Industry News

What Wanderlust Has Learned in the Instagram Stories Hustle


When the lockdowns first happened, Wanderlust Land & Sea in Sea Girt, New Jersey, was one of the industry shops that began selling aggressively via Instagram Stories early on.

More than a month later, the store is still going at it, but has refined its strategies.

We checked back in with owner Luke Mesanko to find out what he and his staff have learned during the process, what is selling, and how he is getting ready for when retail reopens.

Luke said there has been several silver linings in this crisis. The biggest is it forced Wanderlust to update and expand its website fast, which is paying off.

Before, Luke did not invest a lot of effort into selling online because he thought it was too hard to compete with Amazon, and instead focused on the in-store experience.

But during this crisis he realized expanding e-commerce was a necessity. Plus, the shop was getting so many direct messages from their Instagram Stories, they couldn’t keep up.

“Our DMs were out control,” he said. “And if you don’t respond to people in five minutes, you lose them for several hours. Now, we put links in our stories and they can go to the site and research the product themselves.”

As far as what’s selling, the biggest revelation is that novelty product such as social distancing humor T-shirts and special collaborations with brands are selling at full margin. So Luke has been leaning into that strategy hard.

He firmly believes that the novelty and SMU product with brands is a way to compete with Amazon because it helps push people to Wanderlust’s site and hopefully keeps them there long enough to then look at other product.

The store has also been selling a ton of loungewear at all price points. And, sales of Vuori has been off the charts.

“We have sold a ton of it,” Luke said. “We backed them really early on, and it has exploded for us.”

As far as weak categories, men’s boardshort sales have been soft, though Wanderlust has sold some hybrids.

Luke specifically called out Roark and Dark Seas as going the extra mile to work with Wanderlust during this crazy time.

Overall, women’s product is selling much better than men’s.

“In women’s, a little bit of everything is selling,” Luke said. “Right now, we’re selling about 60% women’s apparel and 40% men’s, so we packed the site with women’s stuff.”

Wanderlust had found a lot of customers have more money in their pockets than usual because of big unemployment checks, and they are sitting at home on their phones looking for something to do.

Interestingly, about half of the people who order online opt to pick up curbside instead of having the product shipped.

“People are bored and want to get out of the house,” Luke said. He lets people know he is at the store every day from 11 am to 3 pm, and they can call when they are coming and he’ll have the order ready for them.

The big question we had: Is Wanderlust making enough money to make all this effort worth it?

“We’re making enough for it to pay for itself,” he said. “It allows me to pay some of our employees and to pay some vendors. It’s not a ton of money, but it’s also helping us set a new foundation for the future with our online strategy.”

Also importantly, the Instagram Stories are allowing Wanderlust to move product now. And while he’s heard some grumbling in the industry about Wanderlust being promotional, Luke doesn’t want to wait for things to open back up to start selling, because the whole world is going to be on sale and they are all going to be selling stale spring goods.

By clearing out some product now, it is allowing him to start bringing in summer goods so his store will have some quantity of fresh product when they open.

“Everyone has got to start coming up with a game plan, and they need to start doing that now,” he said.

I also asked if it was difficult, however, to in essence put on a live performance every day.

“It has definitely tested our stamina,” he said. And it has tested the creativity of his team. They have now settled on a routine where they pick a theme each day of what product they are going to focus on. Wednesday, for example, tie-dye was the theme on Instagram Stories and on the website, and the team showcased a wide range of tie dye product across several categories.

Wanderlust also tries to do give backs to break up the hard sell. Luke had some private label masks made with the Wanderlust logo. He then asked followers to tag their “healthcare homies,” and gave the masks to them for free.

Luke thinks stores that aren’t trying to sell on Instagram or use other new methods to stay in front of customers are making a big mistake because it can give a store so much exposure right now.

“I think this whole crisis can be a turning point, almost a line in the sand between those who got creative during this time and those who didn’t,” he said.