Fenty’s New Mall Stores Have a Lot to Teach Us

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Rihanna’s intimates brand, Savage X Fenty, opened its first physical store at Fashion Show Mall in Las Vegas, Nevada in January. Four more locations are scheduled to open in the next few months in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., and Houston. The Las Vegas store has five rooms with a dollhouse-inspired aesthetic that’s constantly changing. There are different “vibe settings” in each fitting room so customers can experience their boudoir apparel in the proper atmosphere.

Rihanna’s physical Fenty experiences will set a new precedent for physical retailers. Most existing mall stores will pale in comparison to the technology, visual experience, customization and inclusivity of Fenty’s newest offerings. It’s a new era and Rihanna’s stores will put those that are falling behind into even starker contrast.

Fenty stores function both as a place to make brick-and-mortar sales and as an interactive experience to draw social media traffic. While there are many elements that put Fenty in a league of its own, that still doesn’t guarantee its physical expansion will be successful.

Let’s take a look at the elements of Rihanna’s stores that mall-based retailers should hastily implement into their own stores, in their own way.

Uniqueness Is a Content Generating Attribute

Fenty’s Las Vegas location is the perfect example of what we’re talking about when we say that retailers need to create Instagrammable content in their physical locations. The stores feature “interactive moments” that customers can only have by visiting physical locations to experience. But that’s not all: Lavender and chrome-colored mannequins with a diverse array of body types reflect Fenty’s goal of appealing to EveryBODY, and customers can find Instagrammable angles around every corner.

Savage X Fenty has only been around since 2018. Like so many other brands hitting their stride lately, Fenty got its start in the DTC ecommerce vertical and just recently expanded into physical locations. Fenty’s commitment to diversity resonated with customers from the get-go, with models and sizes up to XXXL.

But, let’s face it, the real draw is Rihanna’s unique star power emanating at Fenty. Who could be a more badass spokesperson than the woman who used her bodyguard’s bald head to roll a joint at a public music festival? “Bad Girl Ri Ri” gives customers a relatable brand spearhead that they not only trust but hope to harness the same energy in intimate moments. And Gen Z now has a celebrity-founded brand that they can buy from while still feeling like they’re sticking it to the man. Gen Z consumers’ ongoing commitment to discovery and abandonment of traditional retailers proves that sticking it to the man is one of this generation’s favorite activities. Fenty lets them do this while looking good, for less.

3D Body Scanning Technology for a More Perfect Fit

There’s no universally accepted standard for how clothing sizes are measured. So, many brands opt for vanity sizing, which makes it hard for customers to know their true measurements. The fitting room experience, however, is where Savage X Fenty really excels. Fenty stores come equipped with two or more devices installed with the exclusive FIT:MATCH phone app. The app uses Fit Xperience body scanning LiDAR technology to find consumers’ ideal lingerie size. FIT:MATCH was designed with AR to create a 3D body shape that can be used to personalize product recommendations.

Fenty’s fitting room experience could prove to be steep competition for the lingerie behemoth, Victoria’s Secret. VS still reaps around $5 billion annually and has something like 846 stores still open at this stage of the pandemic. The question is, will this continue to be the case if/when Fenty’s physical footprint expands?

Obviously Fenty is nowhere close to Victoria’s Secret’s footprint at this point. VS also has yet to offer a widespread AR rollout to enhance the fitting room experience. While the AR fit app will be a draw for consumers that are tech enthusiasts or just want the perfect fit, brand spokespeople say that it isn’t designed to replace the knowledge of their associates. Victoria’s Secret’s fitting room experience must have inspired Fenty to issue the statement that FIT:MATCH won’t replace associates. This way, customers won’t think that Fenty’s investment in the FIT:MATCH platform means that they won’t receive hands on expertise –– and customers that are used to the Victoria’s Secret fitting room experience can be sure they’ll receive the same service at Fenty.

Cheaper Products with the Perception of Luxury

Fenty has created a new niche in the intimates market. It’s perfect for consumers who are on a limited budget and looking for apparel that’s more subversive than Victoria’s Secret. Brand spokesperson Rihanna’s star power gives Fenty the perception of luxury, even when most products are around the $30 range.

Visual artist Jed Skrzypczak, the creative firm PlayLab, and O’Neil Langan Architects had a hand in the store’s design. It’s all cutting edge. Savage X Fenty is leading the charge in the intersection between social media and physical stores –– particularly for mall-based retailers. The brand’s physical stores are an extension of the upscale aesthetic, with different “vibe settings” and a unique color palette.

But customers aren’t limited to each fitting room’s preset “vibe setting.” The company plans to switch up the fitting rooms regularly to continually create new experiences worthy of being shared on social media and return visits.

Success of the Stores is a Question of Talent

Fenty stores function both as a place to make brick-and-mortar sales and as an interactive experience to draw social media traffic. While there are many elements that put Fenty in a league of its own, that still doesn’t guarantee its physical expansion will be successful. Let’s face it… many well-conceived, innovative stores sit empty because the salespeople within don’t create an inviting experience.

So, yes, Fenty will be highly successful in the short term. However, the store’s lasting success will depend on how HR is sourcing, compensating, and retaining store staff. Fenty will need to be cautious not to make the mistake so many companies do of compromising talent when they expand their physical footprint.

Rihanna has already been touted in praise of the friendliness of Fenty’s in-store staff. So, we can only hope that they are taking on seasoned brand reps and not mining for talent at high school job fairs. Because in the end, customers remember how a store makes them feel. It will be the human experience that can differentiate Fenty from its competitors in the long term.



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