Retail Entrepreneurship: A Journey from Clicks to Bricks with Jamie Schisler

November 21, 2023



In this episode, our special guest, Jamie Schisler, Chief Comfort Officer at Upwest, delves into the unique challenges faced when initiating a brand within a well-established corporation. Additionally, the episode touches on the role of brick-and-mortar stores in retail and the evolving landscape of digital-first brands.

Jamie Schisler has more than two decades of experience in merchandising, strategy development, design, marketing, and digital within the retail sector. Jamie's retail journey commenced in merchandising at Abercrombie & Fitch and continued through Express, the parent company of Upwest.

Conversation Rundown

[ 13:39-17:07 ] Challenges of building a new brand within a big corporation
Building a new brand within a large corporation poses challenges. First and foremost, big companies may lose sight of their purpose, focusing more on tasks than the 'why.' Second, unlike startups with limited resources, data accessibility is taken for granted. Lastly, integrating with legacy systems can be like fitting a Buick engine into a Tesla, causing technological hurdles. These challenges underscore the need for clarity in purpose, adapting to limited resources, and navigating tech integration issues.

[ 18:36-20:55 ] Reducing the friction between online and physical retail
Improving the connection between online and in-store shopping is crucial. While a significant portion of purchases happens on mobile phones, conveying a brand's essence digitally on small screens, proves challenging. The real hurdle lies in replicating the tactile experience of trying on products in a physical store. Current digital tools fall short, merely showcasing items on uploaded photos without considering critical factors like body shape or fabric properties. The discussion highlights the need for technology that goes beyond existing solutions, providing an alternative that captures the essence of the in-store experience for online shoppers and could significantly benefit retailers.

[ 22:06-23:15 ] The Role of Brick and Mortar Stores in Modern Retail
Essential for showcasing products and fostering in-person experiences, physical stores hold a unique value. While technology can reduce returns and bolster digital sales, the richness of life experiences and social interactions is exclusive to physical stores. The speaker discusses a preference for maintaining this approach while exploring alternative solutions.

[ 24:52-28:50 ] How to improve the profit margins of a retail brand?
A phased strategy is used for increasing profit margins. To begin, prioritize customer acquisition while keeping in mind that brand growth takes time. To maximize margins, leverage cost efficiencies through ownership connections. Increase conversion rates by personalizing the online buying experience based on individual purchasing habits. Extend traditional loyalty programs to include deeper interactions and value addition for VIP clients. With a few years of operation, deeper engagement with existing customers is prioritized, with plans to personalize the site further and explore new business categories based on customer preferences.

[ 28:55-30:44 ] Should retailers prioritize their male customers?
Prioritizing loyal male customers is financially beneficial due to their gradual trust-building process. Growing awareness in the men's segment fosters long-term loyalty, ensuring sustained financial returns. The simplicity of men's shopping preferences underscores the importance of meeting their needs. Retaining customers is cost-effective, with the digital shift benefiting loyal customers familiar with product details, fabric, and fittings, allowing for confident online orders. Physical stores remain essential for first-time trials.

[ 32:43-34:49 ] Key ideas to keep in mind when starting a new retail brand
For quick launches, new retail brands benefit from agile systems like Shopify. Utilise data without overanalyzing it, concentrating on important performance metrics that can help you better understand the customer. Changing your customer's perceptions is good, but maintaining a connection to them is critical. For successful brand growth, advocate for the customer’s adapting strategies to align with their evolving needs and preferences for successful brand growth.

Meet the Experts

Jamie Schisler is the Chief Comfort Officer at UpWest. He had a successful retail career, demonstrating exceptional leadership across various aspects such as merchandising, design, marketing, sourcing, and digital strategies. His journey began at Abercrombie & Fitch, within this renowned establishment, he held diverse merchandising leadership roles for both the Men's and Women's sections. His trajectory also included a significant role as Vice President at EXPRESS.

Retail Tips & Tweetables

Start online, get data quickly, and use data to inform future decisions.

Fall forward, learn from mistakes, and make new mistakes while building a new brand.

Conveying our brand values and emotions on a mobile phone is a challenge, but we're always striving for innovation.

Mobile shopping is a different ball game, but we're determined to make it as personalized and delightful as shopping in-store.

Building a new brand within a company? Remember to understand your 'why' and never lose sight of it.

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