‘Stores have always been a part of our story’: Argent CEO Sali Christeson on the women’s workwear brand’s growth plans
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Women’s workwear brand Argent is back in growth mode.
The company first launched in 2016, and saw a precipitous rise over its first few years — especially thanks to well-known fans of the brand like Hilary Clinton. But the pandemic changed everything — with people no longer going to work in offices and overall demand plummeting.
During that time, said Argent founder and CEO Sali Christeson, “it really became about survival and hunkering down and going lean and figuring out what our strategy was going to be.” And while the company saw a loss in both 2020 and 2021, things are once again on the up and up. “We’ve never seen numbers the way that we’re seeing now,” said Christeson.
She joined the Modern Retail Podcast this week and spoke about Argent’s future plans, as well the overall state of workwear.
Though Argent began as a digital brand, over the years it launched a few showrooms. And while many of those closed during the pandemic, Christeson said that in-store retail is a focus for this year. “I love stores,” she said. “They’ve always been part of our story.” With that, the brand has reopened its Soho store, and hopes to open more over the next year.
But owned stores aren’t the only area of growth for Argent. The brand recently began a wholesale partnership with Nordstrom. As Christeson described it, wholesale presents new opportunities when done right. “You have to recognize how much comes from whole partnerships, if you time it right,” she said. “If it’s a mutual fit, it’s a win-win.”
And marketing is also a big push — especially in some often-overlooked areas like catalogs. “Performance-driven catalogs… outperform digital,” she said. “Catalogs crush for us.”
For now, the focus is on growing and keeping pace. “There’s so much opportunity,” she said. “We’re trying to stay really focused on retail, wholesale team growth and then all the marketing to supplement it.”
Here are a few highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited for clarity.
Argent’s catalog strategy
“I think that it depends on the purpose of the catalog. We’ve done brand catalogs, which are more about enhancing the brand, giving the brand credibility and storytelling around some of the franchises I just spoke to. So I think [they are] reinforcing who we are and what we stand for. Those would have more editorial content. And then there are performance-driven catalogs, which in our experience outperform digital — like it’s comparable to a Facebook/Google spend… And yes, it always outperforms — catalogs crush for us.”
The role of stores
“I love stores, they’ve always been a part of our story. They are such a huge part of articulating what we’re building and really delivering a brand experience. We’re so focused on the professional woman and we understand who our customer is to a T. And so getting to offer Argent in physical form — and have a gathering place and to be able to bring people together or be able to bring people in individually — it’s just really special. From a business perspective, they’re immediately ROI positive every time we open a store. So it’s not just about brand for us, because I know a lot of companies that do stores and physical retail for the brand play. It’s really compelling for our product because, as you can imagine, it’s much easier to consume in-person versus online — in terms of getting the fit right, getting the sizing right, understanding the quality. We have such confidence in our product. It’s hard to really communicate that online as easily as it is in-store. The second someone converts in-store they become a lifetime customer.”
Inside Argent’s Nordstrom partnership
“We launched Nordstrom in September of last year. We love it, it’s been awesome… Partially it’s because there’s a changed landscape, and omnichannel is absolutely the future. But also, you have to recognize how much comes from wholesale partnerships, if you time it right. If it’s a mutual fit, it’s a win-win. And that’s what it’s been for us. They’ve been incredible to work with. It’s been great for credibility, we have captured some of our best customers through Nordstrom. We’ve done a lot of marketing with them. We did an event with them last year, we’re hoping to do an event with them again this year, if not multiple. It’s just been really great for a multitude of reasons.”