If there is one thing to know about Dallas retail-preneur Matt Alexander, it’s that he is always up for a good story. At the launch of one of his earlier ventures, Need, in 2013 (an e-commerce retailer and publication for men), it was the art of the story that drove his business, with limited focus given to traditional sales tactics. Conceptually, many believed this to be odd — the belief that focusing on the brand’s story would drive sales — but little did they know that Alexander was at the cusp of major innovation.
The state of the current retail industry is chaotic, and critics are coining it as an apocalypse. Department stores are dying, brands are declining, store closings have reached record numbers and trends are here-today-gone-today.
Despite the naysayers, Alexander and his latest retail venture, Plano-based Neighborhood Goods, is rapidly on the rise. With a recent announcement of even more funding (to the tune of $11 million), further growth and expansion plans for this “modern alternative” to the department store is happening sooner than later. It seems as if he’s found the holy grail to consumer shopping, and the key lies within each and every story behind the brands that he sells. As Forbes contributor Steve Dennis stated, “Physical retail isn’t dead; boring retail is.” As we posed this theory to Alexander in the wake of his recent success, we look to him to weigh in and to tell us yet, another good story.
“The majority of the retail market wants good, physical retail experiences,” the co-founder and CEO of Neighborhood Goods says simply about why his business is soaring during the height of the alleged apocalypse. “There’s a real power in giving people a reason to go to a physical space beyond just transactions … [especially] if you could build stories around it and if you could harness the power of the people behind the brand.”
The “experience” he is referring to is everything from sips to bites to photo booths to social media activations, events and more — all while you shop. Current investors, including tennis legend Serena Williams, have partnered with Neighborhood Goods because of this very unique approach to the customer experience.
“A lot of companies have failed to modernize. You can’t come in and hope [retail] stays the same for a hundred years … that’s just not the way it works." — Matt Alexander
“Serena has been doing a lot of interesting consumer investing,” Alexander dishes. “[She] is an investor but is also looked at as a partner because she has her own brand. We will be finding more fun ways to work together with her in the future.”
With a current portfolio of over 42 brand partners including Fossil, Cynthia Rowley, Draper James (Reese Witherspoon’s label), Dollar Shave Club and more, 16 new brands will launch at the Neighborhood Goods Plano location over the course of the next several weeks — bringing the total number of active brands to 58. The store is indisputably in a league of its own.
“It’s an exciting time. At Plano, we will soon more than double the number of active brands since launch, whilst continuing to drive an incredibly thoughtful, progressive and exciting mix of events and activations in the store,” Alexander adds. “Meanwhile, we’re a short time away from opening our second location at Chelsea Market in New York and … our forthcoming third location in Austin, Texas.”
There are many other future openings in store for Neighborhood Goods, but as of current, mum's the word. For now, Alexander and his team of creatives will continue in the curation of energetic brand experiences, artful storytelling and, of course, activations.
At a recent event in Dallas, the Southern Methodist University grad turned retail guru, was dubbed today’s version of the iconic Stanley Marcus. All legendary labels aside, Alexander focuses on expansion and evolution within the up-and-down cycles of the retail industry.
“We seem to be doing something very unorthodox, but in many respects it’s a natural correction in the industry,” Alexander says. “A lot of companies have failed to modernize. You can’t come in and hope [retail] stays the same for a hundred years … that’s just not the way it works. We have to modernize, and we have to be listening. There can be no arrogance, otherwise you’ll be put out.”
For now, Alexander and Co. are focused on the fall opening of the New York Neighborhood Goods location followed by Austin in 2020. An international “maybe” has not yet been ruled out. There will be additional brands added to the mix, with even more interesting narratives to tell. Whatever the course he charts (even through the apocalypse), Alexander is weaving a new tale — and it just may be one of the greatest retail stories ever told.