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Online Retailers Ponder Bricks-and-Mortar Shops
Online Retailers Ponder Bricks-and-Mortar Shops
By Shan Li Like this on Facebook Tweet this Link thison Linkedin Link this on Google Plus
Some of the hippest online retailers around are pioneering an old concept: offline retailing. After years of squeezing traditional retailers, e-commerce companies that were once digital-only are seeing the value of hanging up shingles in malls and bustling shopping streets.

Los Angeles e-commerce darling Nasty Gal recently announced plans to debut a shop in the Southland. Beauty purveyor Birchbox opened its first store this month in New York. Bonobos brought its men's fashion brand to La Brea Boulevard last month. And JustFab gave up being just online in September when it opened a flagship in the Glendale Galleria.

Instead of bricks-and-mortar, these shops might more aptly be called click-and-mortar.

"It's all about having the online retail world figure out, 'Maybe we can showcase our products better in store,'" said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst for NPD Group. "We are going to use retail as a way to eliminate some of the challenges online has because you can't touch and feel and smell and taste."

Of the thousands of merchandisers dedicated to working on the Web, only a relatively small group has opened a physical space, analysts say. But in going back to the industry's shopkeeping roots, these merchants are acknowledging that no matter how easy or efficient a website is, some people still like to browse the old-fashioned way.

Makeup company Birchbox wanted to bring something extra to its first permanent store in the trendy Soho shopping area of New York. In addition to thousands of beauty items, the cosmetics company is also offering hair stylists, nail technicians and makeup artists who teach classes on the latest beauty trends.

Adding those services, co-founder Katia Beauchamp said, reinforces what the company is all about: indulgences at affordable prices.

"We wanted to create something that is her playland," she said.

Designing the stores themselves can be a challenge. Retailers that once worried only about providing a seamless online shopping experience now have to decide what elements of their digital selves to import into the store and what to borrow from their more traditional competitors.

When JustFab Inc. opened its flagship store in the Glendale Galleria, the El Segundo company wanted to present its products in a clean space that mimicked its sleek website.

Shoes and handbags were displayed in well-lighted cubby holes built into the white walls, like pieces of art. The rest of the shop was kept relatively bare with a few display tables, spokeswoman Kimberly Tobman said.

But shoppers, who are used to a more bountiful display of items, ended up treating the products as "untouchable," she said. JustFab quickly doubled the number of tables and brought more shoes for customers to pick up and try on. (continued...)

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© 2014 Los Angeles Times (CA) under contract with NewsEdge. All rights reserved.
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Posted: 2014-08-21 @ 6:56am PT
E-commerce is the next big thing, online retailers need to have competitive pricing and provide faster and cheaper shipping. New developments such as this will provide better shopping experience to the customers. I work for McGladrey and there's a whitepaper on future retailing that will interest retailers it discusses the state of retail and the need to adapt to a changing industry: “The one constant in retail is change.”

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