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D2C Ear Piercings Aim to Disrupt ‘Tired’ Mall-Based Experience

For years, the ear-piercing experience was sequestered mainly to two areas: a doctor’s office, with the piercing done by a pediatrician; or a mall-based retailer, where a store associate would perform the task.

Louisa Serene Schneider said that when she took her nieces to get their ears pierced a few years ago, the only option was a mall-based provider that had been around for a while, “and the experience was pretty tired and not special. And I felt like I’d let them down.”

The desire to avoid a similar experience with her own daughter led Schneider to found Rowan, a direct-to-consumer (D2C) jewelry company that works with registered nurses to pierce ears at its own brick-and-mortar locations, through in-home consultations and at nearly 300 Target stores.

“We have solved for not just the piercing moment itself, which is so celebratory and so special and really one of those moments that you do actually remember … but also we’ve thought about the fact that your ears are healing for a long period of time after that piercing occurs,” said Schneider, who serves as Rowan’s chief executive. According to Healthline, earlobe piercings take one to two months to heal, while some cartilage piercings may take six months to a year.

Coming from a family of medical professionals, including five aunts who are nurses, as well as a personal experience with unhygienic ear piercings, Schneider said it was important to her that licensed nurses were the only ones who did piercings.

“There are absolutely store associates who are amazing at accessorizing and helping you style your ear and helping you get prepared for your appointment, but they would never be the person who’s piercing you,” she explained.

Additionally, having nurses handle the piercing allows for better aftercare that may include follow-up appointments — which could also be used to pick up a new set of earrings, all of which Schneider said are meticulously sourced and tested to ensure that they’re hypoallergenic.

“You’re so eager to change your earrings out and style your ears and express yourself, and you should,” she said. “It’s just a shame if what you’re putting in your ear is going to cause some sort of negative outcome,” such as an infection or rejected piercing. For some existing players, Schneider added, negative outcomes can be as high as 30%.

Connection Through Subscription 

Rowan also offers a subscription, called the Rowan Surprise Box, that delivers a pair of limited-edition earrings, a surprise accessory and a “mindfulness card that gives you a moment of reflection” each month. Schneider said it’s typically a parent, aunt, grandparent or other relative that gifts the subscription to a girl who has just gotten her ears pierced.

“It’s a way to kind of elongate this experience, which really is oftentimes coming at a critical point in someone’s life where they’re becoming an older person,” she said.

PYMNTS researchers have found that 61 million U.S. consumers are using at least one retail subscription service, with the average person having 3.7 subscriptions — meaning that at any one time, there are nearly 226 million active subscriptions in the U.S.

In February 2020, just 8.7% of consumers said they had subscriptions for consumer retail products; as of July, that share has risen to 24%.

Read more: New Data Cites Flexibility, Discounts as Top Retail Subscription Churn Fighters

The Importance of Brick and Mortar

Using $20 million of Series B funding that Rowan recently raised, the company plans to hire additional nurses, build out its product assortment and expand its physical store footprint, with locations in Miami, Denver and Atlanta expected in early 2022.

“People want to go into stores, they want to experience, they want to see products, they want to try things on, they want to interact with other customers and they want to interact with brands,” Schneider said. “I think it’s possibly the busiest time that we’ve ever seen in terms of the expansion into brick and mortar.”

Ear piercing may be a uniquely in-person experience, but Rowan is far from the only D2C brand identifying the need for physical stores. Allbirds, Warby Parker, Brilliant Earth and others are among those who have discussed pursuing a brick-and-mortar strategy, despite primarily starting life online.

Related news: Brilliant Earth Says Millennials, Gen Z Key to Future Growth

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