Founded in 1989 as a direct-mail catalog marketer, Robert Redford’s Sundance Catalog of western-inspired and artisan-crafted jewelry, apparel, shoes, fashion accessories and home décor is rapidly expanding its footprint – or should I say “bootprint” – into physical retail. Sundance currently operates 11 retail boutiques, mostly in western states with Alpharetta, GA opened in October 2017 being its first east of the Mississippi.
But Sundance has ambitious plans to continue to grow a nationwide network of stores from its western core , with five new stores in new markets in 2018 and an additional 18 stores on deck for 2019/2020.
Commenting on the retail expansion, CEO Matey Erdos said in a statement, “After 25 years of building a loyal and enthusiastic following, we feel the time is right to lay the foundation of our next phase of growth.”
Now’s the time to grow
Sundance Holdings Group LLC was acquired by private equity firm Brentwood Associates in 2012. At the time it was operating mainly as a direct-to-consumer retailer through its flagship catalog and website, though it had two brick-and-mortar stores in Corte Madera, CA and Denver, CO. Brentwood’s plan was to continue to build the brand’s multi-channel operation, as well as expand its product offerings and most especially broaden its retail presence.
To realize that goal, Brentwood commissioned Southfield, MI design firm JGA to create a vision for retail that it could take into new markets. The first of the newly designed stores opened in Edina Galleria in Edina, MN in 2015.
Abandoning the original Sundance store design, first introduced in 2007 in Park Meadows Mall, Lone Tree, CO, which focused on a heavier, darker, more masculine sensibility, JGA brought a lighter, more open feel in line with the brand’s spirit of freedom, independence and creativity.
Capturing the “ethos of the West, open sky and sunlight,” as described by Ken Nisch, chairman at JGA, “it feels more natural, edited and found,” with the mostly exclusive products on display more curated than merchandised. Six stores in Dallas, TX, Southlake, TX, Scottsdale, AZ, Tigard, OR, San Diego, CA and Alphretta,GA followed.
Executing the design strategy
To find inspiration for the new store design, Nisch and the JGA team looked first to the Sundance catalog as epitomizing the essence of the Sundance brand. “The new store prototype succeeded due to literally bringing the catalog/website to life in an experiential retail environment,” Nisch said. “The key was creating a seamless transition between the website/catalog and store.”
That was achieved by studying how Sundance customers shopped the catalog and website, arranged by theme and organized into stories, and recreating it in the real world. The stores become a place where people can actually “walk in” to the catalog to touch, feel and sensually experience the craftsmanship and artistry of the range of products on display.
The new retail stores evoke a homelike environment, engaging shoppers as they enter into a porch area with timbered wood ceiling and rustic wood floor inlaid with turquoise tiles. The gathering zone is situated near the fitting rooms. Home décor accents including wall art and rugs further reinforce the feel of being home. Jewelry display cases are in retro-styled whitewashed wooded fixtures.
“Sundance is such a great brand and thinking of the resort, the film festival and of the artistic character it gives you, there are lots of ideas and inspiration you can bring into the store,” Nisch said. “It’s more than just a store; it’s a showcase for the whole of Sundance.”
Casual luxury for a casual age
The casual luxury design of the store is in keeping with the casual luxury products Sundance offers. With prices in what many describe as “aspirational,” rather than those of heritage luxury brands, Sundance hits the right note for new luxury consumers searching for authentic artisan craftsmanship, not ostentatious logos.
Casual luxury is one of the leading growth categories in the luxury market identified by Bain and Company in its latest“Luxury Study 2018 Spring Update,” in collaboration with Fondazione Altagamma. Driven by what Bain describes as the “millennial state of mind,” it reflects the new casual mindset of the younger generation for their homes and how they want to dress for work and play. Bain predicts that casual luxury will remain “a key lever to attract new customers.”
The Sundance version of casual luxury is “Wild West” cowboy, and cowgirl, chic with a touch of Native American artistry throw in. It exudes the free spirit that Robert Redford saw for the brand. “Sundance is and will always be a dream being carefully nurtured. Its pledge is to creativity, independence and the people who represent this,” he said.
What Sundance understands about the future of retail
In working with Brentwood and Sundance to create a retail experience true to the brand, Nisch says the vision is to combine instant access and experience so that customers can engage with the brand seamlessly. “Consumers want everything at their fingertips and to experience it right then and there,” he shared.
“Neither online (has everything you can think of, but you can’t experience it) nor traditional retail (you can experience it, but it doesn’t have everything) can fulfill this demand alone. Hence the epic transformation of retail. E-commerce and brick-and-mortar must connect into e-brick-and-mortar and the physical environment must be experiential,” he continues.
In designing the new Sundance retail experience following the model of the brand’s catalog, Nisch believes the new store design is “future-proofed” in the rapidly evolving retail environment. The new store model “maximizes flexibility as the store and products continue to evolve and reinvent,” he concludes.
Read the full announcement: