Release Notes / 2019.11-12
Remember in early-to-mid November when I teased a last-and-final single store Release Notes post to focus on Legacy West before the holiday? Yes. You do. That’s not going to happen. (He wrote, as if it’s not already obvious, during the early hours of January 28, 2020.)
You see, I wrote that sign-off when I was a fresh-faced young person, just prior to moving to New York for almost a month to help with the opening of our Chelsea Market store. I hadn’t yet inhaled a disproportionate amount of dust or used a Swiffer on a ladder to somehow open a door with a key broken off in the handle. It was different then.
In truth, opening the Chelsea Market location was an incredible experience. There’d only been a handful of us on the team when we opened at Legacy West, so it was an exciting and formative experience for us all to be pushing until the very last minute to open on schedule.
That’s not to say it wasn’t hellacious, in many respects, but it was certainly fun and exciting at the same time. (Those things are compatible, I promise.)
With the holiday behind us now, we’ve had a chance to recover, somewhat. So, here I am. Here we all are. Together. To talk about what happened at Neighborhood Goods in November and December 2019, across two locations. Wow.
The months by the numbers:
Locations open: 2 (that’s a 100% increase, friendos)
Locations under construction: 1 (South Congress: Coming Very Soon!)
Total active brands: 80 unique brands (98 total across both locations)
Products inbounded: 23,157
• November: 4,740
• December: 18,417 (*waves at Chelsea Market*)
Average dwell time: 23m 58s
• November: 25m 28s
• December: 22m 44s
Brand launches: 8
• November: 5 (i.e., Topo Designs, Faherty, HAY, Homesick, and Fossil)
• December: 3 (i.e., Good Juju Ink, Natalist, and Cuyana)
Brand exits: 3
• November: 2
• December: 1
• November: 14
• December: 13
Burgers flipped: 317
• November: 165
• December: 152
Brand launches: 43 (!)
Brand exits: 0
For Legacy, we enjoyed our second holiday season — our first full one — and saw significant upticks in traffic and transactions year-over-year.
- For traffic, we saw a 37.6% increase for the November and December period.
- For sales, meanwhile, we saw an 88.34% increase for the same period.
- For F&B, we saw a 126.45% rise in volume over the same period.
- In terms of brand density, we had 137.50% more brands in the room, too.
Of note, we also saw continued demand for launches in Plano, amidst all the furor around Chelsea. We launched some fantastic brands like Cuyana, Topo Designs, Homesick, Natalist, and HAY at Legacy West in November and December.
As predicted in the last Release Notes entry, we saw dips in dwell time — a much more transactional time of year — but, with the introduction of A Year of Stories, it was a much more modest shift than expected. (Looking at January to-date, we’ve seen dwell time jump back up toward the 30 minute mark. I suspect we’ll see a continued trajectory there.)
We opened a second store!
On December 5, we opened our doors for a private preview event. It came down to the last-minute — I’ll just share the same tweet again to illustrate — but we were able to make it work.
We launched with 43 brands in the store, of which roughly half are — or have been — active with us at Legacy West. As a whole, that brings us to 80 unique brands active across our ecosystem.
By way of introduction, we rolled out billboards above our store, in addition to a phenomenal physical campaign in our storefront windows on 9th Ave. Fallon Johnson, our Director of Marketing, hatched an idea to create a three day campaign to provide samples of products, audio recordings explaining our concept, and a peek into the inside of the store (albeit via kaleidoscope to avoid giving anything away). In Fallon’s words:
We wanted to introduce people to our concept in a more personal way — showing them the build of the space, inviting them into a conversation with the founder, giving them a gift and personal note from brands in the store. We're a new kind of department store — but what does that mean? What will it look like? What types of brands will be there? The guerilla campaign helped answer some of those introductory questions we have to answer a lot in a more playful and colloquial way that felt true to us.
The latter was incredibly popular driving a huge amount of engagement ahead of our private opening event on December 5. And, with a final push, in the lead-up to our public opening on Saturday, December 7.
We don’t have a huge amount of granularity on dwell and other such metrics yet for Chelsea. That’ll come over time. But I’d tell you that our Chelsea store generated an absurd amount of traffic in a short period of time, prompting two or three brands to almost completely sell out in a matter of hours on our first day of business.
The space is, to be honest, still coming together. Tiny Feast, our new restaurant concept for the Chelsea Market location, wasn’t ready to launch in time for holiday, but will be coming very soon. We have some more furniture to roll out from our friends at HAY. And, just in the past couple of weeks, we’ve really just started to spin up our event programming in earnest.
So, the work, as always, continues. But it’s been a fantastic launch. And it’s been particularly exciting to see brands manifest in drastically different ways across both locations.
As I mentioned earlier, we ended the year working with 80 brands across both locations. (Up from 24 at the conclusion of the year prior.)
Of note regarding this figure, we’ve only ever worked with 104 total unique brands.
We’ve talked about renewals and extensions (i.e. more than expected) and the broader thesis of our model (i.e., an ecosystem serving different purposes from location — or format — to the next), but it’s certainly interesting to see a relatively low churn number for us.
Of particular note is that it’s not clear if this is definitively a good thing! It’s obviously great to foster loyalty and longer-term relationships. But we also want to keep the store fresh and changing over time.
Food for thought, at a bare minimum.
Also of note on this topic, of the brands active with us in Q4, as a whole, we saw a 140% increase in the number of them that stemmed from inbound interest.
We’ve always been a brand devoted to saying “no” far more than we say “yes.” We have a traditional merchant philosophy in that regard. But to see the volume of brands that’ve come to us through our website and ultimately translated to being active in our stores in this context is certainly notable.
As a small (albeit verbose) note, we were proud to roll out our own private label line in December 2019.
Private label, as an initiative, began as an impromptu deck produced by Vijay Ramesh, a Financial Analyst for Neighborhood Goods, earlier in 2019. Off the back of us receiving a lot selfies of prominent people wearing the simple smiley-branded sweatshirts we’d produced at launch in 2018, Vijay prepared a number of designs — and sparked a much bigger conversation — for us to contemplate regarding the rollout of private label for us as a company.
Much of the effort on this front has little to do with our own products, in truth. We have a significant number of collaborations coming with our brands in 2019. (Hence Steven’s involvement, for the astute Release Notes reader.) But, for the moment, we were proud to roll-out a simple line of tees and totes for both of our stores, particularly for the holiday season.
From a special attention to care tags to subtle branding, we’ve been proud to see how well these have been received. At a low price-point, they’ve become popular to purchase alongside products from our other brands, whilst, for us, helping further establish more of who we are behind the scenes — a small project to provide a bit more sense of permanency of our brand in an otherwise impermanent concept.
The crucial aspect is developing a line complementary to the brands in our stores. (This has been the exercise, from a branding perspective, from the very beginning. Standalone and memorable identity without rendering us incompatible with our brands.) The result — and certainly all we have in the pipeline — is quite special, in my opinion.
Most of all, I’m proud that it’s been such a cross-functional effort by our team. Between Finance(!), Design, Marketing, and otherwise, it’s been special to see these products come to life and find a purpose in the stores.
More to come.
As a spin-off from our private label efforts, we rolled out our own in-house designed and developed jackets for our store staff in November.
For our Legacy West opening in 2018, we bought a series of jackets from Gap and Free People to provide to our staff. We were looking for something, largely, that’d have sufficient size for iPads in the pockets. But we also felt strongly about using a shirt/chore jacket, of sorts.
In the days leading up to the opening, we hatched the idea to add “The Goods” to the back of the jackets in felt letters. (Fallon and I, as I recall, had a lengthy debate about whether to curve the “The” or “Goods” on the back. I cannot recall who won. Probably Fallon.)
When we opened the doors a few days later - and really ever since - we received a huge amount of compliments, in addition to requests to purchase the jackets from our team.
So, as we were spinning up our private label efforts, we decided to bring jackets in-house. Led by our inimitable Brooke Davis, the new jackets come in a deep green, featuring a much more polished “The Goods” on the back, alongside plenty of other subtle branded moments (e.g., smiley tags, iPad-specific pockets, etc.).
They’re even made in America!
We’ve been really thrilled with the response and, although I won’t commit to it, now that we have a bit more control over the design and quality, we’re certainly contemplating bringing them to the consumer in 2020.
In November, we rolled out a new back-end for our website. (That’s what you’re looking at right now, probably! Wow.)
It’s not something to catch your attention, but, rather, an investment in infrastructure for us moving ahead. We believe digital can be a significant aspect of our business, largely in service of our core belief in allowing the consumer to dictate their own terms as to how they want to shop with us.
More to come here. But, in the near-term, you ought to find things updated more frequently, more stable, a little easier to RSVP to events, and, obviously, localized to your given market.
Looking ahead, we’re on the cusp of rolling out our Brand Dashboard tool to our partners.
We’ve worked hard to develop a platform from scratch to accomplish a few different purposes:
- Provide real-time reporting and analytics for our partners in a mobile-friendly, on-demand format.
- Simplify and standardize the on-boarding process to best populate our website and system and save a lot of time when launching a concept.
- Allow for us to pass through anecdotal feedback, notes, and reports from our team at any time.
We have no aspiration to become a software company, but, inasmuch as we can provide a better level of service and transparency to our brands, we think this’ll be a special aspect of value starting over the next few weeks.
Our Austin store opening is rapidly approaching.
We’re not ready to talk about all the details just yet, but I’ll say this: it’s under construction. The line-up is going to be amazing. And it’s coming sooner than you’d expect.
It was a great end to our first, true, year as a company. By any measure — whether year-over-year, quarter-over-quarter, or month-over-month — we saw a great period of growth. Most of all, from a non-quantifiable perspective, we learned a huge amount.
We’ll try to get back on track with more regular Release Notes for the year. It’ll be a fun one to track.
In the meantime, as always, sorry for all the words.