Downtown fashion retailer Vert & Vogue is consolidating its footprint in Durham — moving all of its Brightleaf Square operations to its store in Five Points.
The independent retailer has been located at Brightleaf Square since 2008, but after the success of its newer Five Points location, Vert & Vogue's management team decided it was time to merge the two operations.
It officially moves out of the Brightleaf space on July 1. None of the store’s seven employees are expected to lose their jobs because of the move.
In 2014, Vert & Vogue purchased the first floor of 353 W. Main St. in the Five Points part of downtown, and a year later it purchased the third floor of the same building for its e-commerce operations. It was an investment ($691,000 in total) that solidified the store’s future and gave it a slice of the downtown core that was growing rapidly.
“It’s exciting for our future, because it means we will really be in control of our ability to grow in downtown because of the investments that we made,” co-owner Ryan Hurley said. “We want to be in the heart of downtown and we want to be a part of that growth, with all the hotels and (One City Center) being built.”
Vert & Vogue was started in 2008 by Hurley and his wife Nadira, who had worked for a fashion boutique in Paris. After deciding they wanted to start their own clothing business, the couple moved to Durham from New York because of the food scene and the growing population.
Hurley said he decided to keep the Brightleaf Square store open after the opening of the Five Points store, because he wasn’t sure how successful it would be immediately. Even two years ago, downtown Durham wasn’t as hospitable to retail as it is now, he said.
But the store has been a success. The rise in the number of hotels in downtown has been a boon for the retailer, with nearly 25 percent of visitors coming from out of town now.
“(The move) was always in the back of our minds. It’s a natural evolution,” he said. “The market downtown is not big enough for two brick-and-mortar locations, especially in a world where e-commerce grows every year.”
E-commerce has increasingly become a larger part of the business model for Vert & Vogue. The offices on the third floor of its building are used by its e-commerce staff, and online sales now make up about 15 percent of overall sales — a number that has been steadily rising, Hurley said.
Yet, however large the proportion of online sales grow, a brick-and-mortar location will still play a vital role for the company.
“That’s our DNA,” he said about its store in Five Points. “... We put our heart and soul into that. We want to create a phenomenal experience for those who walk in the door.”