What Brooks Brothers Taught Bonobos: The Value of Brick-and-Mortar

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Digital native brands like Bonobos and Warby Parker may be all the rage, but many are looking to get in front of customers like established retailers such as Brooks Brothers and Nordstrom, who have been doing it for years.

I had a chance to stop in the Brooks Brothers in Chevy Chase, Maryland yesterday and was greeted with a summery display featuring a dapper blue linen sports jacket with patch pockets. (Not pictured: a pitcher of lemon aid.)

Brooks Brothers has always done a fantastic job with its in-store displays. Take a look inside Brooks Brothers’ Georgetown concept store to see what I mean.

I’ve always had trouble visualizing how i would look in an outfit I purchase online, and appreciate that there are still brick-and-mortar shops around that let you touch and try on their clothing. It’s even more gratifying when those bricks-first retailers also invest heavily in technology and provide a seamless omnichannel experience like Nordstrom.

Digital first retailers like Away Travel, Bonobos, Black Lapel, Ledbury and Warby Parker have discovered the importance of getting in front of customers, and have begun opening up showrooms, guide shops and pop up shops around the United States.

To give a couple of examples:

  1. Away Travel opened up a pop-up shop in Manhattan in 2016.  See our interview with Away Travel founder Steph Korey, who talks about disrupting the travel industry and why it shouldn’t cost a thousand dollars to buy a plastic box on wheels.
  2. Everlane, one of my favorite menswear retailers, has opened its first physical store in a historic building in Oakland, CA.
  3. Menswear retailer Bonobos began experimenting with pop up shops like this one in Bethesda in 2012, and then proceeded to open dozens of permanent guide shops over the intervening years. Take a peak inside Bonobos’ DC Shaw guideshop.
  4. Warby Parker opened its first storefront in 2013, later developed a pop-up partnership with Nordstrom, and today has dozens of try-on shops across the United States in addition to its home try on program for eyeglasses.
  5. Menswear startup Ledbury opened a flagship store in its hometown of Richmond, along with a store in Washington, DC.
  6. Online custom made-to-measure suit tailor Black Lapel joined several other menswear brands in 2012 to open the temporary popup Dapper Man Shop in New York City around the holidays to experiment with getting in front of customers.
  7. Italian custom suit tailor Lanieri opened a series of ateliers across Europe that allow customers to get measured up and look and feel the fabrics and house suit cut.  Take a look inside Lanierie’s Paris Atelier.

Perhaps the best business model is ominchannel, melding an excellent online experience, direct-to-consumer pricing and brick-and-mortar access.

What’s your favorite omnichannel experience?

About Jake

Jake is an expert on men’s style and fashion based in Washington, DC. He founded Modern Fellows in 2012 to get to know the entrepreneurs and innovative clothing and lifestyle brands helping men dress sharp in the digital age. He has published hundreds of articles on style and apparel, and regularly interviews small business CEOs and startup founders about industry trends. Jake has written about entrepreneurship, international business and fashion for outlets including Business Week, Forbes, Inc., Details Style Syndicate and Primer Magazine.

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