E commerce continues to show double-digit growth, according to surveys. But two Palm Beach entrepreneurs are betting that brick-and-mortar retail can still thrive with a little creative thinking.
They aim to blend the digital with the physical in their new shop at the Esplanade on Worth Avenue — Launch Pad. The store, opening Tuesday, will feature a rotating product line comprised largely from companies — both local and national — that have relied on Internet sales.
“There’s been a lack of cutting-edge choices” in Palm Beach, said Nicole Munder, who co-founded Launch Pad along with her partner, Katherine Lande. “There are so many emerging brands that don’t have the luxury to take up brick-and-mortar space. We give them access to this demographic. We thought it would be a good time to introduce something experiential, and this is where retail is beginning to trend.
“Our space will look like a living room, with a dining room table and a bar. We want to welcome customers with a full experience.”
Launch Pad’s November-December calendar features more than a dozen retailers that ordinarily would be found only online, plus four “semi-permanent” vendors such as Circa Who in West Palm Beach, a seller of vintage furniture. The furniture is used in Launch Pad as part of its “living room” look but will all be for sale. When one piece goes out, another will come in.
“The space changes like an art gallery,” Munder said.
From Nov. 24 to Dec. 2, three retailers will be setting up shop in the 1,600-square-foot space including La Ligne — fashions “based on the classic stripe,” according to Lande.
At the same time, Lande and Munder will bring in “Cover Swim” — a company that sells “sun-conscious swimwear,” Munder said. “It isn’t your traditional bikini. It’s stylized swim guards, leggings — items you can wear in the sun and have full protection and still look chic.”
The same week, an online magazine and e-commerce site called the Editorialist will sell accessories, jewelry and handbags.
For Kelly Rooney, founder of the online jewelry and accessories store Josephine Alexander Collective, displaying her products at Launch Pad on Dec. 3-10 will mean exposure in a new segment of the market.
“It’s going to be a different kind of traffic,” said Rooney, who lives in Juno Beach. “It’s good to showcase your products to a customer base that you wouldn’t ordinarily have. I’m a huge online shopper, which is why I sell online; but I know a lot of people are traditional and they want to see it, feel it, try it on before they take that jump and buy it.”
Brick-and-mortar retail, she said, will never go away because “it’s a social thing. The reason I enjoy going to stores is the same reason I like going to restaurants — you go out, you see people. Online shopping for me is a time thing. Even if I’m sitting on a plane, it gives me a chance to check things off my to-do list.”
Physical retail and e-commerce will always be competitors, she said, “but I think they each have their own place.”
Palm Beach jewelry designer Allegra Fanjul Garcia-Velez, who owns the online store Very Allegra, will be a repeat vendor at Launch Pad. In an email, she said she hopes the shop “will open a new channel of my business.” Most of her sales have been online and at trunk shows, she said, and this will allow her to “personally connect” with customers.
Other themed presentations may run for three weeks or just a day or two, Munder said. “But the whole idea is that every week the store feels a little different.”
Vendors may pay a flat fee for appearing at the store, or a percentage of the sales might go to Launch Pad. “It’s similar to a trunk show model,” said Lande. “We design a package for the vendor.”
Over the Christmas holiday period, an e-retailer called Orchard Mile will be featured. The business was recently described as “a luxury digital mall” by Forbes magazine. Offering more than 150 contemporary and designer brands, it has partnered with other digital retailers in order to give shoppers a chance to buy online without jumping to other websites.
“Clearly they’re missing some of the benefits of brick and mortar, because they’ve booked with us for four weeks,” Munder said. “They will be rotating their merchandise every week.”
The owners say they would like Launch Pad to become “a destination” in town, a place for people to stop in for a drink or a cup of coffee and relax while their friends might be shopping at other stores.
The schedule of vendors runs through December and new calendars will be issued through the season, but Munder and Lande — who have backgrounds at Vogue magazine and Palm Beach Illustrated, respectively — plan to be around long-term.
“We have plans for the summer, but we don’t want to announce them yet,” Munder said. “We don’t want to be a pop-up store.”