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Warby Parker, the eyeglass e-tailer that has made a name for itself with cool, affordable prescription glasses, has just revealed plans for the brand's first-ever brick-and-mortar store. Our sister site reports that Warby Parker has leased space in New York's Soho neighborhood, not far from Apple.
The brand had earlier hinted at the possibilities of a flagship, telling Business of Fashion in June that though they don't intend to have a chain of brick-and-mortar stores, they are "exploring creating a unique offline flagship store that would feel very different from any other optical shop in the world." This is the first confirmation of this magical boutique we've seen.
Making the move from the internet to the street is something of a trend in retail at the moment. Amazon famously announced plans to open a brick-and-mortar store in Seattle, Gap Inc.'s designer emporium Piperlime
is coming to New York in the fall, and menswear brand Bonobos is partnering with Nordstrom now.
When it comes to eyewear, especially, the ability to try on different styles is crucial. "People will always want to touch, feel and try on certain items and it is impossible to replicate that online," Warby Parker Co-founder Dave Gilboa told Business of Fashion. "When we launched Warby Parker, we intended to be a purely online business but we realised the biggest challenge to selling glasses online is getting the fit right."
As far as that goes, Warby Parker has managed to make trying on glasses via the internet almost painless. The site features some nifty face recognition software that let's you virtually test the fit, and if that's too sci-fi for you, they also have an extremely liberal and user-friendly return service (they'll send you up to five pairs of glasses to try on at home along with a pre-paid return shipping label for the ones that don't work). It's a formula that's proven wildly successful, so we suspect this foray into brick-and-mortar is more about branding than it is about sales.
"They wanted to find a location and a size where they could they could fully express their brand," Warby Parker's broker told the Commercial Observer. "This is not going to be just another eyeglasses store."
Our sister site, who has tracked WP through several seasons of pop-ups in New York, has some thoughts on just what that might look like. In their words, "Judging from the overall decor [of the last two pop-ups], and the fact that you could buy a yurt at the [Holiday Spectacle] bazaar, we expect it to be several significant notches up from Pearle Vision."
· Warby Parker's First Non-Internet Store Is Coming to Soho [Racked NY]
· 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]
· Piperlime Will Open Brick and Mortar Store [Racked]