2011 April 28

The Retailer Files, Vol. 7: Alicia and Jon Singer, SINGER22

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Alicia Singer, Lindsay Lohan and Jon Singer Alicia Singer, Lindsay Lohan and Jon Singer
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(NEW YORK) If a celeb has been spotted running errands in a weathered graphic T, or starlets are hitting the town en masse donning the same pair of colorful skinny jeans, you're bound to find it on SINGER22.com. Besides the typical sorting options—by trend, designer or discount—shoppers can peruse by celebrity, choosing from over 50 stars, to check out Drew Barrymore’s latest chapeau or the Current/Elliott boyfriend jeans worn by Jennifer Aniston as she shuffles so-not-incognito through the airport. Since setting up shop eight years ago, Jon and Alicia Singer have evolved the People of shopping experiences into an online fashion destination, a Long Island brick-and-mortar location, and a slew of additional stores slated to open in the next few years. Read on for the full SINGER22 scoop with Jon, the company’s chief exec officer, and check out the Gallery for more shots of the boutique's chic fans!

How did you and Alicia decide to open SINGER22? 

I was working with my parents and we had a wholesale business selling to over 500 of the better women's specialty stores in the U.S. We also had a store called Iris Singer. In 2003, they decided to retire and close up shop. I was faced with fact that I was 31 years old, I had two kids, and I had worked with my parents for 11 years. So Alicia and I opened SINGER22; we just decided to keep our last name, and my lucky number is 22 because I was born on January 22, at 2:22 a.m. We launched the site at the same time as we opened the store in Long Island because I’m a huge believer in web and everything that can be accomplished online. My wife is the head buyer, and before we began the business she had worked for Ralph Lauren, a number of smaller designers and in wholesale buying.

What’s the story behind the celeb angle?
Back when Jessica Simpson was dating Nick Lachey and had that Newlyweds show, she was photographed wearing a Rebel Yell shirt that said “More More More.” We carried that line already, and we decided to feature a photo of Jessica in that specific shirt. The response was immediate! Within a couple of days, we sold 200 shirts.

Do you have any celebrity shoppers?
Yes, we do. It’s pretty funny. The amount of celebrities that shop on our site in general blows my mind. It just cracks us up. Sometimes they will even order the items we feature other celebrities wearing. That happened recently with items we featured Kim Kardashian wearing. But the clothes the stars are wearing definitely aren’t everything. I’d say 20 percent of our success is due to carrying what’s on the celebrities, and 80 percent is because of the product itself.

How about celebrities causing a stir in your East Hills store on Long Island?
One weekend last month, Lindsay Lohan and Ashanti stopped by in the same weekend. Ashanti actually came both days. And Nicole Richie was here to promote her lines; it’s not normal for her to do appearances beyond Saks and Neiman Marcus. But we really helped launch a couple lines for her. We’ve also had Stephanie Pratt [from The Hills] and Catt Sadler from E! in the store. Kristin Cavallari [also from The Hills] came out for Fashion’s Night Out, which was great. Three years ago, we held a party in the Hamptons at Lily Pond, hosted by Nicky Hilton, with Sam Ronson as DJ—she was dating Lindsay at the time, so it was kind of crazy.

How do you curate your selection of brands?
My wife is amazing at launching brands. It definitely happened with J Brand. I saw these plain, basic 10-inch hem boring jeans. My wife was like, “We’re buying them.” And that was that. Current/Elliott is another great example. They rolled into our store with ripped-up boyfriend jeans, and once again, my wife said we were buying them—a week later, there was a New York Times article about the brand. We probably sold 300 pairs of jeans the first week we carried Current/Elliott. So we bring in tons of lines that no one has heard of and often help make the brand. We usually test a new brand for a week or so before loading up on it. Once I see it start taking off, we buy up!

What’s flying off the shelves right now?
We’ve sold tons of the J Brand skinny bright jeans, they're really popular right now. For some reason, flared jeans are doing really well in the store; the Angie style by Citizens of Humanity is the flare right now. Also, Jeffery Campbell’s Lita boot is doing great. The level of style you can get nowadays for $150 to $200 is pretty crazy.

You introduced men’s into the mix last year. How’s that going?
Well, my brother Adam [Singer] is our chief operating officer, and he comes from a men’s fashion background. He’s worked at French Connection and Ben Sherman, so he kind of deals with the men’s end of things. We hired Jace Lipstein a few months ago to be men's fashion director. Jace has gotten his name out there pretty quickly in the men’s fashion industry, and we thought he would infuse a younger voice into the site.

How much of your business is comprised of brick-and-mortar sales?
About 20 percent of our sales happen in-store.

Who tends to shop in-store?
We’re like a city store outside the city. We get a lot of business in the summer from people heading to the Hamptons. They’ll stop off the highway, pick up some clothes for the beach and grab a bite from the deli.

How often are you in the store?
I’m almost never there. I’ll pop my head in on occasion, but my offices are literally 100 feet away. We don’t need to be there, because we’ve got a great team of 25 employees and we’re constantly growing. When we first started in 2003, it was just me and one or two other people in the store. I mean, I used to load every single picture on the web myself! A lot has changed.

What’s it like working with your wife?
We make it work! But she often works from our home office; if we were in the same office every day it’d be a bit different, and probably harder. We go to all the trade shows together, and we used to go into NYC to check out new lines. Over the past year, they’ve been coming out to us most of the time.

Do you plan to expand to other cities? What about an NYC outpost?
We want to do NYC, L.A. and Miami next. The plan is five stores in the next one to two years. We’re also thinking about a pop-up store in Hamptons.

Any other plans for expanding SINGER22?
We’re thinking about really expanding our women's business and going heavier into shoes and accessories. Also, our international reach has been growing and we will be focusing a lot more on that as well. We’ll also continue working on our technology presence. Right now we have an iPhone app, an iPad app, a Droid app. If there’s anything new out there in technology or social media, I like to have it. It’s not the future, it’s the now.

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