According to a study from the National Retail Federation, nearly half of all holiday shopping will be done online this year. With retailers such as Best Buy and Target offering free shipping, the competition to grab the online customer will be fierce. So why would an online retailer opt to put resources into a physical location during its busiest time of the year?

Great Lakes, a company co-founded by David Burke ‘13, will do just this with pop-up shops at the Mall of America in Bloomington and Ridgedale Center in Minnetonka this holiday season. “Our online store and physical retail space pair really well together,” Burke said. “I don’t think storefronts will ever go away. Even with the rage in online retailers, people still like to touch, feel and try on products before making a purchase, especially first-time customers. We hope they like the product and order more online.”

Until the 2014 holiday shopping season, Great Lakes was an online-only retailer, using social media campaigns, word of mouth and the appeal of its brand to sell its cabin- and lake-inspired clothing. But Burke and his business partner jumped on a chance for a retail operation when Ridgedale Center asked them to open their first pop-up.

Operating its first physical location meant hiring help and managing inventory, a new venture in itself for these entrepreneurs. This year, the addition of the Mall of America, as well as a return to Ridgedale, means hiring even more help and managing more inventory.

“Last year when Christmas Eve rolled around, we were pretty much out of product,” he said. “This year we’ve ordered more than four times as much to accommodate growth. Ridgedale has been renovated, the Mall of America sees so much traffic and our brand is growing. It will be an interesting season.”

Last year’s in-store success accounted for close to 20 percent of the company’s annual sales, in just seven weeks. Burke said the conversion rate of a store-front visitor to a sale was seven times higher than on the company’s website, but added that the site saw a large increase in traffic after Christmas, with many of those new customers buying additional clothing.

“Running a brick-and-mortar store is very different operation from running an online store ,” Burke said. “We’ve had to invest in and build out some of the display pieces, like tables and the checkout counter, merchandise items, and display our products in an appealing and creative way. There were definitely some things we’ve learned that we’ll continue to improve upon this year.”

You can find Great Lakes at the Mall of America on the first floor, near the Sears rotunda, and at Ridgedale Center in center court.

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