From 6 Months to 800 Guests in 4 Hours: How We Opened Fourpost in Mall of America
Opening up your own storefront is no easy task—especially when it’s in one of the largest malls in North America. Our team at Fourpost partnered with design firms, digital agencies, and internal employees across our Curation, Marketing, Product, and Operations departments to get it done. It was a process that took over six months of planning and collaboration.
It meant we had to do everything from designing the store layout, to promoting our Fourpost-branded website and social media channels, to curating a diverse mix of brands to launch their first Studio Shops with us. However, it all came together for our grand opening night on November 1 when over 800 guests came out in less than four hours.
The process was an important learning experience for us, and now we’re bringing those lessons to you. Here’s how we approached the buildout and opening of our Mall of America location.
Using Design to Put the Guest Experience First
Before we even began thinking about what a Fourpost location would look like, we went to the experts: branding company, Red Antler, and interior design company, Hyphen & Co. They helped us create the Fourpost identity as well as design our Studio Shops (the Cubes, Triangles, and Rectangles in our locations). We worked with them to make sure that our new identity as Fourpost still reflected our mission: to bring people and brands together through community and experiences. Then we found the perfect spot to lease in Mall of America.
“Our location is right under Crayola Experience, which is a huge attraction and destination in MOA,” says Mark Ghermezian, Fourpost Founder and CEO. “It was chosen to be another destination on the second floor of MOA, and the specific location allows us to expand when needed to become a full anchor of the mall.”
Once we signed the lease, we began working on the store layout.
“We wanted to create a space that was full of energy, possibility, and discovery and not take away from the individual members’ presence at the same time,” says Shelly Lynch-Sparks, the Founder and Principal of Hyphen & Co. “All culminating to signal a new type of retail experience.”
Our location layout needed to offer discoverability for our guests from the moment they walked in, so we designed non-traditional retail floor plans that use our Studio Shops to create nooks of interest. We also incorporated our brand expressions like “Newness, Nowness” in the dressing rooms and “More Treats per Step” in front of one of our eateries. These expressions help guide guests through the space and lead them from one brand to the next. Our bold color palette also accentuates Instagrammable moments throughout the store while the four dots found in our logo and symbol are found around the space. They represent the “posts” of our Studio Shops, as well as our four company pillars: Space, Community, Service, and Curation.
A big part of our retail concept is to create memorable experiences for our guests, so we needed to emphasize the importance of events within the design. To do this, we built out flexible spaces that accommodate nearly any type of event from a podcast recording one day to a socially-charged art installation the next.
We collaborated with Mall of America Design Project Manager, Lori Eghobamien, and her team to actually complete the construction. After providing them with our layout and renderings, they worked with us to source construction teams to build out the store.
During construction, we used the windows to tease out the store and brand launch. We covered them in our brand colors and some of our expressions, such as “Something New at Every Step,” as well as our website URL and Instagram handle, so that mall shoppers knew where they could find out more. We worked with Mall of America on these graphics and others, including a digital promotion inside the mall for our location’s grand opening.
Of course the build out of the store came with its own challenges. The renderings had to be approved months before construction began, meaning we had to be forward thinking about the date our store would actually open to the public. We also had to make sure we had all the proper building and city permits and approvals, as well as a food license for our eateries. Plus, we were adding in branding touches up to the day we opened as we kept wanting to change parts of the design after seeing it in-person.
Always budget for more time than you think you’ll need to get permits and approvals, finalize the design, and finish construction. There will always be last minute details you’ll want to change in your space.
Curating for a Diverse Mix of Brands
Much thought went into the brands we chose to open with at Mall of America and this will carry over as we expand into new locations in 2019. Our aim is to curate for a diverse mix of local, digital-first, and international brands across our three categories: Fashion and Accessories, Home and Lifestyle, and Food and Services. But most importantly, we want brands that tell a story.
“Our Studio Shops were designed for brands of all categories to convey their unique story regardless of where they are in their lifecycle, from local, emerging, national, international, to digitally-native brands,” says Mark.
To get that in our Mall of America location, we worked with local curators who knew the Minneapolis-St. Paul market and could bring local flavor into our location. We also gave a nod to the region’s Scandinavian heritage and brought in Swedish brand, PRINTWORKS, to tap into the Scandinavian design and aesthetic within our space.
Many of the brands we reached out to thought they could never have their own store—let alone in a huge mall—but we made opening a storefront easy for them. Many of our members were especially excited to come in right before the holiday season and we leaned towards those that had products that would sell well during the holidays.
“We’ve always wanted to come to the U.S. with our own fully-branded, direct-to-consumer storefront and partnering with Fourpost at Mall of America gives us the chance to do just that and just in time for the holidays,” said Holly Axling, International Sales Director at PRINTWORKS.
As we bring new brands into the location in the future, we’ll always keep seasonality in mind—along with our emphasis on curating a mix with interesting stories and across categories. For example, we saw a need for more technology products within a curated setting, so we brought in brands like Polaroid Originals, headphones-brand Urbanears, and sparkling water maker company Aarke.
Because we work with so many brands, part of the challenge in opening Fourpost was getting them set up in a way that told their particular story. Weeks before opening, we asked them to pick out their fixtures and shelving, so they could plan their own space according to their products. We wanted them to be able to sell and merchandise in a way that reflected their own brand. When the day came for actual set up, our team’s retail experts offered them merchandising tips to help them tell their story visually.
Curation, diversity, and storytelling are important when it comes to both brands and products. Whether you have a Fourpost Studio Shop or your own store, you need to think about your brand values and how they relate to your products and merchandising. Your brand needs to tell your customers a compelling story.
Launching our Brand Online
Part of opening our storefront was actually to launch the Fourpost brand across our digital channels first. For months, we kept our concept quiet and until October, we were in stealth mode. We purposely held back information so that when we launched all our marketing and brand announcements right before the opening, it would be with a bang—and maximize buzz and interest.
On October 17, we announced our brand concept, funding, and store opening at Mall of America. We launched our new website (built by digital agency Wondersauce), email campaigns, Instagram and other social channels, and both print and digital ads all on the same day. While we had specific messaging for our national launch, we tweaked that for the local audience near the mall. For the the Minneapolis community, we wanted to drive engagement online by telling our local brands’ stories. This is why you see them included in the main window of our store and featured across our digital channels.
“Since we’re a new brand and a brand-new concept, we wanted to make it very clear to the public about what to expect when they arrived at Fourpost, which is why we included the messaging, ‘A collection of Studio Shops, eateries, and events,’ on a lot of our marketing,” says Kathleen Waugh, the Senior Director of Marketing at Fourpost.
The press around the launch of our brand also helped us build excitement for our store’s grand opening event. People who read about us in Glossy or Retail Insider came to our site and signed up for more information, allowing us to immediately engage with them through email campaigns and event invites. This helped us retain our new customers and drive them to shop in-store. We also had an extensive email list from previous iterations of our brand, and used it to tap into our existing audience and further engage them with a VIP invite to our opening.
Beyond press, we used our own branded content to drive RSVPs via Instagram, our largest community online. We also decided to promote all of our events on Eventbrite, including the opening, because of the organic reach that we get from their community. 31% of the RSVPs to our grand opening came from Eventbrite’s web and mobile app, making it a great source of new leads for us. Because we wanted to really welcome the MSP community and reflect one of our brand expressions, “Open to Everything,” we made the event open to the public. Plus, as a new brand, this helped us get the announcement out to the masses and tap into word-of-mouth within the local community. This helped us power our launch beyond the digital realm and bring people in-store.
- Even if you don’t have a PR team to pitch your brand to reporters, there are many free channels you can promote content on and experiment with, such as Eventbrite, Medium, and social media platforms.
- Think about where your audience is online and distribute your content there. For example, if your main audience is on Facebook, promote heavily on that platform. Don’t overextend yourself by trying to cover all platforms at once.
- While you use digital channels to tell your story, make sure that you are still tapping into your local community and that your messaging aligns with that regions’ interests.
Hosting a Grand Opening Event
A big part of our opening plan was centered around our grand opening celebration. We wanted to drive people in-store and get them to shop right away, as well as give our growing community a glimpse into what they can expect from us. There will always be something new and exciting going on in our space—from fashion to food to unexpected experiences like our art installation from local artists, Girl Friday. The installation was photographed and shared hundreds of times on the night of the event.
For the event, our Associate Manager of Partnerships & Events in Minneapolis, Golnaz Yamoutpour, says she “wanted to work with brands that aligned with our brand and mission, were either known in the community, or I saw as emerging, and that I knew could bring in a ‘wow-factor’ with their work.”
We brought in Leonetti Confetti, Moonchild Naturals, and Glam Doll Donuts as pop-ups in our space. Each brought in their own unique, creative flair while also incorporating our brand elements. For example, Glam Doll Donuts created a Fourpost-branded donut wall, Moonchild Naturals created a natural bubbly beverage menu with Fourpost-influenced verbiage, and Leonetti Confetti customized confetti in Fourpost colors. Since it was important for us to support the local community, we also decided to donate a portion of our grand opening month revenue to Leonetti Confetti, a Minneapolis nonprofit helping women in recovery.
However, event planning wasn’t without its challenges either. For the opening, we had to be very conscious of regulatory factors as we were serving food and alcohol in a retail space. Since this isn’t a common practice in retail, we had to communicate with both Mall of America and the City of Bloomington to ensure we were compliant.
We measured the event’s success through RSVP and attendance goals, our brands’ sales that night, and engagement with our brand via email and on our social channels.
To make sure we hit our RSVP goal, we partnered with Mall of America to promote the event through their email and social channels, which brought in over 100 RSVPs from their qualified audience. We also used our own email channels, which brought in hundreds more responses.
This helped make the event a success and we got over 800 get tickets to it. They were a mixture of influencers, local media, retail experts, friends, and family. Even Forbes showed up to cover our opening and shoot a quick video on the event. The celebration exceeded our expectations and most of our brands sold more than they anticipated.
On Instagram, we saw unprecedented activity and engagement, with over 55 separate accounts sharing our event and highlighting all of the fun. Plus, thousands of people visited our Instagram profile and we attracted many new followers interested in seeing what we do next.
Events like an opening party can really connect your brand with your community and bring people into your store. Events are a great way to meet your customers face-to-face and get exposure from local press and social media. If you’re selling tickets, they can be a revenue stream for your brand as well. For example, Fourpost Minneapolis member Dearest Baker held a tasting for their macarons, and over sixty people purchased tickets and came to the event.
Opening up our storefront in Mall of America was an extremely demanding, challenging, and exciting adventure. We learned quite a few lessons from the experience. If you’re planning on opening your own store or even a Studio Shop with us, here are some of the key takeaways you should keep in mind:
- Always budget for more time than you think you’ll need for building out your store
- Storytelling is key when it comes to selling your brand and products
- Experiment with free channels for content promotion and distribution, such as social media or Medium
- Go where you audience is—both online and in-store—and tap into that community’s interests
- Host events: they generate foot traffic, sales, and exposure on social media and in the press
Learn more about how to open your own store and apply to sell at Fourpost.