A few short blocks from the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, you’ll find a store that transports you to Brooklyn, Los Angeles or Las Vegas. Rooted is a menswear sneaker, fashion and lifestyle store like no other in Tennessee. Its powder white walls and geometrically layered ceiling are what you’d expect in Beverly Hills, London or Tokyo. “Our goal was to build a business driven by community, to connect with people, to educate, be educated and deliver products they haven’t been able to get in their community,” explains CEO and co-founder Jaime Bacalan. “People will often walk in and start taking pictures immediately, they just love the way it feels.”
Rooted’s history is as humble as its founders. The brand’s concept was created by Bacalan, Alexander McMeen and Aaron Morrison in a meeting room at Lipscomb University. After graduating, the trio moved their meetings to coffee shops and hotel lobbies, connecting with their local community. “We met hundreds of people drinking coffee, many of whom became customers,” says McMeen. “We would meet in places with art on the walls and beautiful aesthetics to inspire ourselves – to be surrounded by success.” Their conversations were as varied as their meeting locations, covering everything from how to import products from Canada, to the types of coat hangers they should use in the store.
The Long Road to Launch
But Rooted, like many businesses, almost didn’t happen. “The first trip we took to New York, where we began collaborating with brands to feature in our store, I almost didn’t go on that trip,” explains Morrison. “I was on staff for Lipscomb’s men’s basketball team and we had just played our semifinal match. Had we won, we were going to the Atlantic Sun Conference Championship. But we lost, and so there I was, heading to New York with Jaime and Alexander.”
In New York the founders faced a harsh reality. “Everyone we met with said ‘No’. We weren’t expecting that.” says Bacalan. “We were devastated that major brands wouldn’t want this presence in Nashville.” But Rooted was built on persistence so the founders hustled, attended tradeshows and built their network of fellow retailers, finally convincing the Creative Director of a well-known menswear boutique in New York to join them in Nashville for the NHL All-Star game. After numerous conversations, the boutique’s CEO agreed to meet them in Nashville as well. “We met him just up the street and we kept pitching him until he simply said, ‘Let’s do it’. From there, things started going our way.” adds Bacalan.
Rooted has come a long way from those early beginnings and the store in Nashville is stunning, providing an extraordinarily quiet space in Music City where customers can ask about the latest styles, try on the latest sneakers, and understand upcoming trends. “In menswear, focus is everything,” explains Morrison. “Our site is designed like our store, with a clear focus on the styles our customers are most interested in. Everything else is noise.”
A Premium Shopping Experience
This strategy has worked well for Rooted as business has grown steadily since they launched. Along the way, the brand has built a great reputation for customer service – as seen from their glowing online reviews. Morrison elaborates on this value, “We’ve experienced behavior in other menswear stores that never made sense to us – almost like an arrogance towards their customers. Why would you ever want your customer to feel left out? We want the opposite, to bring everyone into these amazing products we offer through Rooted.”
Rooted’s inclusive approach extends beyond the sneakers, clothing and lifestyle products they sell. “The future of retail depends on what brands can do for their communities. What are their stores bringing to their neighborhoods? How are their stores becoming venues? The retail experience consumers expect today is so much more than displaying goods on shelves.” says McMeen. Rooted has made this future a reality, using their unique location to host concerts and art exhibits for local artists.
Rooted’s customer base has expanded well beyond the city limits of Nashville, with orders pouring in from across the US, Canada, Mexico, and numerous countries across Asia. With their global expansion, the Rooted team faced their first real fraud problems. “We were getting inundated with orders from Mexico, that we would contest and win, but they were taking a lot of our time,” explains Bacalan.
Like many retailers, Rooted began declining orders from certain countries but this approach was hurting growth. Especially since some of these orders were for large amounts. “We spoke with our contacts in New York who were already using Signifyd and it was a pretty seamless process from there,” says Bacalan. “Signifyd has helped us eliminate fraud and saved us so much time – time we need to focus on other areas of our business as we continue scaling up.”
With Signifyd in place, Rooted has accelerated their growth by accepting more orders, since every approved order is protected by a 100 percent financial guarantee against fraudulent chargebacks. They’ve also avoided losses from persistent fraud attempts originating from Malaysia, Indonesia, Mexico and right here in the US. “Accept more orders with zero fraud losses, that’s what we were promised, and that’s what Signifyd has delivered.” says Bacalan, who’s looking forward to the year ahead. “2017 was a great year for us, better than we could have expected. Now we need to be prepared for the next level of growth and expansion.”