I feel like I start every article I write now with some version of “Brick-and-mortar retail is total trash fire right now,” and it is. So it’s been interesting to see how some companies have found ways to reinvent the IRL shopping experience for their bottom line. One example is cult, Miami-based jewelry brand Miansai.
She is known for her simple yet understated, subtly nautical rope cuffs and bracelets, which founder Michael Saiger began making and selling to men and, later, women. With distinctive, wearable designs and an accessible price, the brand is doing well even with wholesale; current stockists include Barneys, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Mr. Porter, Shopbop and more. It also operates two permanent physical stores: one on Crosby Street in New York and one on the equally cool and relevant Abbott Kinney Blvd in Los Angeles. But Saiger is aware of the instability in retail lately, and when it comes to his expansion strategy, he has something different in mind: selling jewelry from airstreams and Piaggio trucks near beaches, bars, hotels, festivals and, soon, even train stations. and airports. His summer tour is already underway.
The idea came to him quite naturally before opening his first physical stores. “I love vintage cars, I was looking on Ebay, I found this old draft from 1958 in Arkansas and I said, you know what? I’m going to buy this stuff,” Saiger says. “What better way to sell jewelry to men than from a vintage car?” He, with the help of a few guys from his team, completely remodeled it and started using it as a mobile store, and a way to dive into retail without the overhead of opening something permanent. Five years later, Saiger has accumulated significant automotive connections and purchased and refurbished four more mobile units – and this expanded fleet will be on tour all summer. Stops include Navy Beach in Montauk, Newport, RI, Dumbo, and most interestingly, JFK and LAX airports.
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“I want to be more direct with the consumer and it’s also more discovery,” says Saiger. “A lot of people are discovering our brand without knowing us yet. We are a niche and so on. Not only is it great from a sales perspective, but it’s great from a brand and discovery perspective .” Saiger saw an opportunity in airports, in particular, because there is a consistently high volume of traffic, but so much similarity when it comes to retail that consumers are becoming “numbed” to the stores around them. “Wouldn’t it be cool to go to an airport and come across such a cool experience as this old vintage car?” Saiger asks. He also sees his unique product as a cool and easy gift.
Importantly, this retail concept is particularly suited to jewelry (and, well, food) because of how little space it takes up, but for Miansai there are a number of other reasons why he is smart. For one thing, the overhead is low – Saiger does good business with the aforementioned connections. Second, if they pick a location that isn’t doing well, they can pretty easily close down and move somewhere else. And then there is the obvious: the vehicles are very “grammable”. That said, Saiger explains that the logistics can be very tricky. “It’s a headache with the logistics, especially now that we’re going to have six vehicles. [Saiger has just purchased another Piaggio from Italy.] Two of them are pulled by cars, but the others must be lying down; they are operational but not everyone can drive them. Getting the right insurance and making sure everything is legal is also difficult and time-consuming for the Saiger team and its lawyers. But for Saiger, it’s worth it. fun, it’s great because we’re so successful.”
So successful that at present, it foresees this and this alone constituting Miansai’s retail growth strategy for the foreseeable future. He will continue to evolve the concept by purchasing more units and continue the tour beyond the summer by traveling to places like Los Angeles and Palm Beach, not to mention indoor units at the aforementioned airports as well as in Grand Central Station in New York. Saiger believes that having a presence in such important places will open even bigger doors. Ultimately, it wants to be the classic Americana moment at international airports like Heathrow, Charles de Gaulle and Hong Kong International, although it plans to focus on the US market first.
He’s not ruling out opening a few more permanent flagships, but where the brand is — and the overall retail landscape — is right now, that’s what’s driving sales.
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