McMullen Oakland Retail Strong & Expanded for 15 Years – WWD

    Sherry McMullen, the influencer Auckland-based retailer who has made supporting color designers at her one-stop luxury specialty store a part of her ethos, is in an expansion mode, with plans to boost her growing e-commerce channel and launch an incubator for young designers in a new store. 10,000 square feet of storage space.

    The fashion leader is also celebrating her 15th anniversary by taking her shop down the road, starting in the Leimert Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, where she will be holding several events this weekend, then appearing in Detroit for six months starting in September, hosting three Celebration Day and Runway Show In November in the Bay Area with 15 exclusive shows from 15 designers.

    McMullen, who was the first retailer to purchase the CFDA women’s designer from this year’s winning Christopher John Rogers collection, which she stocks in her lifestyle boutique along with Stella McCartney, Khayt, The Row, Jacquemus, Carolina Herrera, Peter Doe, and entrants Sergio Hudson, Khiry jewelry, glassware by Estelle, Ankara cushions by Lagos-based Lisa Folawiyo, Books like “Black Food: Stories, Art and Recipes from Across the African Diaspora” and more.

    McMullen’s e-commerce site has a section highlighting “Our Black Partners.”

    “More consumers, not just black consumers, more consumers in general are looking for designers for color brands and black owned brands, and this is an easy way for someone to learn about brands, they may not even know who founded them by a black owner,” she said of Vision added.

    It is the fastest growing part of McMullen’s business. It said more than 35 percent of its sales came from black-owned brands in 2021, up from 11 percent the year before. “Investing in those companies is important — not just giving them my platform, but investing in our community as a whole.”

    A native of Oklahoma, McMullen was a buyer at Neiman Marcus before moving to the Bay Area to work as a textile buyer at Pottery Barn Kids. I fell in love with the community in Auckland, which was then full of thriving small businesses. “I was writing a business plan while I was still working, and I found an 800-square-foot space on Piedmont Street still under development, with no floors and no plumbing. I started looking and envisioning where the dressing rooms and dressing rooms would go, and we ended up in 2007.”

    There hasn’t been a luxury retail store in Auckland since I. Magnin closed in the mid-1990s.

    Sherry McMullin

    Sherry McMullen in her Auckland store.
    Maria Del Rio / WWD

    “The Bay Area has a bad reputation but the clientele in Auckland is unique. There is such a sophisticated style here and clients don’t pay much attention to the brand because they care about smaller, more independent designers, which is what we are known for.”

    Facing the 2008 recession, California’s casual upheaval, and the COVID-10 shutdown, it now occupies 2,775 square feet on Broadway, where it sells to clients like Phenomenal Media, Mina Harris. “And just like that” actress Karen Bateman; Huey B. Newton’s widow, activist Frederica Newton, and author/political strategist Alicia Garza even modeled some of them, including Golden State Warriors star Steve Curry and actress Aisha Curry.

    McMullen also caters to the technology class. “We work with a lot of tech executives and young women, and leaders in biotech as well,” she said.

    And they don’t want to dress like Elizabeth Holmes.

    She laughed: “Everyone wants to get dressed again – they said after closing that they wanted to burn everything in their wardrobe.”

    Between 2019 and 2021, the company’s total sales increased 31 percent, with a 23 percent increase in store and a 601 percent increase online, explained McMullen, who has gained customers through social media, rewards programs, and by sending ” Gift boxes from styles for home shopping. “Our plan is to grow e-commerce significantly over the next 10 years,” she said, adding that after relying on friends and family for funding, she is now actively seeking external funding.

    “When I first started and went to the banks to get financing, they said retail has a life of two to three years and we won’t give you money because we don’t trust you will succeed. I even had a little money to put in the work, and I have a lot of experience, so I checked all the boxes, and they still said no,” I remembered.

    So I took out a $50,000 loan from friends and family, which I paid back in three years. “Very few black designers have gotten to this place on their own,” she acknowledged, noting that today she still finds it difficult to venture out to private equity and venture capital for support.

    However, McMullen’s shop has become a magnet, with customers flying in from Los Angeles and heading directly to it from the airport. Its biggest markets are California, New York and Texas, and it’s looking to tap into other markets.


    Maria Del Rio / WWD

    McMullen buys sets globally, and is just as passionate about storytelling as style.

    “I’m always on the lookout for things that move me. When I talk to designers, and hear their story and their inspiration for a collection or their brand in general, that’s what excites me. It could be the way they support the other people and communities they live in, or how they hand-bead and dye and use Traditional techniques. I just know if our customers will like it and we’re not wrong,” she said, adding that she can take risks for smaller brands that big box stores can’t, and she enjoys working with designers on issues like production and quality.

    She has an eye for spotting new talent from New York to Nigeria, and developing ongoing relationships with designers like Tibi’s Amy Smilovic.

    “We’ve really evolved together…[Tibi] It was a contemporary brand when we first started carrying it, and now it has grown into a lifestyle brand,” McMullen said. “It resonates with me, I wear it every season. They are the things I want to live in. I could wear her sweatpants to take my son to soccer practice, or I could wear her slip-on with one of her jackets. It’s easy to mix and match and that’s the case with a lot of the brands we carry. I want our customers to feel that our store is a cabinet of things that can work together.”

    “Sherri has always had a point of view and has never tried to be everything to everyone. She has a strong sense of personal style and her best thing is being completely honest with her opinions and presenting them to her clients,” Smilovich said. for her and her clients.

    “I think the whole category of independent specialty stores is interesting. Companies with presentable owners and skewers in their bottom line are seeing huge momentum right now. Customers see and feel this, both in-store and online. Cherry builds a human relationship. If you go to a multi-store sections, you might be lucky to find a stylist to connect with, but the whole franchise? It’s unlikely. This is an advantage that Sherry has, she’s actually a real person,” continued the designer.


    Maria Del Rio / WWD

    McMullen first came across Lagos designer Lisa Followiyo on Instagram, and she’s been selling her collection exclusively fusing West African textiles with contemporary shapes in the US for the past four years.

    “What I know about working with brands from around the world is that it’s not always on our schedule,” McMullen said. “When we get the pieces it will be magical, and we don’t mind waiting six to eight months. Not many people in the industry accept that, especially the traditional, very seasonal retailers.”

    From New York, she helped sponsor Aisling Camps turned mechanical engineer knitwear designer. “During closing we were zooming in and she was trying pieces in her apartment. I told her, ‘Charge me everything, I can’t believe no store has delivered your business!’ We started talking about margins and pricing structures and making what you do less of a hobby and more of a business. “

    McMullen was the first store to acquire Christopher John Rogers’ collection in 2017. “He’s so talented, he has a strong point of view, and I love his use of color and volume. There was nothing like it on the market,” she said, noting that five years later, Still their fastest growing brand.” We can’t keep them in stock. We sell it before it arrives, and sell it by piece within a week. We quadrupled our purchases after Season 2, and we’re still getting bigger. We didn’t even get close to hitting the ceiling with her.”

    In the same spirit it plans to roll out an incubator program in a recently acquired 10,000-square-foot warehouse space in West Auckland for its e-commerce operations. “We would have a room designated for an art school or design school student who doesn’t have an actual studio space,” she said. “I will work with them individually, helping them find business partners and production facilities locally or using my network. It is about nurturing new talent so they can survive.”


    Maria Del Rio / WWD

    Meanwhile, her wedding anniversary begins in Los Angeles, where she has acquired a home at 5356 West Boulevard in the historic Black Leimert Park neighborhood for Friday dinner, a day of shopping open to the public on Saturday and a panel discussion on Sunday with Studio One Eighty Nine designers, Rosario Dawson. And Abrima Iroeh.

    “It’s a great way to test the market,” she said.

    In Detroit, which is experiencing a fashion renaissance thanks to Tracy Reese, Detroit is New Black, and other brands, McMullen will set up shop in September across the street from the Shinola Hotel downtown.

    “When thinking about the different areas we want to be in, places that are like Auckland with a lot of history, art, and rich black culture make sense to me,” the retailer said, adding that she was also looking at New York.

    In August, as part of the Obama Portrait Tour, she will have a pop-up at the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco with a selection of black designer products, and a chat with Natasha Becker, curator of African art at the Museums of Fine Arts. .

    All this represents a runway of her dreams for the next fifteen years.

    “It’s about really continuing to invest in the brands that I care about, growing the incubator program, and providing more design services, because we design a community of leaders and influencers and artists and activists, and we have physical spaces across the country that are really meaningful, where we feel deeply rooted in Society, the arts, fashion and people.”