It being March Madness, Philadelphia-based boutique Bus Stop is fittingly celebrating its sweet 16th year with the introduction of its latest collab with All Black Footwear. Owner/founder Elena Brennan says the Bus Stop x Ground spring/summer collection is about feeling grounded and connecting with nature.
“We are peace seekers and always find solace in nature. It grounds us,” Brennan says, adding that the designs are timeless, classics with a twist, and are beautifully crafted by artisans. “These shoes will be forever in your wardrobe. They’ll never be unfashionable.”
The collection consists of a block heel strappy sandal, a mule, a lace-up lug sole heel, and an oxford. The palette spans rich earth tones, cream shades, warm rouge, and sky blue. Materials include leathers, metallics, suedes, and patent leathers mixed with the clean lines and formal style. Brennan notes that the exclusive collections have become extremely important to the overall business and now account for half of the inventory. “Since the pandemic, I’ve streamlined other designers I carry, so as to curate the shelves to offer customers a good balance of choices without competing with my designs,” she says. “My collections are vital to my business, as I’m offering customers shoes that are unique, limited-edition, comfortable, and aren’t saturated in the market.”
Speaking of selling shoes, Brennan says after a slow start last year, business returned to normal as 2022 closed. “Sales in April to July were good and pretty much back to normal, but our 4th quarter was excellent,” she reports. “December was one of my best ever.” She notes that customers were more likely buying shoes for themselves, and not as many gifts. “After the sadness of the pandemic, women really wanted to cheer themselves up with some retail therapy, and I was happy to see that throughout 2022,” Brennan says.
A highlight of the year was Bus Stop’s Black Friday twist. Rather than holding a sale, Brennan went with an anti-Black Friday pledge that saw 20 percent of all sales donated to Pheed Philly, a grassroots charity that improves the quality of life for local homeless by providing care packages of food, water, and clothing. “My customers embraced it with open arms, and I was able to proudly hand over a check for a little over $1,000,” Brennan says, adding, “I’m no longer interested in prioritizing splashy Black Friday sales and over-consumption.”
Brennan’s decision to give back is part of a promise she made to herself in 2022 to be even more transparent with customers. One way is being upfront about pricing. Specifically, as a small business, not offering discounts in-season. “It’s hard enough for small businesses to keep thriving after the pandemic, and reducing popular stock is not healthy just because you’re expected to keep up with the vicious sales cycle of the bigger players in the industry,” she says. “If a customer asks if something is going on sale, my staff politely tells them no. Most are fine with paying full-price.”
To visit Bus Stop online: here.
Next stop: style! Bus Stop X Ground collab with All Black Footwear.