Tuesday, April 14, 2020

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A Conversation with Cheryl McMullen, Founder of Double D Ranch

by Jennifer Burnett photos by Michael Satterfield

Since 1989 Cheryl McMullen has been styling her own vision of the west with her brand Double D Ranch (DDR), building it into one of the most recognizable fashion brands in the western market. In an era when major names in fashion are filing for bankruptcy the independent fashion house based in Yoakum, Texas has carved out a niche of loyal customers many of whom traveled to the remote Texas town for Double D’s annual sale this past August. Far more than a sample sale the event is held over three days and includes BBQ, Music, and a chance for fans to interact with the entire team behind the brand.


Cheryl describes the brand as not a “western brand” but a brand — inspired by the west — yet incorporating the latest trends from New York and Paris. Blending modern fashion sensibility with retro western themes allows the brand to constantly evolve and reinterpret what “inspired by the west” means which each collection. Each garment from Double D is telling a visual story, the design team goes to great lengths to ensure that each new design has a historical perspective.
DDR has carved out niche appealing to high-end buyers who appreciate style, exclusivity, and thoughtful designs. “When they (DDR Customers) see another person wear DDR there is some sort of kinship or bond like they are part of the pack. The brand is aspirational, women can tell you what their first jacket was and how long they saved up for it. We get stories about women evacuating Hurricane Katrina and takings their pets and their DDR jackets and other stories about being in an auto accident and the “jaws of life” cutting them out of the wreckage and the driver telling them not to cut her DDR jacket” McMullen said.


The event at DDR headquarters drew customers and fans from around the country and grew out of the brand’s Facebook Fan Page. Now in its second year, the event is held over four days and includes special shopping events, live music, BBQ, tours of the Shiner Brewery, a Jacket Signing where fans can have their jacket documented, signed, and registered. Cheryl sees this event as an extension of the online community they have built with their fans on the DDR Addiction group on Facebook. The private group boasts over 5,400 fans of the brand and the entire DDR team interacts with the members directly. That tight-knit group of customers make up the bulk of those who attend the live events, taking the relationship offline and into the real world. These relationships go far beyond a retail transaction, Cheryl shared stories about how the group has really become a community that supports one another, and the customers really enjoy that they can have a direct connection.


The sale was held in the DDR at their dedicated outlet, which Cheryl describes as a work in progress. Being over 100 years old space needed a lot of work before it could open to the public, but the result is a space that not only helps move overstocked inventory but also showcases the branding and merchandising that is DDR. While few of the brand’s retailers have visited the space, it may be used in the future for mini-conferences which would include sessions on social media, display, styling, and marketing. DDR has a strict vetting process for its retailers and each one is carefully selected. The retailer needs to understand the product and be and, have excellent customer service, and be able to cater to a higher-end clientele. 


She added, “The retailers need to understand that the end consumer has money to spend and has a choice on where to spend it. The end consumer loves to post pics on social media of a DDR retailer that has lovingly wrapped their purchase, added a thank you note, and included a small gift.  This retailer just got a customer for life and all it took was an extra 15 minutes, some wrapping paper, a notecard, and a $10 gimmie gift. Great service allows a small brick and mortar shop in Podunk, TX to compete with big box stores like Zappos just because they made a connection and took an extra 15 minutes and used some wrapping paper.”


Unlike many brands, DDR is also actively encouraging consumers to seek out gently used DDR products, and have even created a Facebook group dedicated to buying and selling used DDR. The lower price point of pre-owned garments allows a new younger customer to develop a relationship with the brand, and a long time DDR customers started out buying their first jacket on the secondary market. No matter if you have a vintage DDR jacket or the latest coat off the rack, you are a member of the DDR family.


DDR has also expanded its brand through strategic collaborations and licensing agreements, first with their footwear partner Old Gringo and later expanding into partnerships with Greeley Hat Works, Peyote Bird Collection, and even home furnishing fabrics. Next on the agenda is belts, handbags, jeans, and maybe even a tiny home project.

“The DDR family feels very blessed to have been doing what we love for almost 30 years.  We have an amazing staff that is like a family that we couldn’t do without. God is good. Also, there is no ‘one’ answer to any of this, but a lot of hard work, mistakes, learning from those mistakes and moving forward.”

For more visit DoubleDRanch.com

Follow Jennifer on her site www.growinguptexas.com

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