Baton Rouge-based Southern Marsh—which, until recently, has sold its apparel online and through an extensive distribution network of retailers—is expanding into the retail business with its own brick-and-mortar locations.
The company, founded by Matthew Valiollahi and Stephen Smith in 2007, opened its first store in The Woodlands, Texas, in late September in an upscale lifestyle center called The Marketplace. Between five and 10 additional new locations are planned for 2019, Paul Claxton, director of retail, says.
Valiollahi and Smith chose the Greater Houston area for their first store because the company has a strong foothold in that market already and because there’s so much potential for growth.
“We’ve had some great wholesale partnerships for years and there are so many people in that market, it makes sense to grow the brand there,” Claxton says.
Because so many local retailers in the Baton Rouge area already carry Southern Marsh products, the company did not want to open its own store here and pose a competitive threat to its longtime local partners, Claxton says.
The new 1,700-square-foot store at The Woodlands will capitalize on the growing trend toward offering customers shopping “experiences,” Claxton says. Clerks will be called “guides” and will be trained to “educate” shoppers on the store’s products.
“It is like an Apple store for clothes,” he says. “Everything is done in on an iPad. You won’t see any cash registers.”
The expansion into physical retail locations comes as Southern Marsh—which started by manufacturing high-quality t-shirts with a distinctly Southern flair and a signature mallard logo—has grown rapidly over the past five years into other types of apparel. The company today sells lines of men’s, women’s and children’s apparel as well as outerwear, fishing wear, and accessories that include hats, blankets, towels and duffel bags.
In 2013, Valliolahi and Smith told Business Report their five-year plan was to grow company sales from $5 million to $20 million.
“They have far exceeded that,” says Claxton, who declines to provide exact revenues.