Patina Doubles Down on Brick and Mortar
A year ago, neighborhood gift retailer Patina was scrambling to build out an e-commerce site to survive the pandemic. This month, the Minneapolis-based boutique chain unveiled an expansion of its Golden Valley store, on the heels of a relocation from Northeast to a larger space in nearby Roseville. The biggest concern this holiday season is keeping up with demand, but owners Christine Ward and Rick Haase say they are prepared.
“Rick always says, out of challenging time, opportunities come,” Ward said of her husband and business partner. “In 25 years of business, we haven’t had something quite as dramatic as this, but if you stay true to your business model and adapt, when you come out, the opportunities can be exciting.”
Not only has Patina bounced back; the local retailer is currently trending ahead of 2019 sales. That’s in line with national trends: the National Retail Federation expects that 2021 holiday sales could hit $859 billion, shattering pre-pandemic records.
Patina found a way to stay afloat during lockdown through online shopping, curbside pickup and good old fashioned phone service. Retail experts say the pandemic accelerated consumer adoption of online shopping. This holiday season, the National Retail Federation expects around $220 billion to be driven by online purchases—up as much as 15 percent from 2020. But at Patina’s eight Twin Cities locations, customers are coming back while online orders are decreasing.
“We are somewhat of an anomaly,” Ward said. “I’m doing curbside pickup with some of my shopping and haven’t returned to the store, but Patina is built for brick and mortar. If we can find good synergy within our neighborhoods, that’s where our niche is.”
Around 85 percent of Patina’s sales staff has returned to its stores as well.
Bigger is better
As soon as shoppers began coming in again when Covid restrictions were lifted, Ward noticed that Patina’s bigger stores were quicker to rebound. “We chalked it up to people feeling more comfortable with more space—our customers felt more comfortable; our staff felt more comfortable.”
Woodbury is Patina’s largest storefront at 7,200 square feet. The Northeast Minneapolis store was cramped at just 2,500 square feet, so the opportunity to take over an old Pier 1 space in Roseville allowed Patina to expand in that part of town to more like 6,800 square feet. In Golden Valley, Patina grabbed a vacant storefront next door to its store at Highway 55 and Winnetka Avenue to add an additional 600 square feet to create a 6,000 square foot footprint.
Ward said landlords today are willing to make lease terms a bit more flexible than in pre-pandemic times. “We keep saying, ‘what if something like [a pandemic] happens again?’ and they’re willing to work with us, so there’s some comfort in that.”
Supply chain stress
Of course, the extra space is only helpful with merchandise on the shelves. “It’s a whole different level of stress this year,” Ward said. “The last thing we want is for customers to make the effort to come in and not have something on the shelves.”
This is where Patina’s decades of experience paid off: Ward and Haase saw their sales rebounding last holiday season, and that coupled with the challenges for many factories to get going after a Covid shutdown prompted them to ordered new merchandise even earlier than usual. Ward said the delays aren’t only on containers coming from overseas. “You might have something made in Bloomington, but the company is waiting on a part from China. The challenges are everywhere, in places you wouldn’t expect. We’ve tried really hard to kepp the product mix fresh and new.”
Patina’s Minneapolis warehouse is stocked through March 2022, Ward estimates. She said current shopping trends play to Patina’s strengths: “There’s still a focus on home, nesting, refreshing living spaces, and entertaining small groups.”