Vionic Footwear is a high-quality brand of men’s and women’s casual and dress fashion footwear. Their mantra is Style shouldn’t hurt.
The company, which was founded by two podiatrists about twenty years ago, designs and sells quality footwear that is engineered for comfort and fit as well as fashion. The products are sold through their own website, www.vionicshoes.com, and through better retailers throughout the US and some locations abroad. (Take a look at the website; you will like what you see).
As I reported last holiday season, it seemed a natural extension of the brand to open their own direct-to-consumer store. And they did, in November in the Westfield San Francisco Centre. The store just closed in April. So one might conclude that it was not a success—but that is just not the whole story.
Vionic’s Success Story
There were many benefits to their store, though not all of them are immediately apparent. First, and perhaps most important, the company hired some great talent to manage the store, and those individuals ended up staying with the company in positions at the corporate headquarters in Marin County (just north of San Francisco).
Second, there were huge benefits to interacting directly with the end consumers. The feedback from customers resulted in very direct changes to design, construction, and assortment content. Things like fit, color, and the relative ratio of different segments of the line were all carefully considered.
And third, Vionic was able to establish a stronger relationship with a whole new population of customers. They captured contact information to build their direct mail list and for social media connections. This contributes to strengthening channel integration. Through a direct in-person contact, the brand can extend its relationship through social media, the website, and wholesale distributors.
Finally, a physical brick-and-motor store is a great laboratory to test display systems, visual presentation concepts, and stock management processes.
Vionic’s experiment in the Westfield San Francisco Centre follows a major trend going on in the retail industry at present, and that is the growth of temporary stores, also called “pop-ups.” These can last for a month, a couple of months, or a year or more. A brand can realize all kinds of benefits beyond just making money—just as Vionic did.