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Everlane has gone IRL — this time for good. The retailer, which was founded in 2011 as an online-only, direct-to-consumer brand under the banner of “radical transparency,” will open its first flagship store in New York City tomorrow, the initial step in a push to expand its brick-and-mortar presence nationally and, eventually, it hopes, around the world. It’s a pretty significant about-face for a company whose founder and CEO said in 2012 he’d “shut the company down before we go to physical retail.”
The store, which takes over the airy, skylit space vacated by Sigerson Morrison at 28 Prince Street in Soho, takes many of the brand’s most successful strategies and translates them for the customer that walks in off the street: The seamless online shopping experience is mirrored in-store with a custom point-of-sale system that lets you check out from your account, if you have one, and see all of your purchases in one place. There are “key moments around transparency” throughout the space, says founder and CEO Michael Preysman — which is to say, placards and takeaway cards with information about the factories the brand works with around the world. (They also look great on Instagram, a public relations rep noted).
The front of the store is left relatively open, with seating and space to host events. “We’ve realized that customers really want to come by and spend time with our staff and ambassadors here, and also just get to know the product and the stories behind it.” says Preysman. “So a big part of this was, how do we build a community beyond the digital platform, which is very intermittent — you see the website and then you leave.”
He also admits there are some customers the brand won’t reach online, an idea that would have been practically taboo to mention in startup circles during the company’s salad days. Today, however, even the move-fast-and-break-things e-commerce crowd is taking a more measured approach. Warby Parker notably began experimenting with brick and mortar in 2013 and has since opened more than 60 doors around the country. Bonobos, Outdoor Voices, Allbirds, Birchbox, and others have followed in step, while still more have gone the pop-up-shop route, including The RealReal, ADAY, and MM.LaFleur. It’s hardly a novel concept — which makes it especially odd that Everlane is marketing it as such. “They told us to stick to the internet. Good thing we don’t do what we’re told,” reads a letter from Preysman posted on the brand’s Instagram, neglecting to mention that “they” also included Everlane itself.
Everlane likewise has dipped its toes in physical retail before with pop-ups, “experimental spaces,” temporary shops-in-shop with Nordstrom, and appointment-only showrooms, but the New York store is its first permanent location. At 2,000 square feet, it’s also big enough to stock a sizable selection of both men’s and women’s products, which for winter leans heavily on sweaters, outerwear, accessories, and staples like the wildly popular wide-leg crop pant. There’s also a wall of Everlane’s recently launched denim, which, for now at least, is try-on only (the brand will cover shipping for any pairs purchased). The San Francisco flagship, which Racked first reported on this summer and which will open in February 2018, will be even bigger at 3,000 square feet, and Preysman says the company hopes to expand to cities where it already has a core customer base, as well as smaller, experimental markets in the future.
Amid the “retail apocalypse,” any store that’s opening rather than closing is a relief, but don’t get too hopeful about the future of brick-and-mortar chains: Preysman now claims the ideal ratio for retailers is “70-80 percent digital and 20-30 percent physical,” which, if he’s right, means there’s still plenty of upheaval ahead.