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Bonobos Founder No Longer Believes in Online-Only Retail Model

Bonobos' New York "guideroom," via <a href="http://ny.racked.com/archives/2012/06/29/inside_the_bonobos_guideshop_where_beer_and_chinos_await.php">Racked NY</a>
Bonobos' New York "guideroom," via Racked NY

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Andy Dunn, founder of menswear brand Bonobos and staunch e-commmerce advocate, is backtracking on his fierce Internet-only stance. In a New York Times article on Bonobos' transition to brick-and-mortar—the company has opened six showroom-style locations around the country in addition to inking a deal with Nordstrom—Dunn explains his change of heart.

"I was pretty puritanical about e-commerce only," he told the Times, but said that half of would-be customers would not order apparel online because they wanted to feel the merchandise. E-commerce is growing fast, he added, but "that doesn't mean the offline world is going away—it just means it's changing."

Bonobos is one of a growing number of sucessful e-tailers opening up brick-and-mortar locations of one kind or another: Piperlime bowed a flagship in New York's Soho neighborhood this year; Warby Parker is in the process of doing the same; and Etsy, ebay, and Net-a-Porter have all experimented with pop-ups.

Originally, Bonobos was suggesting that customers order an item in several sizes and only keep the one that fit, providing free shipping to ease the pain of the process. (This is basically exactly the same as Warby Parker's business model, by the way, and it has been very successful for them.)

But Dunn told the Times that, ultimately, the cumbersome ordering experience didn't fit with the ethos of good service he wanted. "Clicking on six sizes and having them shipped to me is not a great experience," he said. Additionally, "the cost of marketing a Web site and the cost of free shipping both ways was approximating a store expense," he said.

One of the advantages to the online-only model, in theory at least, is that it keeps costs down. Everlane launched their entire brand concept on the idea of being able to give customers a $50 t-shirt for only $15 because they "cut out the middleman."

As online stores take to opening up brick-and-mortar locations, it will be interesting to see whether their prices go up as well.
· Piperlime On Why the Brand Went From E-Tail to Retail [Racked]
· Piperlime Isn't the Only E-Tailer Looking at Brick-and-Mortar Space: Here's Why Warby Parker, Net-a-Porter, and Bonobos Are Doing It Too [Racked]