- E-commerce business Brandless is exploring new territory in the brick-and-mortar world.
- The company is looking to put its products on the shelves of four to five national retailers.
- One “major retailer” has already signed on, according to CEO John Rittenhouse.
- Rittenhouse and chief merchant officer Jen Hagness said that the move reflects a customer-centric approach to retail.
- “Consumers aren’t necessarily thinking they’re only shopping online or they’re only shopping in-store,” Hagness said. “They’re thinking about how the brand and the products fit in their daily life.”
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Brandless was born online. Launched in 2017 by cofounders Tina Sharkey and Ido Leffler, Brandless made its name by offering environmentally friendly consumer products. Instead of offering brand-name items, the company stocked one “brand-less” choice of each item.
But with a new leadership team at the helm, Brandless is about to find itself in completely new territory: on the shelves of national retailers.
“Our consumers have told us that they want us to be relevant where they are and where they shop,” Rittenhouse told Business Insider. “Online is one thing, but in consumers’ stores, they want to be able to find our product as well. So we’re very excited about wholesale strategy. It’s going to be what I would consider a significant win.”
Business Insider spoke to Rittenhouse, a Walmart alumnus, and newly appointed chief merchant officer Jen Hagness about the company’s pivot into brick-and-mortar stores. This jump into a physical setting – beyond the company’s two pop-up stores in New York City and Los Angeles – is just one of three initiatives that the e-commerce outfit is embarking on going into 2020. The other two elements of the plan include a doubling down on the CBD market and a foray into beauty and wellness products.
“From a consumer perspective, we can continue to be a strong e-commerce company that’s got a lot of great content and great Brandless products within our site,” Hagness said. “But when you’re in health and wellness and beauty, to some degree brick and mortar allows us the opportunity to have consumers test and try and touch the product before they buy it, which I think has benefits in itself.”
Rittenhouse said he expects Brandless to ultimately launch its products within 10,000 stores across the US, as part of a partnership with four to five as-of-yet unnamed national retailers. The company has signed with at least one “major retailer” so far. Rittenhouse said that, by the very nature of its business, Brandless is able to accrue “daily intelligence” that allows it to keep its assortment of products “fresh” within these stores.
And, if the strategy ends up paying off, this likely isn’t the last we’ll see of Brandless’ brick-and-mortar adventure. Rittenhouse and Hagness said that opening a flagship store – for the purposes of marketing, testing, and gaining concrete consumer feedback – isn’t out of the question.
“We have a lot of intelligence because of the way we interact with consumers,” Rittenhouse said. “That doesn’t happen when a person walks into a physical store. We have touch points. We know who they are.”
But Brandless likely won’t stray too far from its e-commerce roots, given the brand’s consumer product competency and the expensive nature of running a large physical retail operation. Instead, Hagness said this latest move is more about meeting customers’ needs wherever they may arise.
“Consumers aren’t necessarily thinking they’re only shopping online or they’re only shopping in-store,” Hagness said. “They’re thinking about how the brand and the products fit in their daily life.”