Can Bonobos’ Alternative Retail Concept Gain Traction? A preview of the E-Tailer’s Georgetown Guide Shop
After arriving in the DC market via a temporary presence on Bethesda Row over the holidays, innovative menswear e-commerce retailer Bonobos is set to open a permanent Guide Shop in Georgetown on January 29. Here’s a look at their new digs, tucked away in Cady’s Alley across from Kafe Leopold, and more on the alternative experience they offer to traditional retail. (Also read on for a special offer for Modern Fellows readers — 20% off $150 at the guideshop when referencing MODERNFELLOWS.)
In December, Bonobos signed a long-term lease to install a permanent Guide Shop in Georgetown, taking over the space at 3320 Cady’s Alley that was formerly occupied by furniture store Yves Delorme. Scattered around the United States, their guide shops are an attempt by the online-only retailer to give customers a way to touch, feel and try-on clothes before taking the plunge on an e-commerce purchase.
It sunk in that this concept requires some explanation as I described it to a friend who kept peppering me with questions about why anyone would want to go to a store where you are not able to buy anything on-site.
The purpose is to offer an “e-commerce showroom” for men to make an appointment to get to know Bonobos and understand how their clothes fit. The company stocks representative samples for guys to try on, so if you’re interested in their Foundation navy suit in a 38R, the shop may only have the grey version in your size, though you can see and feel the color you want too. After you identify the proper fit, a Bonobos personal shopper can help you place an order which will ship free (and quickly) to you.
It will be interesting to see how many guys — and women who want to buy for the men in their life — take to the concept. It’s not traditional retail and, as the conversation with my friend suggests, there is bound to be some initial confusion and skepticism.
Walking into the guide shop is more interactive and intimate than popping into a traditional retail store. You are met by one or more guides who look you in the eye, have a conversation with you and walk you through their product line. They are knowledgeable about the brand, enthusiastic about the clothes and are tied into a company that is small enough that they can probably tell you what number hire they were.
That enthusiasm is infectious. Bonobos’ guides are good at getting you excited about the clothes — so much so that I went home and bought the Ishmael, a black-flecked cotton shawl sweater I tried on in store. (A light-grey version is pictured above.)
I’d imagine their conversion rate is pretty high for people who walk through the door. If the company is successful at enticing people to come into their showroom, it may be onto something. Bonobos must feel that way too, as it is opening new showrooms around the country and expanding its guide shop in Chelsea.
Bonobos started out by emphasizing comfortable, well-fitting chinos and other business casual staples. As is clear from the Georgetown guide shop, they have since branched out into more tailored and professional offerings, from basic solid suits to more creative dress slacks in checks and plaids to ties and basic dress shirts. They also offer shoes, outerwear, and accessories, including a gorgeous padded tan briefcase from Billykirk.
Many of their offerings, including denim, ties, suits and Billykirk bag are made in North America. Their ties are made in the United States and, at 2.75 inches wide, as far as I’m concerned, the perfect width.
There are also a lot of bright colors and achingly preppy hallmarks from pink chinos to green polos that are — well — they are what they are. Like Brooks Brothers, J. Crew and J. Press, Bonobos manages to speak to multiple audiences and is putting out a range of garments and accessories that ought to have broad appeal.
Gina DiPetrio, Senior Public Relations associate for Bonobos, appreciates the diversity that DC has to offer. In an email, she wrote, “We couldn’t be more excited to be in a city where guys wear bright colors just as well as they wear great looking tailored suits [and] to be in a vibrant city that is home to such great customers.”
See below for a few more views inside Bonobos’ Guide Shop in Georgetown’s Cady’s Alley. Beginning Tuesday, January 29, have a look for yourself at 3320 Cady’s Alley, Washington, DC 20007. Make an appointment by calling 877.294.7737 or visiting the Bonobos guide shop website.
Special Offer: Bonobos is giving a special discount to readers who book a Georgetown Guideshop appointment at www.bonobos.com/guideshop.com. If you book your appointment by February 15th, you will receive 20% off a purchase of $150 + at the store by referencing “MODERNFELLOWS” in the notes section when scheduling an appointment.
Photos taken with permission except where noted.