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).
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.
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.