The Ralph Lauren-owned Club Monaco got its year off to a high-profile start, as photos emerged of royal then-fiancée Meghan Markle sporting a deep red, off-the-rack Club Monaco dress to the queen's annual Christmas party.
The dress, needless to say, sold out very shortly thereafter (when the photos emerged, it was on sale on the site for about $238, making it one of the more affordable pieces of royal fashion). In fact, the now Duchess of Sussex has sold out a few items for the brand, as its items regularly sneak into her wardrobe rotation.
A royal celebrity endorsement is, of course, always nice – and certainly a good way to get a brand's name in print. But at roughly the same time that Markle was modeling their wares at a royal gathering, Club Monaco was doing something designed to perhaps push an even greater "pop" for their retail presence than the enthusiasm of a princess (or, technically, duchess).
Since shortly before Christmas 2017, the brand has been pushing health, home and beauty- themed pop-up shops in its flagship store on New York City’s Fifth Avenue.
So far, Club Monaco has showcased such brands as the Mexican perfumery Coqui Coqui, home goods maker Diptyque Paris and customizable hair/skin oil firm The Buff. The shops themselves are designed to be short-term – the pop-ups generally last three or four months – and showcase products that are not normally stocked in the store.
But, according to global director of public relations Kerri Clark, the pop-ups are about more than just creating a way to encounter new brands. Discovery, she noted, is an important part of the concept, but it's also about the experience the customer has within the mini-store.
Which means, for example, when a customer shops for skin products from The Buff within Club Monaco, they aren't just being presented with an array of oils, but also a consultation on which products to use.
The pop-up program is also designed around building a sense of community, or at least a communal conversation, about their offerings. Efforts in that direction have included things like book readings and panel discussions on a range of topics thought to be of general interest to its affluent, female, millennial/Generation X shopper. Ahead of The Buff's pop-up launch, for example, Garnsworthy and other female entrepreneurs participated in a panel discussion on the challenges of creating work/life balance.
That even went out live to the 300,000 subscribers to Club Monaco's Instagram feed.
How well the pop-ups are doing – and whether they are living up to their main purpose of bringing in more foot traffic to the brands' locations – remains unknown. At present, Club Monaco isn't willing to cough up any hard numbers. But CEO Francis Pierrel, has confirmed that the pop-ups will not only be a feature of the brand's flagship store, but are also expected to spread to at least some other locations.
Cities currently slated to feel the power of in-store pop-ups include Boston, Los Angeles, Toronto and Montreal. In Southampton, New York, the expansion of pop-ups is already up and running, and has been for about a week. For this launch, Club Monaco is again working with Diptyque Paris.
Club Monaco's parent firm, Ralph Lauren, has struggled in recent years with the headwinds that have been pushing back on retailers nationwide: falling foot traffic to physical stores, slipping sales figures and badly shaken investor confidence. President and CEO Patrice Louvet remains confident that the new strategic plan and focus on consumer experience will be critical in putting the firm to right.
To some extent, Club Monaco is embracing new approaches, both with the pop-up shops and what they feature. Beauty, home and travel are not typically the brand's verticals, but the pop-ups are at least sticking an early toe into all three.
“Our customers love beauty, but we know our limits, so we try to find brands that do it well and give them the space,” said Pierrel. “We want to spread the news that if you have a great product, especially if it’s beauty, you’re welcome at Club Monaco.”