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Editor's pick Retail

Heist opens first physical store, inspired by e-commerce

Heist Studios
Heist Studios

Heist Studios is opening its first temporary brick and mortar space in London, and it’s taking its cues from how customers have shopped online to do so.

Since launching in 2015, the direct-to-consumer (DTC) hosiery brand has held its community at the heart of everything it does – from its R&D process to advertising campaigns. With the launch of its first ever physical space, called the DemoStudio, it is taking learnings from online into the real world. For example, store associates will be trained by Heist’s existing online customer service team, who has been interacting with shoppers since the beginning.

“Until now, Heist has only ever existed online,” said Joanna Bell, head of retail for the brand. “When we made the decision to open a store, we had to ask ourselves, what does Heist look like in person? How do our brand, values and offering translate?”

Excelling in customer service is an overarching characteristic many successful DTC brands have. For this store, customers will also be able to try-before-they-buy, which is a feature already offered on its site, and a hosiery industry first. Similarly most other DTC brands, from mattresses to luggage, offer a ‘100 day guarantee or your money back’ scheme to encourage customers to take the plunge and buy from a new player in the industry.

At the DemoStudio, unwanted tights from the try-before-you-buy experience will be donated to Smart Works, a charity that provides interview clothing and coaching to long-term unemployed women hoping to enter the workplace. Customers will also be able to drop off any interview-ready clothing donations in-store. The brand is encouraging the activity on its Instagram page, where it gives customers tips on what clothing is appropriate to donate.

Heist Studios
Heist Studios

The Heist DemoStudio will be open from September 8th until January 4th in the Seven Dials area of Covent Garden in London, which is also where luggage brand Away opened its first ever international store last week. As retail experts and the media declare the death of the high street, the opening of two DTC stores in the same neighborhood is an indication that reports may often be exaggerated.

“The highstreet is not dying. Brands that fail to evolve are,” adds Bell. “We see an exciting future on the high street for brands to grow stronger by bringing the best of both online and offline worlds together to improve customer experience.”

Earlier this summer, we also spoke to Jen Rubio, president and co-founder of Away, for TheCurrent Innovators podcast, where she talked about the industry’s radical shift in physical retail. As legacy brands and mega stores shutter, the real estate industry is increasingly opening up to the idea of new players who often enter the field by hosting pop-ups to measure demand – which is part of the strategy for both Away and Heist – to then launch permanent brick and mortar spaces thereafter.

Also previously featured on the podcast is Toby Darbyshire, CEO of Heist Studios, who spoke about the importance of community and inclusivity when innovating in tights.

How are you thinking about retail innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so.TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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Editor's pick Podcast product Retail Startups

Away luggage on going beyond the VC hype

Jen Rubio and Liz Bacelar
Jen Rubio and Liz Bacelar

Direct-to-consumer brands don’t often live up to the hype placed on them by endless amounts of VC funding and Silicon Valley fandom, says Jen Rubio, co-founder of travel brand Away, on the latest episode of TheCurrent Innovators podcast.

Speaking to Liz Bacelar, founder of TheCurrent, at the British Fashion Council’s annual Fashion Forum in London, Rubio explains that from its inception in 2016, she and her co-founder Steph Korey (who she met while both working at Warby Parker), were careful not to run their business like a lot of other brands in the space.

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“If you go back in time a little bit, a lot of new brands and e-commerce companies were positioning themselves as tech companies and raising a lot of VC money at tech valuations that would never live up to the public market at how retail companies are valued, and then run into the trouble of needing these stores and claiming they are a retail company and not a tech one,” she explains. “We saw a lot of this happening in the industry and from the beginning Steph and I said, this is not how we are going to run our business.

After pitching Away as a brand aiming to make travel more seamless, as opposed to simply making luggage, the business famously received a first round of investment before even having a physical product, for instance.

From the lightbulb moment for the brand’s concept through to its launch, Away spoke to over 800 people about what elements would make the perfect suitcase. It is that open approach to constant feedback that it continues to focus on to this day – helping to inform its product collaborations, new features and color palettes, and even locations for pop-ups and permanent retail spaces.

In this conversation, Rubio also tells Liz how its first major hurdle – airline regulation that meant their smart suitcase was no longer allowed onboard – was an important opportunity to strengthen the relationship with Away customers; how retail landlords are finally giving non-legacy brands a chance; and why understanding your consumer is key to constant innovation.

Catch up with all of our episodes of TheCurrent Innovators here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by TheCurrent, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.