Eyewear retailer Warby Parker, which began operating online in 2010 and opened its first store in 2013, plans to operate nearly 100 stores across the U.S. by the end of 2018, CEO Neil Blumenthal told CNBC.
Warby Parker currently has 64 stores, with nearly all of them located in major U.S. markets. The retailer also has tested different channels such as ‘pop-in’ shops to gain exposure by aligning with other brands.
The eyewear retailer’s deliberate, data-driven expansion has been a model for the way other online retailers should approach brick-and-mortar growth. Online-first retailers such as Bonobos and Indochino have expanded their brick-and-mortar showrooms in a similar manner to Warby Parker, using online customer data to understand purchasing habits and determine where to open stores next. Other up-and-coming brands have followed suit, including Everlane, Casper and UNTUCKit.
By starting with a small physical-world footprint, e-Commerce companies can be nimbler in their decision-making processes. Additionally, they can be more creative in building unique stores to fit each individual locale. When these brands feel prepared to finally make a significant jump into brick-and-mortar, they can scale their operations slowly to fit with business growth and available financing.
The success of Warby and other online-first contemporaries has encouraged real estate developers, including Simon Property Group, Macerich, General Growth Properties and Taubman, to offer these retailers more flexible lease terms, help designing their spaces and other benefits designed to entice them to move into their properties.