Sundance Steps Into Store Channel

Sundance Catalog Co. is expanding into retail. Not only did the company on June 22 open a 4,000-sq.-ft. flagship store in Denver; it plans to open 20 more stores during the next four years.

CEO Stephen Gordon says that the stores provide Sundance Catalog Co. an additional channel, one that enables customers to touch and feel the products within a four-wall experience. But Sundance has no plan to scale back its direct business, he says. Rather, the store locations will compliment the catalog and Website.

“I think the key to successful multichannel is to provide customer a reason to buy in both venues,” Gordon says. “The catalog and retail mix is not exactly the same across the board. When a customer sees goods only available in the catalog, they will see a reason to buy there. Direct is a very efficient business, but customers still want the opportunity to touch the product, and acquire it in any means they which.”

The flagship Sundance store is constructed with recycled wood and a design approach that combines rustic and contemporary. Gordon says the store uses all the elements of the Sundance brand–including the cable network, film festival, and resort–without being a cliché of itself.

Founded by 18 years ago by actor Robert Redford, Salt Lake City, UT-based Sundance sells apparel, home decor, jewelry, and gift items inspired by the American West. Redford and former Sundance Catalog CEO Bruce Willard in 2004 sold the business for an undisclosed amount to private equity firms Webster Capital and ACI Capital.

Gordon, who took over as CEO of Sundance Catalog in early 2005, has some experience with building up store chains. He founded home decor cataloger/retailer Restoration Hardware as a single store 27 years ago; the company, which mailed its first catalog in fall 1998 and has had an e-commerce-enabled Website since 1999, now includes 107 stores.

But don’t expect an aggressive retail rollout with Sundance. Gordon believes that Restoration Hardware grew too fast, so the expansion plans for Sundance will be much more moderate. The company will consider mall space, street venues, and specialty venues, but location and the selection of co-tenants will be used to filter out the real estate choices for future stores, he says.