Previously an online-only merchant of trendy women’s clothing and accessories, Girlshop opened its first store in March 2005 in New York’s Meatpacking District. Multichannel Merchant’s Heather Retzlaff visited the store earlier this year to talk with Girlshop CEO/creative director Laura Eisman about the challenges of retail.
Multichannel Merchant: How did Girlshop get started?
Laura Eisman: It started online in 1998. My background is graphic design/art direction, and I was involved in several launches of magazines and Websites, so I sort of had the skills to launch my own my site.
MCM: When did you add [men’s site] Guyshop and [children’s site] Totshop?
Eisman: I’d say within a year and a half. Guyshop came first, then Totshop about another year and a half after Guyshop.
MCM: How did you go from virtual to brick-and-mortar?
Eisman: My husband was actually the one who was really into a retail store. I wasn’t honestly 100%. Now I am. But I think for us — for me, anyway — it was a matter of finding the right place… We knew we needed to be in an energetic, up-and-coming neighborhood.
MCM: How long did it take you to find a retail location?
Eisman: We looked maybe a year and half.
MCM: Why did you open a store and not launch a print catalog?
Eisman: We’ve considered a catalog, but it’s very costly from what I hear. Maybe one day we’ll do a catalog, because I do think it could generate some business. But our goal [with the store] was to come to life.
MCM: Do you sell different merchandise online and in the store?
Eisman: It’s a little different. We have a lot more merchandise and many more lines online. I’d say maybe 60% of what’s online is in the store.
MCM: What challenges have you faced with opening the store?
Eisman: I think that it’s probably going to be turnover. Online we’ve had the same staff the whole time, for the most part, and people are really passionate about the brand and working hard to make it a success. I think the nature of retail is that there are not a lot of career salespeople.
MCM: Do you have trouble balancing inventory between the Website and the store?
Eisman: We move it back and forth quite often. It’s actually a good situation for us because now I have two outlets to sell the merchandise as opposed to one. So if something’s not doing well on the site and it is doing well here, we’ll transfer it here and vice versa.
MCM: Are there any similarities between designing the store layout and the site layout?
Eisman: It’s totally different. Online we’re designing with designer boutiques so that each page is merchandised well but only by designer. Here in the store we’re making outfits and combining lines a lot more; that’s how we merchandise. It’s also very seasonal [in the store].