An Interview With Austin Freed, Chubbies’ Senior Director of Offline Sales and Operations.
In August of 2022, we took on a new client; Chubbies, a men’s clothing brand known for its vibrant shorts and swim trunks. Now, we’re excited to announce that over the weekend, the company re-opened its Charleston store (333 King Street) with a new design. Its first store opened in 2017 in San Francisco’s Cow Hollow. Since then, it’s opened a variety of pop-ups, and short-term stores across the country, with 18 locations open nationwide at its peak. The original purpose of these locations was to test new markets and bring the Chubbies experience to its customers in real life. However, the brand’s Charleston re-opening marks its commitment to a long-term physical presence.
The store, which initially opened in 2020, has been closed for five months to undergo a makeover by 2Hemispheres, a retail firm based out of Oregon. It designed the location with the future of Chubbies in mind. Fixtures are adjustable for growing merchandise, visual media is on display throughout, the checkout system is in the hands of every employee, and the new back-of-house allows for a quick product transition.
We sat down with Austin Freed, Senior Director of Offline Sales and Operations, to get more details on the new design, the re-opening, and their future expansion plans.
Just before Covid, we trimmed it down and focused on our five most profitable stores in our most promising markets, and said the goal right now is to create a blueprint that we can scale. So, over about two years, we created this great blueprint, both visually and operationally, for us to feel really confident about and implement everything we learned.
All our existing stores, even our existing five stores, were built to be short-term pop-ups, so the budgets were short-term budgets, and some of those stores have now been open for five-plus years. So, we’ve been talking about how it’s time to upgrade these stores or even get them to the standard we expect them to be at for a multi-year term. Charleston is our first go at our total re-design and rebuild, and our biggest question was how do we bring our digital presence in-store?
This rebuild was to get us to a place where somebody can walk and be like, ‘oh yes, this is exactly what I wanted and more’ from interacting physically with the Chubbies brand because we’re fun, we’re loud, we’re bright, we’re colorful, we definitely have a personality socially, and we want to make sure that comes across when you visit a store.
I’d probably say a couple of things. One, I think this [Charleston] is the most outdated out of all our spaces. But, secondly, I think it’s a great location and a great opportunity for us to test all of our customer types in one area — you have College of Charleston right there with these hyper-localized college students, you have a lot of families who live near Charleston and the surrounding area who travel here to shop, and you have so many visitors and tourists who are coming to King Street to do their shopping.
Well, we have fixtures built specifically around our current categories and potential future categories, so not just the volume of units we can store but how quickly we can get them out. Also, how we can showcase them visually has improved — we’re a big prints company, we have a ton of prints, and when you closet hang all those, it’s really hard to see all the prints, and now we have really great ways for you to see everything. So it’s become very visually compelling for shoppers.
We are also doing some hardware updates — more handheld so that we can be mobile and walk around the store with the customer. We’re pretty tied to this ‘you can check out anywhere’ environment, which is very similar to Apple. So we will have a dedicated POS station, as a more traditional cashier checkout area, but it has wheels and can go anywhere in the store that we need.
Going back to what I said before about creating a scalable blueprint — we’ve done that. Now, we just need to see it executed, and I think we will have pretty good signs about how quickly we will act on it within the first couple of months.
Chubbies has four other locations open in Atlanta, Miramar Beach, Houston, and Tampa, with more on the way. We’re looking forward to helping them expand this concept and continue to grow their physical footprint!