'I Went from Selling to My Town to Selling Nationwide in 1 Week'
Against the odds in small-town New Jersey, RanD Pitts created Evolve, a successful men’s fashion boutique. When COVID-19 hit, Evolve invested in their online store. Now, their products sell out nationwide, they offer curbside pickup for locals and their sales are growing 30% every week.
Watch RanD’s Wix Best Sellers interview. Then, check out his full story and expert business tips below.
Starting a fashion business
“We wanted to bring SoHo to Somerville.”
We spoke to Pitts in Somerville, the suburban home of Evolve Clothing Gallery. It was a crisp day in May 2020, and he dressed to impress with a bold button-down over a white tee. We wouldn’t expect anything less.
Twenty-five years ago, Pitt’s Somerville storefront looked a bit different. Back then, they sold pagers and music. By 2010, a new wave of technology made their product categories irrelevant. Pitts says, laughing, “We knew we needed to change.”
In 2010, Pitts turned to his original passion, styling. A graduate of the Parsons School of Design, he already had the drive, education and skills to enter the industry. That brought on Evolve’s first evolution, to fashion.
Opening up an exclusive fashion boutique in small-town New Jersey raised some eyebrows. To paint a picture, the suburb’s population barely exceeds 12,000. “There were a lot of people who didn’t get what we were doing here, bringing these types of trends to this town,” says Pitts. “But that’s exactly why we came to Somerville. To fill that need.” If people thought his boutique belonged in Manhattan, all the better. “We wanted to bring SoHo to Somerville.”
Designers were also skeptical. Evolve needed to prove itself as a credible boutique to convince brand representatives to work with them. “At first, we heard ‘no’ all the time,” Pitts explains. “You always want to get that one brand that will open up the doors for you.”
Pitts’ enthusiasm helped him persevere through the “no”s. One of his stylists, Akshay Chanillo, says that Pitts’ reaction to rejection taught him to bounce back. “He’s always said, ‘Don’t burn any bridges. Keep every relationship that you make strong because you never know what’s going to happen,’” Chanillo says. “And a lot of times it’s come full circle and worked out in our favor.”
Sure enough, through building their social media, visiting trade shows and strengthening relationships within the fashion industry, Evolve gained more prominent brands. The more they grew, the faster they accelerated. “As we leveled up, the ladder just got easier and easier,” Pitts says.
In 2017, their success set in. Designers were finally inviting the Evolve team to showrooms, flying them in with all expenses paid. Pitts remembers when one of Evolve’s top brands, Reigning Champ, invited them to an amazing art installation showcasing their Spring/Summer collection. “We were blown away,” says Pitts. “We were just like two kids, saying, ‘Here we are, it’s the big world! We made it!”
Thriving in brick-and-mortar
“Evolve is my life. My dream come true.”
Now, Evolve is a trendy men’s fashion house with the interior to show it. Pitts organizes his clothing racks impeccably, and the store is decorated with neon signs, accent walls and fashion-forward quotes.
“Because we’re here in Somerville, we get people who walk in and think we’re just a regular clothing store. We’re so much more than that,” Pitts says. Thankfully, their core customer base knows what makes Evolve unique. “We’ve become that destination, where people from all over the world are coming here.”
Pitts and his team of professional stylists dedicate themselves to their clients. “We want to make sure our guys are styled exactly the way they need to be,” says Pitts. Evolve works for their clients’ trust. Once clients believe in Evolve’s fashion sense and personalized touch, they’ll partner with the stylists to curate their closets.
Evolve’s dedication and diligence helps them predict trends even before they get to the runways. Pitts is especially proud that they caught the jogger pant early; he’s less proud about discovering the oversized white tee. Luckily, trends come and go. The Evolve team travels the world to stay on top of them all. “We’re seeing everything years in advance, before it even hits the market.”
Today, brands trust Evolve as well. The tables have turned—Pitts now finds himself turning away brands who don’t fit with Evolve’s aesthetic. Maintaining that exclusivity helps Evolve define their look and reach the perfect fashion labels. "Our goal is to stay unique, always stay above and beyond, and to always bring those exclusive wardrobes to our clients," says Pitts.
Evolving to an online store
"I went from selling to my town to selling nationwide in one week. It's a whole new business now."
Pitts’ store kept growing smoothly until March 2020. When COVID-19 shut down New Jersey, Evolve’s storefront closed its doors. RanD was heartbroken. “The last thing you want to do is see your dream closed. Nowhere in our business plan did it say, ‘You have to shut down because there’s a pandemic,’” Pitts says.
After a moment of upset, the Evolve team took action. Cue Evolve’s second evolution: from brick-and-mortar to online sales. Pitts had originally created a Wix website to establish an online presence. With this shift, he started an online store and explored Wix’s eCommerce tools, setting up custom product galleries, online orders and online payment methods. Finally, Evolve directed all their email marketing and social media online.
Pitts’ comfort zone was in brick-and-mortar, so he was pleasantly surprised by the opportunities online. Thanks to the online store, Evolve is staying productive through COVID-19. “Where we had just the one store in town, now we're throughout every state in the U.S.,” he says.
“Our website now is everything to us.”
Using Wix SEO Wiz, Pitts optimized his site so that sales now come in from across the country. In fact, one exclusive sneaker style sold out just from search. Evolve was the one of the only stores in the U.S. who carried the shoe.
Within five minutes, customers in California found them and bought every pair.
Evolve took advantage of Wix eCommerce’s advanced features to level up their store. “We really expanded,” says Pitts. “We’re keeping top of things that we’ve never been able to do before.” They now use email marketing and analytics, manage their inventory from their integrated Wix dashboard and even offer curbside pickup to their local regulars.
The results speak for themselves: week over week, Evolve’s sales have been increasing 30%. Sometimes, Evolve’s order notifications pop up so rapidly on his Wix mobile app that they interrupt Pitts family dinners. Pitts grinned, and told us, “We don’t seem to mind. Not these days.”
Creating a store vibe
“What we do is special. We’re trying to perfect that now, online.”
Pitts curates Evolve’s energy as carefully as his collections. With all the brands they carry, he ensures that Evolve maintains its own distinctive brand. “We want to create that vibe, where people walk in and they just feel what we do,” he says. He tries to capture all of the senses: for example, customers walk in and smell the men’s fragrances they sell. Above all, Pitts values his soundtrack. “Music has always been part of the puzzle here at Evolve to set the mood,” he says. As a past DJ, he gets especially excited when shoppers ask him what’s playing.
Moving online, Pitts maintained his store’s atmosphere—through their social media, product photos and online store design. “It’s something that transcends from our store onto our website,” he says.
One of the elements that Pitts misses most about brick-and-mortar? Interacting with his customers: “Seeing how their day went, knowing what their needs are, introducing a new brand to them.” Pitts found a solution by adding live chat to their site. Though it’s not the same as in-person, the Evolve team can now provide personalized service to every customer.
“The road to what’s next is always open to us.”
Now that Pitts discovered the potential of eCommerce, there’s no looking back. The way he sees it, he now has two locations: one in Somerville, and one online. “When this is all done, things are going to be even better than before the shutdown,” he predicts. “Our clients will be back, and our online will be thriving as it is now. The future looks great.”
Until they reach that future, Pitts is continuing to tap his online boutique’s potential, making changes in his brick-and-mortar location and posting on social to get his customers excited. Ultimately, Pitts admits he can never tell what will happen next. To adapt, he takes his cue from his industry: "We'll always evolve because fashion always changes,” he says. “We didn’t stop when this hit, because of our website, we kept moving. We’re always looking for the next best, great thing.”
Pitts pauses and admits, “That’s kind of unpredictable. And we like it that way.”
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Tova is a content marketer with a passion for compelling business stories. Perhaps more obsessively than others, she watches the Super Bowl for the ads.