Planet Blue, a boutique retailer with a Southern California vibe, has managed to grow in a tough retail market.
Ling-Su Chinn opened Planet Blue in 1995 at the Malibu Country Mart. Since then, Planet Blue has opened 13 more locations across the country, as well as an online boutique.
There are seven Southern California locations and the rest are located in Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Scottsdale, Honolulu, New York City and Boca Raton.
The company is privately held but has a private equity partner, Breakwater Management.
The most recent addition is the Newport Beach location where we met with Planet Blue’s Senior Vice President of Marketing Angela Pih.
The effortless, yet chic aesthetic of the store embodies the elevated coastal lifestyle of Malibu, Angela said.
Each store carries the same assortment and each piece is hand selected with the motto of “beach to street” in mind. The store is merchandised by color story and is easy to shop.
“Our niche is the girl that is is free-spirited, effortless beauty, adventurous and perpetually sunny,” Angela said. “We have customers that are teenagers with their moms, as well as women in their 20s. We have something for everyone.”
Planet Blue is a hybrid retailer, carrying both its in-house Blue Life brands as well as a mix of other brands with the Southern California vibe.
The Blue Life brands account for about one-third of the merchandise and 40% of the sales at Planet Blue.
Blue Life, Planet Blue’s apparel brand, is the leading category, followed by Blue Life Swimwear and Blue Life Fit.
Outside best selling brands for Planet Blue are Sundry, Philanthropy, Chaser, Cleobella, Static Swimwear, For Love and Lemons, and Faithfull the Brand.
Price points range from $70-$250 for denim, $44-$240 for tops and $62-202 for swimwear.
“We carry 300 brands at any time,” Angela said. “We order a small batch of pieces and have weekly deliveries. Our girl probably won’t want to wear the same outfit twice, or have the same outfit as someone else. Because we order a limited number of pieces, we are always keeping it fresh and there is always something new when a customer comes back in.”
Planet Blue works hard to create a personal experience with their clients to keep them coming back. They aim to make each location a part of the neighborhood and build a community around the boutique.
All in-store employees are stylists who build relationships with shoppers while helping them update their wardrobes.
While the retail stores remain the top revenue source, Angela predicts that the online business will eventually outpace it.
In addition to the Planet Blue boutiques and online store, Blue Life brands are sold at retailers such as Revolve, Urban Outfitters, ASOS and Equinox.
Angela is excited about the Resort 2018 swim line, which features a variety of stripes, hardware and unique cuts.
Blue Life’s collaboration runway show with Issa De’ Mar at Miami Swim Week last July got a lot of positive feedback from retailers and consumers.
The Resort 2018 line launched in stores and online in November.
While Planet Blue has expanded its store base in recent years, there are no immediate plans to open additional doors.