It’s been nearly two years since Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered the temporary shutdown of casinos and other nonessential businesses on March 17, 2020 – an announcement Vladi Bergman vividly remembers.
Bergman, founder and CEO of jewelry and home décor store Karma and Luck, said he had to lay off nearly 90 percent of his staff and nearly close all of his eight stores for good. But Bergman quickly saw an opportunity, and it’s now paying off.
“We did a huge switch from brick-and-mortar to e-commerce and our e-commerce business grew like 1,000 percent,” Bergman said. out, bringing them to our warehouse, then bringing models in to shoot the product. We had millions of dollars in inventory that was sitting there so we put everything online and we sold it. ”
Bergman said the switch is what spurred the company to open its first brick-and-mortar store outside of Nevada. It opened a location at The Galleria mall in Houston, Texas, in December 2021, and he has plans to open two more in New York this month, followed by a shop in Los Angeles and Miami.
“We were never aggressive online before and that opportunity (during the pandemic) was basically for us to introduce Karma and Luck around the world and that’s exactly what we did – a very aggressive customer acquisition while people were sitting at home,” Bergman said.
He also said federal relief programs for small businesses, such as the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, added an extra layer of support, keeping Karma and Luck from permanently closing its doors.
“Without the government support, I’m not sure we would have stayed in business,” he said. “Shopping centers were not giving you a discount (on rent). Our luck was we got the PPP and EIDL funding, but we also took advantage of growing the online business. ”
Shopping from home
Online sales soared during the pandemic as many stores remained temporarily closed or operated under capacity restrictions.
Online and other non-store sales grew 21.9 percent to $ 969.4 billion in 2020, according to the National Retail Federation. It forecasted 2021 online and non-store sales grew between 18 percent and 23 percent to a range of $ 1.09 trillion to $ 1.13 trillion, though it’s releasing final estimates this week.
Meanwhile, research firm Forrester says in-store sales will still surpass online sales despite a large portion of consumers hitting the virtual checkout since 2020. It anticipates 72 percent of retail sales will be in physical stores in 2024, noting that even during the pandemic “ consumers have shown that they will continue to shop in the store when they feel it is a viable option. ”
Analysts including those from Forrester and the National Retail Federation emphasize in-store shopping will outpace online shopping because customers prefer the experience of seeing and touching a product. And with the recent lifting of mask mandates and easing of travel restrictions, Bergman’s retail expansion appears to be well-timed.
Bringing cultures together
Since 2015, Karma and Luck has built a brand around helping customers connect to different cultures through jewelry and home décor for men and women as well as their pets.
Items, which are blessed by a singing bowl, are themed around spirituality. For example, Karma and Luck offers stone bracelets with an evil eye symbol meant to deflect negativity.
Its popular trees, known as Tree of Life, has gemstones for leaves and an agate stone base. The tree comes with a card for customers to write down their dreams or goals as well as a feng shui energy map. Depending on the color of the tree’s gemstones it can offer metaphysical properties such as protection or health, Bergman said.
Prices range from $ 15 for a bronze evil eye cat collar charm to $ 579 for a 14-inch-tall aquamarine Tree of Life. Materials are sourced from countries such as India, Brazil, Thailand and Bali.
“One of our advantages is we’re a very strong gifting brand,” Bergman said. “I’m trying to be a leading gifting brand that offers something different – with a little more meaning.”
He also noted the company is planning to launch a green bracelet; for every sale, the company will plant a tree in Madagascar. It’s similar to its red string bracelet, with sales benefiting charities such as Three Square in Las Vegas and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Bergman said the focus on Karma and Luck’s online business has meant a healthier split between its retail and online sales. He said 65 percent of its sales are from online compared to about 10 percent before the pandemic.
It’s also given the company an ability to see where its customers are located, which helped it decide to open its first store outside of Nevada in Houston.
“The store is doing better than our Vegas locations,” Bergman said. “We knew Karma and Luck had huge fans in Houston because we were shipping there, but we always thought Vegas was the gold mine because there’s huge foot traffic and also a variety. of demographics. ”
He’s now considering opening a location in Austin.
Bergman was quick to add that the number one state for its online sales was Nevada. He quipped that it’s “not the most spiritual place probably in the United States” but credits Karma and Luck’s hometown popularity to its longtime presence in the Las Vegas Valley.
“That’s why we believe our retail brick-and-mortar stores will drive online sales from each region,” he said.
While the company is sticking to tourist destinations such as Los Angeles and Miami for its initial expansion plans, the ultimate goal is to make Karma and Luck a global brand.
“It was always the vision to make it a worldwide brand,” he said. “We do not have a target audience because our audience is everyone. Everyone needs karma and luck. ”
Contact Subrina Hudson at email@example.com or 702-383-0340. Follow @SubrinaH on Twitter.