“These stores have been extraordinary in terms of bringing new customers into the brand,” Tim Baxter, chief executive officer of Express, told WWD exclusively, explaining that about half of Express Edit store shoppers are new to the brand; another third are reactivated customers.
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“It’s location, location, location — and convenience,” the CEO said. “The vast majority of our fleet today is traditional mall-based stores. So we’re reaching people in our current [Edit] locations who have just not been exposed to the brand, either because they’re in a luxury mall, and that’s the mall that they shop in and we just weren’t there. Or, because [the Edit location] is on a street, like F Street in Washington, D.C., where they shop and they don’t go to the mall.
“This next group is going to be even more powerful for us, because these consumers likely aren’t going to malls,” he continued. “So we’re going to be able to reach an extraordinary number of new customers in these locations.”
Baxter is referring to the Express Edit store fleet, the brand’s smaller-concept stores that are in busy, off-mall, often pedestrian-friendly locations that quite literally edit the assortment to its market. Washington, D.C., for example, houses more tailored looks, while Westport, Connecticut, has apparel that’s a bit more casual.
In addition to the Connecticut and D.C. locations, there are also Edit shops in Southlake, Texas; Newton, Massachusetts, and a women’s-only Express Edit store in St. Louis.
Now, the retailer plans to more than double its Edit fleet by opening six Edit locations this fall, for a total of 11, including the first men’s-only Edit store in Philadelphia. The latest batch will begin rolling out in September, starting with the SoHo and Flatiron Districts in New York; followed by an Edit store on Boston’s Newbury Street; the men’s-only Edit shop in Philadelphia at the end of October, and two locations in Miami, in the South Beach and Brickell districts.
“We’re taking a very market-based approach for these new six stores,” Baxter said. “Part of the strategy and part of what’s made them so successful is that we are tailoring the assortment to the individual locations and to the preferences of the consumers who are shopping in these particular locations.”
The first men’s-only Edit store will serve as a test run for future men’s-only locations, but the CEO said he’s confident it will do well.
“Our men’s business has been outstanding,” Baxter explained. “We have two Express men’s stores, or [standard size] only-men’s stores, in malls and they are our most productive men’s locations. So we know that he likes to have his own space to shop.
“And we actually have a women’s-only store in St. Louis, which has already become our most productive Express Edit store to date,” Baxter continued. “So we’re confident that we’ll be fairly successful with a men’s-only concept.”
In addition to acquiring new customers, the Edit locations offer a few other benefits, including a more personalized in-store experience and a supplement to the digital business. In fact, the Edit stores have helped grow the e-commerce businesses of surrounding zip codes by way of a halo effect. The smaller-format stores also offer technologies, such as buy online, pick up in store, that make it easier for consumers who are increasingly shopping omnichannel. That helps explain why revenues both in stores and online at parent company Express Inc., which includes the UpWest brand, were up last quarter.
Sales in traditional stores rose 45 percent, year-over-year, while revenues at outlet locations increased 31 percent. Meanwhile, e-commerce demand (which the company defines as gross sales from the online and app businesses, excluding products returned to stores) also grew during the quarter, up 21 percent, year-over-year. The firm set a target of $1 billion in e-commerce revenues by 2024.
Baxter declined to comment on whether there’s been any recent changes in consumer shopping patterns as a result of continued inflation, something a number of retailers, from big-box to specialty stores, have been grappling with in recent weeks. But he did say that, “there has been no price resistance whatsoever from the consumer, based on the value that they’ve seen in our product. Our customer responds to value. It’s not necessarily prices; it’s really value. So we will continue to offer great value and our value will continue to be very, very competitive.”
Express may further expand its Edit real estate fleet in the future.
“We will continue to learn,” Baxter said “This has been a pilot strategy for us and if we continue to see the same kind of results that we’re seeing in our existing five stores, then yes, this is a concept that we’ll continue to roll out very strategically in very specific, targeted locations.
“We’re looking for heavily-trafficked locations and primarily off-mall [locations], although we will continue to look at and go into luxury malls,” he continued. “But primarily high-traffic street locations that offer a very convenient shopping experience for young professionals.”
Express will reveal its latest quarterly earnings results on Aug. 31.
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