Mporium: Marist Will Introduce it's Own Brick and Mortar Store
By Emily Hickey
•River + Stone is a private label brand sold exclusively at Mporium.
•Mporium will be welcoming its own Brick and Mortar store in about a year.
•The importance of Mporium is that it is a completely student-run enterprise that started from just a small folding table nine years ago, to wait to have its own trademark.
If you are connected to media, you know that the world of retail is noteworthy. Whether or not you agree with it, you will see the typical controversial headliners all over. Brick and mortar stores are becoming unpopular, different companies are filing for bankruptcy, and Amazon is dominating the online shopping world.
But, have you heard about a retail store fully operated by a student body? “Mporium” is a retail store completely run by students of Marist College where I had the pleasure of diving deep into the good, the bad, and the ugly of building and successfully running a business. MPorium is a class for those interested in owning and operating a business. The Mporium class allows students to delve into all of the nuances of retail entrepreneurship, allowing students to engage in real life scenarios.
The class is divided into four units: Marketing, Human Resources/Store Management/Finance, Visual Merchandising, and Buying/Planning and Allocation. A mixture of passion, drive, and collaboration has brought the business to a remarkable total season revenue about 41% higher than the previous semester with a gross margin of 38% in the fall 2016 semester alone. This is quite a feat for a collegiate retail store only open Monday, Tuesday, and Thursdays from 10:30 am to 5:00 pm.
Just like many businesses, Mporium has had to deal with breaking stereotypes to stay competitive. The students who compose the Mporium class have been working long and hard the past nine years to smash the stereotype that this is a class for fashion majors only. Like any major retailer, such as Macy’s or Nordstrom, there are many positions that are necessary for a business to run successfully. Fashion is just one of the many majors that have worked with Mporium along the way. Others majors that have been invaluable in Mporium’s success include Advertising, Digital Media and Finance. With an average “sales per square foot” over the past five seasons of 20%, it is evident that the collaboration of majors is what allows Mporium to continue its growth.
Each team faces significant challenges preparing Mporium each season. An experience the students on the buying team confront is working with outside wholesalers. All the buying is done in August by the students , merchandised by the students, then priced and sold by the students. Fashion Merchandising professor and Mporium organizer Jennifer Finn emphasizes that Mporium’s uniqueness and success are reliant on the freedom students are given to experiment in a real-world scenario.
In order to maximize productivity throughout the class, every student is required to complete a “Weekly Recap” on what products sold, what products didn’t sell, and what can be done to improve sales. Each class, students sit in a circle, connecting with one another and realizing that a business relies on all members in order to succeed. Professor Finn stresses that this lesson is not one that can be taught through any means other than experience.
Students not only get to experience all the positive feelings that come with the ups of running a business, but they get to experience the tough times of enterprising.
Last year, Mporium experienced a long, cold spring where dollar volume was depressed, since not enough products were being sold — coming in with the lowest total season revenue of the past five seasons with a low total revenue income compared to previous years and a gross margin of 30%. Luckily, it seems that MPorium is coming back this fall bigger and stronger than ever in the Fall 2017 season.
Through the development of the hashtag “#FindYourVibe” and a vintage seventies theme throughout its merchandise line, this will surely be a season unlike any other. Drawing inspirations from various trends such as Thrasher, pastel palettes, and seventies bands, this year’s style is geared to be trendier and edgier than all others past.
The growth of Mporium in such a short period of time is impressive. Just nine years ago, Mporium consisted of clothes on a folding table. Now the business is looking forward to the grand opening of its first brick and mortar store within the next year.
In order to stay competitive, Mporium has developed its own private fashion label “River + Stone,” which is exclusively sold at Mporium and makes up about fifty percent of Mporium’s total revenue. Currently, the label is waiting to be officially trademarked. Mporium is taking huge strides to becoming one of the most powerful collegiate fashion labels, making an average of about 20% in sales an hour throughout the past five seasons.
MPorium sticks to its mantra of providing “something for everyone,” by selling pieces that fit every taste, from home goods and room décor to clothes, fragrances, and cosmetics. Not only does the class focus on running a business, but it also keeps in mind the importance of giving back and supporting the community. Each semester Mporium chooses a different charity to raise money for. In the fall 2016 semester, Mporium chose the charity Stand Up to Cancer, creating a whole event surrounding the fundraiser.
There are other colleges that have their own fashion brands, but what makes Mporium unique is the significant influence students have on the brand and its operations, and with an upcoming brick-and-mortar store and potential trademark on the way, it is safe to say that the success of Mporium is only bound to grow exponentially.