn’t slow down for his last few months of bricks-and-mortar retail. Ron Robinson will be among a handful of stores around the world that will sell Spectacles 3 by Snap Inc. The augmented reality–enabled eyewear from the company behind Snapchat will be available after Nov. 15.
Robinson also will be selling high-end memorabilia such as limited copies of the photography book “Linda McCartney. The Polaroid Diaries,” which are signed by Paul McCartney. Also available will be limited copies of “Before Easter After” by rocker and artist Patti Smith and journalist Lynn Goldsmith, which are signed by Smith and Goldsmith. There will also be images of the moon, which are signed by Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin.
The digital channel www.ronrobinson.com will also will go through a transformation after January. Currently it remains a work in progress. “It will become very personal, very curated,” Robinson said. “It will offer an opportunity to search and share things with people.”
Apothia will continue to develop new product, Robinson said, and will be delivering new candles and fragrances designed with the Missoni fashion house holiday 2019.
At 1 p.m. on Oct. 16, Robinson; Stacy Robinson, his wife and vice president of Ron Robinson Inc.; and veteran buyer Karen Meena will host an open talk on retail at The Reef, which houses the LA Mart, near downtown Los Angeles. Admission will be free with an RSVP.