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How Freeman Keeps it Fresh With Third‑Party Brands

The founders of the lifestyle apparel brand share their litmus test for partnering with other businesses.

Hero image for Issue #58: Featuring Freeman

We recently took our What’s in Store show on the road to Seattle where we interviewed a handful of Mailchimp e-commerce customers eager to share their stories. First up was Freeman, a lifestyle apparel brand known for its iconic raincoats.

If anyone knows rain, it’s Seattleites. In 2010, husband-wife team Scott and Brittany Freeman made it their mission to create the perfect rain jacket, so they married high-quality performance fabrics with timeless aesthetics. It was then that Freeman was born, starting as an e-commerce store. As they tell it, “Our journey started with 1 jacket and 0 notions of margins or profitability — just the concept of doing something worth doing well.”

  1. They wanted to be able to engage with customers face-to-face.
  2. They wanted to bring together third-party brands that shared their aesthetic.

So in 2014, they joined forces with business partner Alex Frank and opened their flagship brick-and-mortar store in Seattle’s historic Loveless Building. Here, customers not only shop the Freeman label, but also a carefully curated selection of like-minded brands.

“As we transition from a new business into one that’s been around for a few years, staying fresh and relevant can be a challenge,” Scott admits. “Developing relationships with other brands and continually stocking the best products we can helps expand our avenues of promotion to new audiences.” Alex adds: “It also helps make sure our store remains engaging to existing customers so they continue to shop with us.” Of course, there’s a science to stocking the store which, according to Scott, means balancing cash flow versus finding money to bring in new inventory. “It’s nice to think that you just pay to fill the store with items and the sales from the item go straight toward that debt, but it’s not so black and white,” he explains. “We find it paramount to keep our vendors happy by ensuring they are paid in a timely manner.”

In addition to keeping up with their finances, the Freeman team also abides by a set of guidelines in order to vet third-party brands. With so many brands out there, these questions serve as a kind of litmus test to help Scott, Brittany, and Alex choose their partners.

“Since we opened, we’ve branded ourselves as stocking made-in-U.S.A. goods. While we’re relaxing that a bit for a couple of brands made in Canada and Japan, that’s still the rubric that guides us for the most part,” says Alex. That’s just the first step, though. “Just because something is made in the U.S.A. isn’t enough to get a brand in the door,” Scott says.

A brand’s style also plays a huge part in the Freeman team’s selection. “Our aesthetic is simple, timeless, and approachable,” Alex says. “Our store has its feet equally planted in a more contemporary aesthetic, a bit of a heritage feel, an outdoorsy feel, and a classic sportswear look.”

“A balance between the aesthetic of an item and its functionality often comes up in our discussions,” Scott says. Indeed, the Freeman crew is big on functionality, so they make sure all of their vendor products are utilitarian in variety. From wallets and notebooks to patches and hats, brands have to pass the functionality test. Ultimately, the group’s selection is a synthesis of all 3 of their opinions, and as the business grows and changes, so will their third-party guidelines. The rules might change, but the goal remains the same: Filter out any potential outliers that don’t fit with the store as a whole so they can better market their offerings, grow their sales, and continue offering excellent customer service.

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