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Birchbox follows Warby Parker, Bonobos, with new bricks-and-mortar store alongside its ecommerce site

Most savvy ecom­merce ana­lysts are aware that ecom­merce has been under­go­ing a makeover of late: the way to go, after estab­lish­ing an online pres­ence, appears to be com­bin­ing web-based ecom­merce stores with the bricks-and-mor­tar vari­ety. And New York-based sub­scrip­tion beau­ty prod­uct start­up Birch­box has just decid­ed to take that par­tic­u­lar bull by the horns as it turns four years of age. As report­ed in the New York Times, a new per­ma­nent retail store is mov­ing out of the plan­ning stage and is due to open on West Broad­way in Manhattan’s SoHo shop­ping dis­trict very short­ly (prob­a­bly May).

Growth poten­tial

Co-founders Katia Beauchamp (31) and Hay­ley Bar­na (30), who became friends and found­ed Birch­box while stu­dents at Har­vard Busi­ness School, say the new ini­tia­tive has less to do with in-store rev­enues than with the growth poten­tial a bricks-and-mor­tar store can offer. As Ms. Beauchamp puts it:

“We are not focused on prof­itabil­i­ty, we are focused on hyper­growth. We like the idea of build­ing a store along with the business.”

The per­spic­u­ous ecom­merce ana­lyst will rec­og­nize that Birch­box is fol­low­ing a length­en­ing line of suc­cess­ful ecom­merce star­tups which, hav­ing enjoyed con­nect­ing with real life cus­tomers via pop-up shops, decid­ed to acquire per­ma­nent bricks-and-mor­tar out­lets too. The list includes now-illus­tri­ous names like Bono­bos, War­by Park­er and shav­ing goods start­up Harry’s, which recent­ly opened its own bar­ber shop.

Oth­er ecom­merce firms, as our knowl­edge­able ecom­merce ana­lyst can tell you, have adopt­ed the bricks-and-mor­tar angle by team­ing up with estab­lished retail­ers. For exam­ple, shoe ecom­merce ven­dor Sole Soci­ety sells it prod­ucts at Nord­strom, and Rent the Run­way opened a show­room inside New York’s Bendel’s last fall.

Art­ful fusions 

There’s some gen­uine art­ful­ness in these emerg­ing fusions: these star­tups are blend­ing online’s best assets with the in-store shop­ping expe­ri­ence (Rent the Run­way, for instance, lets you cre­ate a vir­tu­al fit­ting room online before you vis­it the Bendel’s show­room; when you do, your online-select­ed items will be wait­ing for you).

The new Birch­box store will fea­ture around 2000 beau­ty prod­ucts (which rep­re­sents between 150 and 250 brands) and shop­pers can select what they like and fill their own box­es for $15 a time. A sep­a­rate floor will pro­vide hair styling ser­vices and class­es on top­ics like skin care and make­up tips.

We think this move has got legs. Watch this space.

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