Outposts

Earlier this fall, as Warby Parker and Allbirds filed to go public, it seemed as if everyone in the consumer world was pouring over their S-1 statements.

Two of the DTC darlings were going public, and—finally—we all had an opportunity to dissect the businesses.

Most notable for today’s newsletter topic was the discussion around how these brands weren’t necessarily ecommerce brands, but brands:

  • 65% of Warby Parker’s 2019 revenue came from its retail business

  • Allbirds said in its S-1 that it plans to scale from 26 retail locations to “hundreds”

And while brick-and-mortar is widely accepted as an efficient acquisition channel when properly executed, nowhere in the Warby or Allbirds S-1s was there specific math about this strategy strengthened the entire business.

That’s what made this week’s investor presentation from Black Rifle Coffee Company so interesting.

On the same week Allbirds went public, BRCC, which is going public via a SPAC, actually gave some information here. BRCC said in the presentation that it plans to go from 82% of revenue (they did $164M in 2020) coming from DTC to 43% of revenue coming from DTC in 2023.

The shift will come from rapid wholesale expansion and building “outposts,” BRCC retail locations.

Outlining its omni-channel strategy (roll your eyes at the phrase, if that’s your thing), the brand buried some data on slide 33 that provided some insight into how it all works together:

  • 90% of surveyed Outpost customers also purchased DTC

  • After opening an Outpost in San Antonio, the brand reported “significant” incremental DTC revenue growth within a 5-minute drive of the retail location

Though “significant” is not quantitative, it’s helpful for purposes of exploring and questioning growth channels for consumer brands.

Why are these brands, for example, leaning into retail locations while activist investors are clamoring for department stores to spin-off ecomm sites (a la saks.com)? What makes them different?

At low market shares and relatively little brand awareness to incumbents, Warby, Allbirds and BRCC need to play for long-term growth versus maximizing profitability in the short-term.

As Emory professor (and great Twitter follow) Daniel McCarthy put it to AdAge last month, retail ends up becoming the way to do this:

“Unless you are paying for ads or finding some way to get in front of people online, they will forget about you… A store is a big billboard. People can go in and buy things, but when you are walking down the street and see the store, it at least triggers that awareness.”

To McCarthy’s point, if you’re selling a differentiated brand or attempting to turn a low-consideration purchase into a high-consideration purchase based on values and narrative, that message needs to be pervasive.

Because the status quo is, too.