Industry News

Shop Eat Surf News: Wanderlust Land & Sea Embraces Instagram Stories to Drive Sales During Crisis

Things are beyond grim for core retailers right now. So we were especially inspired by how Wanderlust Land & Sea in New Jersey has embraced the challenge and is using social media to drive sales and build community.

Wanderlust Owner Luke Mesanko and his team are creating Instagram stories that are honest and funny, while still moving product out the door.

The stories highlight different items, like comfy clothes you can wear at home or wetsuits you can wear in the water since surfing is still allowed. But the videos are full of personality and also offer great service. (We have a few examples above but recommend seeing many more videos at @wanderlust_land_sea.) 

Luke Mesanko, owner of Wanderlust Land & Sea in New Jersey – Photo courtesy of Wanderlust

“DM us and we’ll ship it to you, or we’ll drop it by your house if you are local,” employees say in the stories.

The store is taking the same approach in Instagram posts, like this recent one:

“I’ll be at the shop again tomorrow from 10-5 hustling through DMs. At this point basically the whole store is 20% off to try & salvage any business. Tomorrow every Olukai purchase gets a free Olukai hat. Hit me up with ANY needs or questions ~ I like to stay busy.”

Wanderlust, based in Sea Girt, is still open, but Luke is trying to keep people away for safety reasons. Plus, the entire strip mall where the store is located is essentially closed except for a Chipotle.

Like many core retailers, Luke has a minimal web presence because it’s so hard to compete with Amazon, he said. The company puts almost all of its efforts into its in-store service, which Luke is proud of.

The good news is because he hires sales staff with great personalities, those personalities shine on Instagram stories, which is helping to boost sales.

Business had been great at Wanderlust before the craziness started.

“We had a great February and March was up like 30% before all this happened,” Luke said.

When everything fell apart, he challenged himself and his staff to get creative and generate some buzz. He knew college kids were home from school, and everyone is working at home, so figured people would be on their phones more.

Right now, 75% of sales are coming through Instagram DMs and 25% through online sales. Typically, customers send a direct message then Wanderlust calls them to take the credit card payment. Sometimes Wanderlust picks up shipping costs, but it depends on how much margin Luke is making on the transaction. If someone is buying something heavily discounted he does not pick up the shipping cost.

“We are in unchartered waters,” Luke said. “I don’t know what I’m doing but I’m trying my best to navigate the situation. We are trying our best to make a dollar.”

One thing he had to do was put all spring goods on sale.

“I don’t like to do that, but we had to do something,” he said.

He and his team talk about the sales on the Instagram stories, but also about the product features and ideas for putting outfits together, all mixed with lots of humor.

In one post, Luke shows all the new bikinis that had arrived. “Look what just showed up – the sickest bikinis you aren’t going to wear on spring break. … There’s always summer!”

The response from customers and followers has been huge.

“This just make me laugh so hard,” a customer wrote via DM about the bikini post. “Thank you for providing some humor. This is my favorite content on Instagram right now.”

“We are getting a lot of engagement,” Luke said, “I think people appreciate that we are trying to make something good out of a bad situation.”

At other times, Luke is honest in the posts about how challenging the situation is. “Hey, I just want to tell everybody that we really appreciate your support. It’s been really numbing for me to go through this right now, I’m just trying to stay busy. But seeing all my friends names pop up in my DMs, my online orders, and seeing all the love and support we’re getting is really making me positive about the situation and I just want to say thank you guys.”

I asked Luke what it’s like to talk about those challenges publicly.

“I don’t know how to be anything but honest,” he said. “There’s no real strategy, I’m just trying to be real. I think our customers like that level of transparency and honesty.”

Before, Luke wasn’t super comfortable putting himself out there on the store’s social media, and it had actually been a goal of his to do more of it this year, he said. Now, the situation has forced him to, and he’s trying to have fun with it.

While they are at least getting some sales thanks to Instagram, Luke is still concerned about what he will do with the inventory that doesn’t sell when this over, inventory that will likely be stale.

To help brands, he’s trying not to cancel future orders. He’s confident the brands will help him as well on his inventory situation.

“I have some really good brand partners, I’m sure together we can come up with a viable solution for everyone,” he said.

I asked Luke if he had heard from his landlord, and if they are offering any accommodations given the situation.

“That’s a funny one!” he said. “But seriously, we haven’t had any real conversations yet. That will be more imperative as we get closer to rent time. Right now, I’m trying not to think about it.”