At a time when myriad players in the fashion stratosphere are pruning back their bloated brick-and-mortar bases, one purveyor of women’s apparel is moving in the opposite direction.
Boston-based Nic+Zoe opened three new stores in May and June after temporarily tapping the brakes on expansion plans it had put in place prior to the coronavirus shutting down the economy halfway through March. A new Charlottesville, Va., location and Denver outpost join a popup shop that led to a permanent store in the Boston suburb of Hingham, Mass., bringing Nic+Zoe’s store count to 11.
According to vice president of direct sales Kerrie McLellan, Nic+Zoe has reimagined the shopping experience with a priority focus on health and safety.
“It’s exciting to get the new stores open and we recognize that it’s a different world,” McLellan told Sourcing Journal of the women’s wear company founded by Dorian Lightbown in 2006. “With that in mind, we are providing a shopping experience in all of our locations that caters to our customers.”
Many consumers harbor concerns about shopping in the store environment, which could expose them to the coronavirus in any number of ways. Nic+Zoe is proactively addressing shopper anxieties by offering private in-store appointments, accepting orders by phone and encouraging cautious customers to pick up purchases through its contactless curbside service. The Nic+Zoe website has remained open throughout the pandemic.
“Given the current climate we are hyper-focused on creating a safe environment,” she said. “We have taken the necessary steps to enhance cleaning protocols, wearing and requiring masks, moving to contactless payment, and providing hand sanitizer to customers.”
Founded on the premise of creating the “the perfect sweater” and leveraging Lightbown’s experience in knitwear as vice president of design for Liz Claiborne, Nic+Zoe has steadily added new categories, ranging from premium denim, footwear and jewelry to accessories and “essential foundation pieces.”
Nic+Zoe boutiques, McLellan said, are designed to provide “an experience of discovery” that is tailored to each individual location with “found pieces, antiques and curated assortments” catering to local tastes.
Acknowledging quarantined consumers’ changing needs, McLellan noted that Nic+Zoe offers selections for a variety of occasions, including the “above the keyboard” dressing that has become standard on Zoom conferences, as well as BBQs, date nights and beach-side getaways.
With many consumers opting to stay home even as retailers reopen, brands like Nic+Zoe have dived headfirst into new technology like virtual styling appointments to meet the demand for socially distant shopping.
“Our stylists are available to create an experience that makes you most comfortable,” McLellan said, “whether in-store or on video.”