Making Retail Partnerships Work
“That’s about making a splash,” she said. “You walk into the store when one of these huge rollouts is going on and they strategically place merchandise all around the store. They’re more to drive traffic, to drive media, to drive attention.”
Earlier this month, Target launched a new variation on its typical partnership: “The Shops at Target,” which, similar to the J.Crew model, focuses on curating and partners the chain with small boutiques and specialty shops. However, while Target’s will last a few weeks, J.Crew partners with brands for years.
“It’s really nice to deal with small, creative companies who sometimes don’t get an easy shot selling other stores,” Drexler said, “especially big stores who might not nurture them the way we would. And we’re not usually their biggest business, but we’re a nice part of their business.”
For Quoddy, J.Crew is its biggest business — it has tripled its sales over the past three years, which Andreliunas says is in large part due to the partnership.
With collaborations, smaller brands such as Quoddy gain advantages like exposure and a wider distribution. However, partnership collections aren’t without risks, and their success is up for debate; most companies don’t break out their numbers to account for collaborations.
“I’m sure if you look through the cemetery of partnerships, you would find many, many, many.” Armendinger said. “Look at GO International at Target. It was an incredibly successful program for a really long time until it wasn’t. The customer got used to the idea.”
“It’s not a simple equation for any of our design partnerships,” said Target’s Carlson. “It’s about looking at what’s hot, what’s on trend, what we think our guest is going to want next.”
Distribution can also be tricky when larger retailers work with smaller ones, according to Andreliunas.
“I always say you don’t really understand Quoddy until you actually come up and walk in here,” he said. “Mickey [Drexler] knows what we’re about because he’s been here. They make an effort to realize they’re dealing with smaller companies that don’t have endless supplies of people and resources and cash.”
Like a good marriage, partnerships have to work for both parties.
“People like that — they like our outside designers,” Drexler said. “If it’s exciting, if it’s good, and if it makes our customers more excited to shop with us, we’re going to do that. And also, it’s fun."