retail watch | Jul 13, 2023 |
Boll & Branch is the latest DTC brand to double down on in-person retail

Boll & Branch was one of the earliest direct-to-consumer brands in the soft home world of bed and bath products. It was also one of the first to expand its distribution to third-party retailers like Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s.

And now the DTC bedding brand has an aggressive plan to expand its existing footprint in physical retail with three new stores set for this year, doubling its current total, with the goal of getting at least half its sales volume from stores. For Boll & Branch, it’s a realization shared by so many other DTC players: The need for physical stores is critical to grow the brand beyond the initial online stage. With online customer acquisition costs climbing significantly, the ability to connect with new ones in person in stores has taken on added importance for all DTC retailers, regardless of the industry.

“Retail being the largest part of our business is certainly part of my goal,” says Audrey Miller, who joined Boll & Branch last December as senior vice president of stores following a stint at DTC footwear brand Allbirds, after 17 years at Williams-Sonoma, where she also served as senior vice president of stores.

“When you are selling direct and can have a 50-50 balance with stores, you’ve unlocked something good,” she tells Business of Home. “The stores are also a natural expansion of the business, especially when you’re in home. We’ve been successful in just doing DTC, but the stores help with our customer acquisition costs and give our customers a chance to take it all in. It’s why [physical] retail is one of the largest goals of the company right now.”

The first of this year’s new stores opens this week in Houston’s tony Highland Village outdoor shopping mall. It will be followed in September with a location at The Grove in Shrewsbury, New Jersey, nearby company headquarters in Summit. And the third new store is scheduled for an October opening in the Knox-Henderson neighborhood of Dallas, home to a number of furnishings retailers including RH, Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn.

“Dallas will be our new flagship,” says Miller. With two stories and 3,300 square feet, Dallas will be the company’s biggest store. Most locations are in the 1,500- to 2,100-square-foot range.

“We’ll be able to show five beds in the Dallas store, including a king-size, which we’ve not been able to have in our other stores,” she said, noting that smaller locations typically have two or three beds on the selling floor. The bigger store will also allow Boll & Branch to better showcase its flooring assortment, including “more private space” to test mattresses. Also featured is space for larger design studios, a key area of growth for the company, which continues to target the designer sector of the business.

The three stores opening this year will join the existing trio of locations, in Greenwich, Connecticut; Short Hills, New Jersey; and Boca Raton, Florida. Plans are still in the works for 2024 and 2025, but Miller hinted that the company could double the number next year and the year after—an ambitious expansion that is being carefully planned. “[We’re locating] the stores where we have the greatest awareness of the brand, and it has to be the perfect location. Right now, New Jersey and Texas are the largest markets for Boll & Branch,” she said, adding that next year’s openings are expected to be in new market areas.

Founded in 2014 by Scott and Missy Tannen, Boll & Branch was born out of the classic entrepreneurial scenario where they couldn’t find the sheets they wanted for their new home, and decided to create and sell them themselves. The business, still privately held, now does more than $200 million a year, the company says, and has expanded beyond bed and bath into mattresses, rugs, candles and sleepwear. It often touts its celebrity customers and is currently featuring TV personality and presidential offspring Jenna Bush Hager on its website.

The brand also offers an unusual service, right now only available to in-store shoppers on an availability basis, of in-home bed styling, where Boll & Branch will come into a customer’s home and literally make their beds. “We’ll style it for you, and if you bought a mattress from us, we’ll be there when it arrives and get it all put together for you,” says Miller.

Boll & Branch focuses extensively on its environmental and sustainability credentials, emphasizing its sourcing choices for its all-organic, toxin-free products. The store expansion will allow customers to see all of that in person, adds Miller. “Things you buy for your home, you see them every day, so there’s a different dynamic in a retail environment where customers can stand back and take it all in.”

Homepage image: Boll & Branch is expanding into physical retail with three new stores | Courtesy of Boll & Branch


Warren Shoulberg is the former editor in chief for several leading B2B publications. He has been a guest lecturer at the Columbia University Graduate School of Business; received honors from the International Furnishings and Design Association and the Fashion Institute of Technology; and been cited by The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN and other media as a leading industry expert. His Retail Watch columns offer deep industry insights on major markets and product categories.

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