• December 5, 2022

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Over the weekend, New York or Nowhere (NYON), a famed lifestyle brand known for its quality, everyday apparel, and accessories, opened its first permanent retail location in Manhattan’s Nolita, bordering SoHo, at 250 Lafayette Street. The store is in good company, tucked amongst digital brands like Frank and Oak, Allbirds, and Lively, and between popular coffee shops Blank Street and La Colombe.

The self-funded brand has made its way to fame with numerous celebrity wearers, including Sarah Jessica Parker, Kate McKinnon, Hugh Jackman, and Tracy Morgan. And uniquely, in the world of digitally native brands and fashion, it has reached profitability each year since its founding. It runs its retail operations autonomously, and its founders were confident in the decision to open a store after a highly successful 6-month pop-up in late 2021 and early 2022, which generated almost as much revenue as online. “NYON has been profitable since day one, and our revenue has grown 100% year-over-year every year since launching in 2020. Based on revenue numbers from the pop-up – and increased traction and awareness between now and then – we anticipate our permanent location will generate as much revenue as our online store going forward. And this is by design rather than spending on digital ads as a mechanism to acquire new customers, we’ve invested in our flagship instead,” shared co-founders Liz Eswein and Quincy Moore.

Beyond the quality of its clothes, its popularity stems from its tie to New York City. A city that existing residents adore, past residents yearn for, and visitors revere. The brand represents more than a trend or lifestyle; it reflects people’s relationship with the renowned city. And the design of the store is meant to display that with a feeling akin to a classic New York loft; tin ceilings, brick walls, borders borrowed from the iconic Greek coffee cup, a checkout counter colored like the Statue of Liberty, and green leather banquettes the color of Central Park benches.

“The [end] result is a space inspired by New York City itself, but with unexpected colors and materials. To achieve this, we balanced cool and warm tones throughout the space. The color palette is inspired by the patina of older buildings in the city, the shine it gets when the sun starts to go down. No matter where you are in that moment, you’re surrounded by golden light,” stated Elizabeth Bolognino, the store’s designer.

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Although unique, NYON is one of many digital brands that’s opened stores since the pandemic. Notably, the success of Leap, a third-party retail sourcing and operations company, is indicative of the retail demand from smaller, digitally native brands. It has almost 80 open locations, up from 55 in May this year. Clients include brands like Naadam, Third Love, Something Navy, and Goodlife. Similarly, local New York maternity brand Emilia George recently opened its first retail location in Tribeca. And Hanky Panky, the famed women’s lingerie brand, opened its first-ever standalone store in Manhattan’s West Village this past August.

The advantage of a physical presence has become widely understood, including by NYON’s founders, who see this permanent store as a mechanism for customer acquisition. The idea of a store acting as a billboard and acquiring new shoppers isn’t new. Many brands have seen it, and many academics have studied it. For instance, a study looking at Warby Parker data showed about 80% of in-store customers were new.

The location will be the first of many. The brand plans to open multiple stores in and around the five boroughs, with the next likely in 2024. “We have our eye on Flatiron and creating a space primarily focused on our ongoing collaboration with the NBA and the New York Knicks. Retail is tricky, especially in New York, but we believe in a hybrid model and have never considered NYON to be a traditional DTC brand, “shared Eswein and Moore. So, stay tuned for more from NYON and all the digital brands out there. Stores are back and serving a vital purpose.

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