Retail

Retail Pulse: Wayfair Opens Mall Store; Banana Republic Unveils Style Passport

Wayfair Opens Mall Store

Online furniture retailers are stepping further into the world of physical retail with permanent brick-and-mortar stores. Wayfair, for instance, opened a store at the Natick Mall in suburban Boston, where consumers can experience products firsthand before making a purchase, after debuting a pop-up shop there last year.

The new location comes with a digital innovation, the Wayfair Home Bar, which helps customers visualize how Wayfair’s products fit into a room. Shoppers can use the Wayfair Room Planner to “create 3D digital renderings of rooms stocked with Wayfair’s products and then see them in full-scale virtual reality,” per Boston Magazine. Hundreds of items can be purchased in the store, along with a bevy of “curated spaces” that showcase products for home delivery.

Wayfair Chief Product and Marketing Officer Ed Macri said, according to the outlet, “Consumers can visit the Wayfair store for inspiration, select from hundreds of items available off the shelf, and shop Wayfair’s full catalog of 14 million products across every style and price point, all with the helpful support of trusted design consultants at every step.” The store itself is on the shopping center’s first floor near Wegmans, which itself opened its first mall store in 2018.

“For us, we see the store as just another channel that we use to engage with our customers and showcase all that Wayfair has to offer,” Wayfair Spokesperson Susan Frechette told MassLive.

Retail furniture is no stranger to the brick-and-mortar world. News surfaced last October that Wayfair was planning to open two pop-up shops at the beginning of November to create an interactive brand experience. One of the stores would be located at the Natick Mall and the other would be at the Westfield Garden State Plaza in New Jersey. After experimenting with the pop-up shops, it was reported in February that the company would be opening an outlet store in Kentucky.

From outlets to pop-ups and permanent brick-and-mortar stores, eCommerce brands are aiming to let customers experience their products in real life – and, in some cases, providing digital experiences to help them visualize how those items will fit into their own homes. 

In Other Brick-and-Mortar News

Banana Republic unveiled its Style Passport online subscription service to provide unlimited access to its collection of women’s apparel. The retailer is looking to roll out the offering to U.S. customers at the end of September and plans to add men’s apparel in the future. Style Passport charges $85 for three garments, along with unlimited exchanges and returns, free priority shipping and complimentary laundering services.

Banana Republic CEO and President Mark Breitbard said in an announcement, “We’re constantly evolving with our customer, meeting her where she is shopping. Style Passport will drive incremental revenue and help us connect with younger shoppers who appreciate great style and want an affordable, sustainable way to try new fashion. With this new service, we’ll gather valuable insights from a highly interactive customer base that can be used to design future products and experiences.”

On another note, Kroger and Walgreens are widening their retail partnership. With the expansion, the Kroger Pickup service and a Kroger Express grocery assortment will come to 35 Walgreens locations in the Knoxville, Tennessee market. Walgreens’ branded beauty and health products will also be sold in 17 Kroger grocery stores. The 35 Knoxville Walgreens locations will provide customers with a selection of Kroger’s Our Brand items like Simple Truth.

Kroger Vice President of New Business Development Jeff Talbot said in an announcement about the offering, “We continue to redefine the grocery customer experience and partner for customer value through our Restock Kroger transformation plan. Our growing relationship with Walgreens is just one more way Kroger is making life easier and better for even more customers – because everyone deserves to have affordable, easy-to-enjoy, fresh food.”

In other news, TJX Cos. reported comp sales and total revenue that came out below analysts’ estimates, with heightened competition in the off-price space. The discount merchant’s net sales were $9.78 billion, which fell below estimates of $9.90 billion. Same-store sales increased 2 percent at Marmaxx U.S. (TJ Maxx and Marshalls), 6 percent at TJX International and 1 percent at TJX Canada.

To keep tabs on the latest retail trends, check next week’s Retail Pulse.

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