Online to Offline: Sundance Sets Its Sights On Award-Winning Physical Retail

The apparel e-tailer started by Sundance Film Fest creator Robert Redford looks to open 20 physical stores by 2018.

Online to Offline: Sundance Sets Its Sights On Award-Winning Physical Retail

The biggest “Sundance” buzz this week has more to do with screenings than retail sales, but film festival creator Robert Redford has another business move in the works: His apparel and accessories company Sundance Holdings is going online to offline after 25 years as primarily a catalog and e-commerce site.

The $165 million company currently has five stores — the most recent opening was this November at NorthPark Center in Dallas — but is ramping up to open as many as 150, with 20 of those to come by 2018, the New York Post reports.

The NorthPark Center store
The NorthPark Center store

“We are meeting with mall developers and setting the foundation for a larger retail platform,” confirmed Chief Executive Matey Erdos in a statement at the ICR investor conference. Sundance Holdings declined to comment for this piece.

Premiering Soon…

The biggest question regarding Sundance’s major move to physical retail is simple: Why now? Well, the decision is likely a response to the current retail climate — and the success that similar brands have found in investing heavily in an offline presence.

An oft-echoed stat is that over 90 percent of purchases still take place in stores, and the fact that this is holding true in the connected world of 2016 is a sign of the value of in-store experiences. As an upscale brand designed to feel curated for the “elegant woman’s” personal style, Sundance might have custom tailoring or similar options in mind in order to make its retail footprint stand out from what it has previously been able to offer online. Providing something customers truly “can’t get on Amazon” is one route to boosting sales.

More importantly, the retail expansion reflects an awareness of the idea that even as “omnichannel” has lost momentum as a buzzword, the idea behind it has grown into a necessity: Namely, businesses today must enable the seamless purchase experiences that consumers expect — across devices, yes, but also both online to offline — in order to succeed. After all, consumers don’t live their lives in silos; they research products on desktop and mobile, and when it’s time to come to a store, the device isn’t left behind — smartphones are a primary shopping companion for research and comparisons. Stores that understand the multitude of ways that shoppers interact with both online information and physical products are more likely to capture their attention — and their dollars. In this vein, Sundance shoppers will now be able to buy their items on desktop or mobile, order them from a catalog, or find them in stores as the mood strikes them.

The success demonstrated by other e-tailers in going from online to offline is likely a motivating factor as well. Warby Parker is the classic example of an online outlet that made millions — and then improved its fortunes further with a rollout of 24 physical stores and counting.

In Good Company

Additionally, this news comes on the heels of preppy apparel-haven Tuckernuck opening its own brick-and-mortar storefront in Georgetown — as well as the announcement that Sonos will debut its first retail flagship in SoHo, offering the brand’s first interactive and personalized direct-to-consumer space. In other words, while the nationwide appeal of Sundance’s upscale indie apparel offerings is yet to be proven, the brand is in good company — and appears to be doing what it needs to in order to compete.

As Tuckernuck’s Jocelyn Gailliot said at the time of its own retail expansion announcement, “in order to be a successful retailer these days, you need to have a strong omni-presence. This includes selling online, selling offline, and having a brand that is popular on social media.”

About The Author
Lauryn Chamberlain Lauryn Chamberlain @laurynchamberla

Lauryn Chamberlain is the Associate Editor of A New York City based journalist, she specializes in stories related to retail, dining, hospitality, and travel.