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In the past year, several major online-only boutiques have announced plans to open brick-and-mortar stores of one kind or another. Amazon has announced a forthcoming boutique in Seattle; menswear e-tailer Bonobos has inked a partnership with Nordstrom; and eyewear brand Warby Parker is currently at work on a flagship in Manhattan. One of the biggest e-tailers to make the jump, Gap Inc.'s designer emporium Piperlime, is also the first to actually open their doors.
The store opened this month in the SoHo neighborhood of New York and is merchandised like more like a website than a typical boutique. Like the online version, the shop features a mix of brands ranging from high-end contemporary—Nanette Lepore, Milly, Rachel Roy—to accessible—Dolce Vita, Frye, and Seychelles. Also like the website, there are curated sections from brand partners and influencers like Rachel Zoe and Olivia Palermo. "Across the whole store there's a mix of high and low price points, iconic brands, and discovery brands," Piperlime General Manager Jennifer Gosselin told us. "Having that in one physical store in a boutique environment was something that we felt wasn't out there in a big way."
Gosslin also says a big part of the decision to open the store came from customer demand. "Our customer has been asking for a store," she told us. "Some of it is about she wants to touch and feel things, but more, we get people saying, 'You know, I just want to be able to experience the brand.'"
It's an interesting perspective, considering how much money and effort most brands are putting into their websites right now. But Gosselin says there are drawbacks to having an online-only presence. "I think [the customer] wants to be able to come in and get a sense of the environment, since really, being in a store allows you to do things. You're able to give people an experience across multiple senses. It's like the difference between having a relationship over email and once in person. It really allows the brand to come to life in a much more tangible way."
· Piperlime Opens Its First Brick-and-Mortar Store in Soho [Racked NY]
· Confirmed: Warby Parker Will Be Opening A Brick-and-Mortar Flagship After All [Racked]
· Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, and Yves Saint Laurent Are About To Get an Online Makeover [Racked]