Ivan Rivera is doing what he loves and doesn’t care what other people have to say about it. And it’s that no-nonsense spirit that drives the children’s clothing company he started with his fiancée, Khristy Hill, after their son was born in 2014.
“I’ve always been influenced by streetwear and hip hop, and I didn’t see why my kid couldn’t dress the same way,” Ivan says.
He started designing onesies and shirts he thought would look “dope” on his son, and soon it seemed like everyone was asking him to make similar clothes for their kids, too. Khristy and Ivan knew they were onto something, so they decided to take a chance on turning their idea into Little Giants | Giant Shorties. From onesies to sippy cups, they sell products that parents who grew up listening to hip hop can relate to. (According to their website, “Soccer moms won’t like us and that’s peace!”)
Since they started the company, Ivan’s goal has been to open small brick-and-mortar locations to accompany their e-commerce store. “Almost every streetwear company has a physical store, and I really wanted to add that piece to our brand,” he says. And this past June, they finally had a soft opening for their first store in Brooklyn.
In our previous post, we explained how UOI Boutique rebranded their brick-and-mortar business and launched an online store. Today, we’ll share Ivan’s experience of opening a physical store to accompany his e-commerce business. Here’s what he’s learned so far.
Practice with a pop-up
Pop-up retail is a rising trend that allows businesses to rent a short-term sales space to help boost brand awareness and build a local following. As traditional retail stores continue to shutter and more web-based businesses are looking to add a physical space to sell their products, pop-ups seem like a viable solution.
“We learned a lot of lessons about opening a store from a pop-up we ran for 4 months,” Ivan says.
Ivan and Khristy worked with a Brooklyn-based real estate company that specializes in short-term lease spaces to find the right location, and they did a lot of research on what makes a pop-up store successful.
“In that short time, we realized that we could have our own store. It also showed us all the things we would have to figure out,” he says.
After some trial runs, they decided to use Square as their point-of-sale software, since it integrates well with their e-commerce database WooCommerce. They also learned how to merchandise a retail space and create inviting displays. And, most importantly, they found the right formula for a worthwhile in-store customer experience.
“The number-one thing I would suggest to anyone who wants to open a brick-and-mortar store is to do one or two pop-ups.”
Start with what you already know
With a thriving e-commerce store and prominent social media presence, Ivan says they’re not exactly starting from scratch. “We’re trying to use what we’ve learned from online marketing and translate it to a physical space.”
For one, email is still integral to how they communicate with their customers. They want to up their email marketing game by sending campaigns once a week instead of once a month and experiment with different types of automations that can help them generate revenue they’d otherwise be missing out on.
Ivan also continues to grow his list offline by using MailChimp Subscribe in the store, so people can sign up for email marketing at the cash register and receive the same 15%-off promo code—that can be used online or in-store—in a welcome automation that e-commerce customers receive.
“I’d say 9 out of 10 people jump at the chance to be added to the list to get the discount,” he says. “But I’m hoping that our online-only products will make them want to stay subscribed.”
To help drive traffic to both their physical store and website, Ivan advertises products that are exclusive to each, like a “New York Litty” shirt that’s only available in the brick and mortar. “We want to make some localized pieces for the store that it wouldn’t make sense to sell online,” he says.
But varying their selection is also meant to make visiting the store more worthwhile. “If someone comes into the store and sees that we’re selling the same stuff that we do online, they’ll feel like they wasted their time coming to see us.”
Don’t wait until you feel ready
“We opened our store without being 100% ready because we didn’t want to waste time planning every little thing,” Ivan says. “Because this is our first brick-and-mortar location, we just wanted to get started so we could iron out any issues and get some feedback while making money.”
They had a soft opening for the store, quietly introducing their brand to Brooklyn’s City Point building, and are relying on foot traffic and word of mouth until they’re ready to invite a wider audience to a grand opening.
When they start doing more advertising for the brick and mortar, Ivan wants to find new ways to use MailChimp to spread the word, like sharing updates and stories about expanding their small family business.
“I think we’ve found our voice. I don’t really know how to describe it, but I know how to speak it well.”