Warby Parker’s Big Physical Retail Plans

Warby Parker

Despite physical stores nearly across-the-board drops in foot traffic, the CEOs of Warby Parker and Bonobos are bullish on physical commerce, despite their brands’ status as two of the premier eCommerce players in the U.S.

Neil Blumenthal, Warby Parker’s CEO, said a future with 800–1,000 physical stores is within the realm of the possible, while Bonobos Founder Andy Dunn said he plans to have 100 stores by 2020.

“As new companies grow, they start to look more like the incumbents,” Blumenthal said on Wednesday (Oct. 5) evening in a Wall Street Journal interview at an event in New York hosted by consulting firm A.T. Kearney.

Warby Parker and Bonobos are not exactly unique. Many digital brands have been making moves into expanding into the brick-and-mortar space to boost online sales.

Dunn said this trend will continue more likely than not, as a “tidal wave” of eCommerce companies make a similar leap.

Both Warby Parker and Bonobos are using physical locations as showrooms for their products today. Dunn said online startups enjoy the advantage of being more nimble, not as weighed down by legacy systems and not facing crushes of inventory.

“I don’t know what I could do if I had 1,000 stores.”

Bonobos runs about two dozen “guideshops” for its base of fashionable men (it sells men’s clothing), where they are fitted. Clothes are then shipped to their homes.

Warby Parker’s eyeglasses operation has 37 locations with features such as full-length mirrors, vintage arcade games and photo booths.

By the end of the year, its CEO would like to see that number go up to 50.

“Our naiveté in retail actually helped us build a better store.”


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