Glossier is transforming a $24 million investment into a retail space.
The beauty company, which rose to prominence almost entirely via social media and word-of-mouth, announced its move to brick and mortar in a post Wednesday on Into The Gloss, the blog that inspired the company. In the note, Glossier CEO and founder Emily Weiss shared that the company’s latest Series B round of financing will help support the retail space, as well as long-awaited international shipping.
“This cash infusion will help us see through our vision of Glossier becoming a truly global community,” she wrote. “That means launching products in two new categories, opening permanent retail, and yes, finally going international.”
Glossier is following in the footsteps of several others companies that started as successful e-commerce-only brands before delving into brick and mortar, including Warby Parker, Rent the Runway, Baublebar and Birchbox. While some of these brands found the transition to physical retail to be seamless — take Bonobos, which after opening its first “Guide Shop” in 2012, now has 21 locations with top performing stores raking in between $2.5 and $3 million in revenue — others experienced more challenges along the way. Here’s what they had to say.
Go with what you know
After launching its first store in New York City in July 2014, Birchbox has had to rethink its foray into the physical space. In June, it announced it would temporarily halt plans to open three additional stores in the U.S. and expand globally, simultaneously laying off 50 of its 300 employees due to lack of investments.
Colleen Quinn, head of retail at Birchbox, said a major focus when rolling out the retail store was emulating its digital identify and offerings into the physical space. This included nods to the subscription-based beauty company’s hallmark products, including custom DIY boxes and in-store beauty advice modeled off its online tutorials.
Jenna Hilzenrath, director of public relations for Birchbox, said that while the company has reoriented to focus on its core business, it plans to return to brick and mortar in the long term. Regardless of internal challenges, Quinn encouraged digitally native brands like Glossier to experiment with tangible ventures like pop-ups or retail spaces.
“It’s clear that customers really love to have that real-life, person-to-person experience where we can build a relationship with them,” Quinn said. “As we evolved our in-store experience, we were really trying to stay true to the brands and the online customer base, and offer something that’s real-life.”
Maintain your brand identity
Matt Kaness, CEO of ModCloth, which opened its first retail store in Austin, Texas this month, echoed Quinn by saying the first priority for companies like Glossier should stay true to the brand.
“Play for the long game. Don’t compromise on your vision for why the world needs another store, but ruthlessly iterate how you deliver as you get feedback,” he said. “Offline should amplify and enhance your brand purpose, not change it.”
Kaness said that opening a physical store can also help improve online efforts by capturing new shoppers and helping inform sales trends. For example, after observing the success of size-integration in ModCloth’s pop-up shop in San Francisco last year and receiving positive anecdotal feedback from shoppers who felt a sense of inclusivity, the company got rid of the term “plus-size” on its homepage.
“It’s a different dimension of joy you can bring to your community by giving her a social, tactile, visceral experience in real life, which in turn can really inform how you see opportunities for the digital experience,” he said.
Moving forward, Quinn recommended that Glossier stay savvy in promoting its space and not getting lost in the shuffle.
“The biggest challenge is really creating that online-to-offline experience and having people recognize that [the store] has a physical space,” she said. “It’s a little bit of a challenge when you’re making the leap from online to offline, just as it is for companies to make the leap the other way.”
Kaness added that for Glossier, making the in-store experience as unique as possible will ultimately help draw consumers, even in a particularly tumultuous period of physical retail.
“This is the worst time perhaps in modern history to be opening traditional stores,” he said. “There’s never been a better time to invent, invest, create something new, unique, special. Be bold, be brave.”
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the date when Birchbox opened its first brick and mortar store, and misidentified the reason for the company slowing physical store growth and laying off employees.