Inspiring the Next Generation of Consumers
Founded in 1980 in Newport, California, Pacsun is a leading specialty retailer offering a cross-section of emerging brands and trending fashion through the lens of youth culture. Here, RLI speaks with business CEO Brie Olson to learn more about the history of the brand and what its plans are for the future.
Pacsun is dedicated to delivering an exclusive collection of the most relevant brands and styles to a community of inspired youth. Through partnerships with brands such as adidas, Brandy Melville, Essentials Fear of God, their own brands and many more, they offer a unique range of products through which all youths can express themselves. Throughout the contemporary, streetwear and active lifestyle markets, Pacsun partners with the best brands to offer curated collections, rare and exclusive products and creative collaborations on every level.
Today the company operates almost 400 stores across the US and has recently launched a new and fast-growing digital business in China.
“Three of our most notable new stores are Fashion Island in Newport Beach, California; Downtown LA in Los Angeles, California and Soho, New York City,” explains Brie Olson, CEO of Pacsun. “The LA store has 5,000sq ft of space, building on Downtown LA’s ongoing renaissance while the New York boutique features 8,000sq ft of space and is located in the historic New York City neighbourhood of Soho, a centre of fashion and culture.”
Each of their new landmark spaces, in addition to selling exclusive Pacsun collaborations like Formula 1 and The Met Collection, has a dedicated “White Space” for a revolving flow of pop-up shops, performances and exhibits that are curated by Pacsun and their brand partners.
Olson explains that these retail spaces channel the energy, history and native talent of their locales and each serves to amplify Pacsun’s core values as a lifestyle brand, curating relevant brands and style from youth culture. The brand believes in investing in new physical spaces to give their customers the IRL (in real life) creative and inspiring experiences they expect from the Pac Community.
“From a product perspective, we will continue to capitalise on our new and growing women’s activewear business, Pac1980 which has excellent momentum in its early stages. From a men’s product perspective, we have several early exploration areas in 2023 that we will maintain development of and and grow as we see promising performance. Finally, from a global perspective we will continue to expand in the China market,” Olson highlights.
The skilful product and innovation teams at Pacsun do an exceptional job of anticipating and leading ahead of culturally relevant brands, trends and moments turning the best of these ideas into products and designs that resonate with their Gen Z consumer. The teams have spearheaded extremely successful partnerships from The Metropolitan Museum of Art to Formula 1, Essentials Fear of God and beyond.
Pacsun has also launched a Think Tank initiative across its employee-base. Each quarter, anyone in the company no matter their function, from design to finance, operations to logistics, is invited to come together for an entire day to ideate on a specific topic. Teams have tackled subjects as diverse as brand and business partner ideas to philanthropic pursuits to what’s next in technological innovation. As new ideas are put into work, cross-functional individuals consult and advise as their ideas becomes reality.
As the topic of conversation moves onto the future of retail, Olson comments that Pacsun always wants to be where their customers are, which includes TikTok, Roblox, musical festivals, sporting events, arts and culture moments and IRL experiential gatherings in their stores too. The company believes in the digital experience as well as the physical experience.
“We continuously host customer-focused IRL events at local stores, like the Princess Polly launch we hosted recently, simultaneously activating at three of our best stores across the US. These events invite customers to enjoy first-chance access to limited edition and exclusive launches. The events drive strong traffic and sales comps for our stores. With every physical experience, we host live digital shopping both through TikTok amd Bambuser Liver Streaming. Pacsun customers around the world can experience the IRL events, live, with a Pac Community host and shop the latest fashion drops,” comments Olson.
While the brand has built an impressive two million followers on TikTok, 2.6 million followers on Instagram and an ever-growing, engaged followership on Snapchat, what is more important to them is the conversation they have with their community on social media. Whether it is during Live Streams from a great event, or in reaction to a great fashion post, their customers share ideas, give feedback and ask them the important questions on their minds and they love to engage and interact with their customers.
“Pacsun has 30 years of strong history partnering with the best brands to offer curated collections through the lens of youth culture. To do this successfully, we continuously prioritise authentic, strong partnerships, fearless experimentation, a humble approach to learning from our challenges and moving fast to course correct to drive success in the future,” says Olson.
“Pacsun is inspiring the next generation. Our consumers are the cultural pioneers of the future and they live at the intersection of arts, music, sports, technology and fashion. Just as culture is dynamic, Pacsun must be as well.”
Just before our time with Brie ran out, she spoke to us about what lies ahead and what the greatest challenge is for the business.
“Gen Z is a highly-engaged, highly-informed consumer. They are the cultural pioneers of the future. Because of this, we prioritise interacting with and listening to our community regularly and we continue to be intrigued by the concept of crowdsourcing the future alongside our consumer, in both physical and virtual worlds. Additionally, we actively engage in the continuing evolution of the convergence of technology, fashion, sports, music and culture for the youth consumer, knowing that this dynamic intersection drives their creativity, individuality and self-expression,” Olson concludes.