The first thing a visitor is compelled to do when they walk into the new M.M. To Go store in Washington, D.C., is sit on the couch. It's a focal point of the 930-square foot space, and it's so plump and inviting that its gravitational pull is strong.
It's an enticing option for shoppers at this new M.M.LaFleur concept shop, which opens today in the district's Union Station, a transportation hub that hosts Amtrak, Metro and commuter trains and sees 40 million people pass through annually. At the store customers can, of course, shop apparel that is specifically presented due to its ability to stand up to travel. But, they can also stay to chat with a stylist or charge their phone and wait for a train.
M.M. To Go is the DTC company's second concept store. The first one launched this fall in the Financial District in New York City. It's also the second physical location for the retailer in D.C. The first — which used to be known as a showroom but is now simply referred to as a store — is on K Street, a short walk from the White House.
The M.M. To Go store launched in the district because it's the company's second-biggest market, according to the company. But, it is also "one of the cities which we have the lowest penetration among professional women," said CEO Sarah LaFleur in an interview. "And so we just saw the opportunity there."
Brick and mortar as marketing
Brands like CoverGirl are also playing with the idea of a different type of physical retail space. The beauty company opened its first brick-and-mortar location in November 2018 as an experiential space to feature products and technology. Its location, in the middle of Times Square in New York City, serves as a billboard for the brand as much as to generate sales.
M.M.LaFleur also recognizes the idea of physical retail as a means of brand building. "We wanted to put ourselves in front of more people," said LaFleur. "I think we're still a relatively unknown brand. And, whenever we've done consumer research, market research around name recognition, it's still pretty low."
Thus, the M.M. To Go store has the dual purpose of serving customers and marketing to them. "It's really one of the more efficient forms of marketing because it's bringing in revenue, " LaFleur said.
"Facebook has been expensive for quite some time now. We've really diversified away from that. And we've diversified into other digital channels," LaFleur explained, adding that brick and mortar could serve as a more traditional means of customer acquisition. "For us, we've essentially added M.M. To Go as another marketing channel."
Caroline Brown, director of retail growth and experience for M.M.LaFleur, likens it to real-life interaction with an ad. "It's a living, breathing advertisement for M.M.LaFleur that you actually get to experience as opposed to just a poster," she said in an interview.
The ability to experience the company this way is set to grow. M.M.LaFleur will take its To Go concept to Chicago and Boston next, both of which have an expected launch date in Q2 of this year.
Clothes on the go
In D.C.'s M.M. To Go store, the products are focused. The spotlight is on apparel that is stylish and functional for women who are commuting or traveling.
"Here it is a micro-capsule," Brown said of the store's product offerings. "It's our best travel pieces."
That means clothing that is wrinkle and odor resistant and has pockets. It also means options for ever-changing conditions on transportation, including scarves and sweaters. "We have really cozy cashmere that travels well."
And it means having items at the ready for people who may have forgotten something while packing a bag to New York or Philadelphia. The day prior to opening, Brown said that a woman came up and knocked on the doors of the store, asking if they carried tights. Which they do. Of course, they helped her out.