Rhone CEO on why physical retail is key to growth

Retail Gets Real episode 260: Insights for DTC brands opening stores

(This episode originally aired on December 7, 2021.)

As digitally native brands mature, many are eagerly opening stores that leverage all the advantages of bricks-and-mortar together with a digital-first mindset. But physical locations require different sets of expertise than ecommerce alone. In this episode of Retail Gets Real, Nate Checketts, CEO and co-founder of men’s premium activewear brand Rhone, describes the journey of growing the brand while holding on to its values.

Checketts describes Rhone as a premium men’s performance lifestyle brand, which means approaching activewear, outerwear, underwear and commuter wear with performance in mind. The company uses premium materials, responsible business practices and a science-based approach to developing premium apparel.

He says the beginnings of Rhone in 2014 started with an observation of three major trends: a mass migration to direct-to-consumer sales in almost every business category; an increased focus on health and wellness driven by fitness tracking technology; and a rise in demand for premium goods. When he looked for a men’s activewear brand that hit on those three categories, he saw a gap — and an opportunity.

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Rhone started online with a DTC model, focusing on growing community around a great product and shared values. As it’s grown, diving into physical locations has become increasingly important to its business model. Checketts says that shouldn’t come as a surprise.

“[Bricks-and-mortar] works. We believe in it. Digitally native founded businesses think we’re so smart. We can't believe prior generations didn't see this, but the truth is we are beneficiaries of our time and that's all it is,” Checketts says.

“We're in this unique time where … the majority of transactions [will soon] take place online. The pandemic has only accelerated that. But still, a substantial amount of purchases happen in person. The majority still happen in person even post-pandemic. We'd be crazy to completely ignore that audience.”

Listen to the full episode to learn more about Rhone’s growth, lessons learned from opening the first physical locations, and how Checketts views the future of retail.

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