Former Snap exec Imran Khan's retail site Verishop has teamed up with a US mall owner to open stores

Key Points
  • A retail website called Verishop is opening stores with U.S. mall owner Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield.
  • Verishop has also started launching its own brands.
  • The news comes as store closures have been piling up.
Verishop opened its first store with Westfield for its skincare brand Ghost Democracy.
Source: Verishop

Verishop, a shopping website and brand incubator launched earlier this year by former Snap exec Imran Khan and his wife, has struck a deal with U.S. mall owner Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield to open 14 stores through next year. That will include a mix of pop-up shops and permanent locations, the companies said.

Verishop's first space, for its own skin-care brand Ghost Democracy, opened in October at Westfield Century City in Los Angeles. Other stores, which will be for a variety of Verishop's in-house brands, are slated to move into Westfield World Trade Center, Garden State Plaza and San Francisco Centre, among other properties. Westfield's malls tend to be highly trafficked and in urban metro areas.

Verishop, in addition to being an online marketplace where people can buy from trendy apparel brands like Vince and LoveShackFancy, has opted to launch some of its own brands. Ghost Democracy, which sells skin creams and facial oils; Billie the Label, a women's clothing brand; and Lett, a leisurewear brand, are among the first. The company says it has more in the works.

"At Verishop, we like to execute at a fast pace on things that work, and we saw our partnership with Westfield as a great opportunity to introduce customers to our incubated brands," Khan told CNBC in an interview.

"We hope to have more interactive conversation with our target consumers to learn about their needs and how we can address them. ... We expect to learn a lot from this partnership and will continue to iterate from there."

Verishop is primarily targeting younger, millennial and affluent customers. It has tabs on its website for picks from social media and fashion influencers, and for sustainably sourced items. While you can buy $11 Calvin Klein underwear on Verishop, you can also find a Diane von Furstenberg coat for $1,498 on the site.

Verishop has raised $30 million to date, according to a person familiar, who asked not to be named because the information isn't publicly available.

Mattress retailer Casper, glasses maker Warby Parker, luggage company Away, men's shirt brand Untuckit and lingerie maker Adore Me are just a few examples of online retailers that have opened hundreds of locations over the past two years. Some are in malls, some are along the streets of New York and some are in outdoor centers. And these companies have proven that having a bricks-and-mortar presence can help them speed growth.

These digital-first companies are finding, among other things, that the cost to acquire customers online is more expensive than it is in stores. To try to reach more people outside of the internet, Verishop recently launched a massive advertising campaign in New York, plastering ads across subway platforms and on taxi cabs.

Meantime, as thousands of store closures from traditional retailers like Gap, Sears, Victoria's Secret and Bed Bath & Beyond have piled up this year, mall owners are looking for new tenants. And Westfield says it welcomes these up-and-coming brands with open arms.

"If you want to develop your business, you need to go offline," Jean-Marie Tritant, president of Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield in the U.S., told CNBC. "We are giving [Verishop] flexibility today, so that when they are successful, the idea is not just to do a pop-up store. ... They will open more permanent stores."

So far in 2019, retailers in the U.S. have announced a record 9,271 store closures, according to a tracking by Coresight Research. The last record was set in 2017, when 8,069 store closures were announced, Coresight said.

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