How Culture Kings CEO Simon Beard is turning the brand into a behemoth
The Las Vegas Culture Kings store is just a few weeks old, but CEO Simon Beard is confident that it will break records. The new flagship store – the brand’s first in the US – features about 1300sqm of retail space, as well as a recording studio for musical artists, a 23-metre hat wall, a bar, live DJs performing daily, and a Secret Room featuring sought-after items in the streetwear market. The shop also features more than 18 global brands designed by Culture Kings, and about 60 styles fro
from third-party labels.
Beard told Inside Retail that the brand – which also has seven stores across Australia and one in New Zealand – was looking at different locations across the US before identifying Las Vegas, as it suited its target audience of young males, who travel there as a rite of passage.
He believes Las Vegas is the entertainment capital of the world and that Culture Kings – which was valued at over $600 million following a majority stake purchase by a.k.a Brands in 2021 – creates a true retail and entertainment (or, ‘retail-tainment’) experience. Thus, the brand and location were a perfect fit.
He said that people were lining up from 2am for the opening, with products flying off the shelf, and that the following Saturday outperformed opening day, showing the strength of the brand.
“I’ve always studied luxury, and nowhere else in the world do they have six Louis Vuitton stores within a kilometre. The nightlife industry there is like nowhere else in the world, and I always thought if we could build this store [where customers would say], ‘When I go to Vegas, I’m going to go to Omnia [nightclub], Encore and that Culture King store I saw on TikTok.’
“That’s what I’ve had in mind when bringing this to life.”
‘Will be legendary’
Beard said in July this year that his vision of the then up-and-coming Las Vegas store was for it to be the “Disneyland of sports, street, music and pop culture”.
He believes this has come to fruition, with the store featuring an assortment of features and outfits across a range of categories, including sport, music, fashion and pop-culture. He explained he is still going through the data to see how long customers spend in the store, but he is sure it will break records.
He attributed the success of the opening to the following that the Culture Kings brand has developed over the years.
“It’s always a nervous thing [to see] if the opening will be crickets. In New Zealand, it was a three-hour wait to get in the store. And although we built up a following and a decent online business in the US, it’s a drop in the ocean compared with how big the US is,” he said.
“But, the opening was awesome.”
He contends that the activations, events and content organised for the store’s opening had a ripple effect, and created a sense of enthusiasm that inspired customers to attend the store in the following weeks.
He also said that the store opening was a big learning opportunity for him and the brand.
“It took a bit longer than we wanted [to open] because it was such a big build. For instance, Vegas gets to 50 degrees, so the air-conditioning needed was insane. There were little things that we didn’t anticipate as well as we could have, but it’s all part of it,” he said.
“I’m glad it’s open now, and I reckon it’ll be a landmark in Vegas. The content, events and magic moments that will be created out of that store will be legendary.”
Pushing the envelope
Although the Las Vegas store is Culture Kings’ biggest, Beard says the brand will still be run out of, and led by, the guiding principles established in Australia. However, he’s open to implementing different initiatives from the US store in other, local stores.
“We’ve always got to keep pushing the envelope, and taking those risks. [That courage] is an important part of how we got here, and is a key part of our brand,” he said.
The Las Vegas store will feature a bigger range of products due to its size, as well as exclusive products that can’t be purchased online. This includes sample products, artist collaborations and handmade products in the secret room, which can be accessed via pin code.
He adds that there’s a transition process to go through with the US team, which can have up to 50 people working each shift.
“I’m always thinking about how to add value, connect with customers and understand how to curate and build full outfits. That was a big thing for us [in terms of] staff training, and it’s something we’ve focused on and built in Australia,” he said.
“I’ve always believed in creating that vibe and atmosphere. When you go into a store and there’s one person working, or you go to [department stores], and you can shoot a cannon and [not find] staff. I never wanted it to be like that. I want to create that environment that helps to increase dwell time and add value,” he said.
“I’m excited for when it gets to that level.”
On the hunt
Culture Kings is on the lookout for more locations – in Australia, in the US and elsewhere overseas – depending on the opportunities that present themselves. Beard says the brand has to be resourceful in its thinking, due to the size of the stores.
But he said the long-term vision is to have Culture Kings stores around the world.
That might take some time.
“We only really opened one store each year, but we’d pay for the whole thing ourselves,” he said.
“We want to make sure we have that discipline and – when we do it – we want to nail each store so we don’t drop the ball.
“But over a 10-year horizon, [Culture Kings] will become a behemoth.”
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