In June 2019, Kim Kardashian debuted Kimono, the culmination of her decade-long quest to build a shapewear brand. The name instantly backfired—many accused her of cultural appropriation and her plan to trademark the name didn’t help—and a week later she announced she was changing the name. In early September, she relaunched the brand as SKIMS with ambitions to sell a variety of diversified products in a broad range of sizes. Early products sold out as Kim continued promoting the brand on her Instagram and social channels almost daily ever since. Her marketing prowess created more sellouts and then necessitated more restocks—rinse and repeat. 

As we wrote at the time, SKIMS had the potential to be the defining brand for Kim, having more meaning and promise than her KKW Beauty and Fragrance, her two brands that preceded it, which were more opportunistic than unique.

Fast forward to late January 2020 and Kim announced that SKIMS would be expanding into 25 Nordstrom stores across America starting in early February, and its products would also be available on Nordstrom.com. Kim Kardashian? Possibly one of the most famous people on earth, with one of the largest social media and earned media (PR, tabloids, etc) followings in the world? Why does she need someone like Nordstrom? 

Well, this is not the first time she—or another member of her family—has expanded into wholesale after hitting the online-only growth ceiling. Her sister Kylie was the first to move into Ulta after hitting the upper bounds of online growth three years into Kylie Cosmetics, and Kim followed soon after with KKW Beauty making the same move. Then, when Kylie launched Kylie Skin, she moved into Ulta only five months after the brand’s debut. 

Kim is now entering Nordstrom only five months after launching the brand and the reasons are quite simple. SKIMS is an apparel brand and such a broad sizing range, which is very much a good thing, means that customers are going to return a lot of items as they try to find their fit. Kim’s social media followers might also have buy-this-Kardashian-product saturation and the Nordstrom audience is likely wealthier and older than most of Kim’s following. And not to mention that online-only brands can only get so big before they have to expand into other channels before they risk lighting digital marketing dollars on fire. 

But as with Goop beauty’s launch in Sephora, allowing retailers to sell online, not just in-store, introduces significant competition for digital businesses that are still in their infancy. SKIMS expanding into dozens of Nordstrom stores is a good and efficient move to grow the brand, but not allow Nordstrom to sell on its website as well.  

If Kim Kardashian needs Nordstrom to grow her business—Glossier made the same move recently as well, albeit for a limited time—there’s a very good chance every consumer brand could benefit from strategic wholesale as well. Brands don’t get built overnight, nor alone. It’s always a team effort.