On the surface, Studs looks like countless other direct-to-consumer jewellery brands that have popped up on your Instagram feed in the last few years, down to the boldface, sans-serif font and moderately priced, gold-plated hoops and chains.
But the three-year-old company’s success is tied to a very offline goal: to make ear piercing cool again. The brand launched in 2019 with an e-commerce site, but also a store on the particular border of Manhattan’s Soho and Lower East Side, where it offered the neighbourhood’s fashionable clientele the particular option to get their ears pierced with a single-use sterilised needle instead of the typical gun used at mall accessory stores plus big-box retailers.
The new twist on a routine service, combined with stylish-yet-affordable jewellery was a hit. Studs, which has raised about $30 million from venture firms including Thrive Capital, now operates 14 stores in major cities including New York City, Los Angeles, Boston, Miami and Austin.
A typical outpost serves as a billboard for the brand, enticing customers into a space bathed in neon lights with playful, punny signage (“hey, stud, ” reads a mirror sign in the company’s Upper East Part location). The particular goal is to get each visitor to stay for the piercing plus leave with at least one piece of jewelry. It costs less to acquire new customers this way than to attract them with online advertising, said Lisa Bubbers, Studs’ co-founder and chief brand name officer. Those customers tend to be more loyal, too.
“We think associated with ourselves because a retail services company, ” she said. “Our stickiness is the piercing service. ”
Studs is one of a growing number of direct-to-consumer brands that sees in-person services since the next big market to disrupt. With Instagrammable outposts plus savvy branding (Studs has embraced the term “earscaping”), they promise an experience customers can’t get elsewhere, even if the service itself is hardly revolutionary.
Eyewear brand Warby Parker helped usher in this particular new wave of retail when it introduced eye exams in its physical stores inside 2013 (it now offers this support in over 100 locations). Facegym started with facial massages and is on pace to generate roughly half its sales from skin care products this year. Feit, which sells hand-sewn shoes, is one of a number of brands offering in-store repair services .
The up front cost of opening a store will be high. But customers who visit one associated with these start-ups’ stores for a facial treatment or an eye exam tend to spend more on products as well, making these establishments more reliable money makers than purely online store.
“It’s a lot more profitable to get someone to your store to buy, ” said Laura Barr, senior vice president of retail and consumer in brokerage CBRE. “If you have the service that will requires clients to come to a store, that is a great way to drive traffic. ”
Solving the particular Retail Equation
Service-oriented stores are a subset associated with a wider trend where digital-first brands are going all-in upon physical retail. Many are doing so after failing to build profitable businesses online; the costs of finding new clients via social media ads keeps rising, and cultivating brand loyalty has proven difficult.
Warby Parker, which usually pioneered the digital first direct selling model when it released its online store in 2010, has provided the template for providing real-world services as well. The company opened its first standalone store within New York in 2013, with pristine built-in shelves filled with stylish eyeglasses plus books. By 2019, Warby Parker’s stores accounted for 65 percent of the brand’s overall product sales.
The eye exams, which cost $85 or more depending on customers’ vision insurance, contributed less than two percent of the particular brand’s revenue in 2021. (Some customers’ insurance fully cover the exams). Yet they are valuable beyond that direct sales bump.
“What we’ve observed is, a higher conversion rate from shops where we employed a watch doctor in order to customers and making a product purchase, ” Warby Parker’s chief financial officer Steve Miller said on an earnings call in August. (“Introducing eye exams was critical to the evolution of our brand when we launched physical store and continues to become a core business offering, ” the particular company stated in an emailed statement. “By investing in vision exam suites, alongside our other vision services, we’re continuing to provide more value to our own customers more than time. ”)
Other brands built in a physical services component from the start.
Facegym launched as a concession shop in Selfridges in 2016, offering the hyperactive version of facials called workouts, where trained associates in athletic gear manipulate the muscles in a person’s face using tools like anti-aging rollers plus a contouring sculptor.
Inge Theron, the particular company’s founder and creative director, said her original ambition was to become the “Soul Cycle associated with beauty. ” Facegym right now operates 15 studios inside the UK and US, where about half of its customers go for sessions that range through $65 to $300. In 2017, the company began selling third-party skin care products, and launched the own line in 2020.
This 12 months, sales are usually on track to end up being roughly evenly split between treatments plus the brand’s serums, encounter oils and moisturisers, and are projected to hit $16 million in 2022. While Facegym does brisk business online, it relies on those facial exercises to drive skincare product sales. About 70 percent of customers that will buy Facegym’s skin treatment products visited the studio first, Theron said.
“It was essential for us to have these spaces, ” Theron said. “Unless we created this experience, it wouldn’t really land. ”
Three more locations are planned to open by the second half associated with next year.
Studs’ stores also breed devotion among its most avid consumers.
The company’s piercing service, which usually starts from $65 plus includes a piercing and the buy of an earring to fill the hole, also leads to repeat visits. Bubbers said regarding 40 % of customers that get a piercing come back to Studs for another piercing or to purchase more necklaces within their first yr. Most of all those customers who get piercings come back to the particular store and spend more per transaction, she added.
An Expensive Strategy
Building out a brick-and-mortar store network isn’t cheap. Facegym spends hundreds of thousands of dollars upon average to create out the studios, replete with plush spa recliner chairs, quartz-like countertops made out of recycled Chobani lids plus Skin IV machines that trainers use for advanced face workout routines.
Still, Facegym is EBITDA profitable in all of its stores, Theron said. Warby Parker says it is able to recover the funds it uses in order to open every location in under 20 months on average.
Studs says its stores typically earn back their own opening costs in under a year.
The extra cost is offset by the lower customer acquisition expenses, Bubbers mentioned.
“The shops do not require a lot of marketing dollars, ” Bubbers said. Studs uses content on social media—such as short videos upon types of piercings from professional piercers—and celebrities like Kaia Gerber to spread the particular word about its retail locations.
Generating profits on a four wall basis—which accounts for sales generated in the store minus the costs to make that sale— doesn’t mean a company is profitable overall. Warby Parker ended the first half of the year with $66 million in losses, up from around $7 mil in losses during the particular same period a year prior. Studs has yet in order to turn a profit on the overall business either, Bubbers said.
Recruiting talent is one of the biggest challenges of the store-based strategy, Theron stated.
“It’s tough work – you have to sculpt people’s faces into submission, ” the girl said. “There isn’t a huge talent pool but a lot of demand for it. ”