The line between brick-and-mortar and digital will blur slightly with the opening of Everlane's first physical store, which opens Saturday. The online company for years had resisted the slide into traditional retail but is now embracing it as a way to reach customers.
"New customers were coming in and wanted to explore and touch the product for the first time before buying it," Everlane's CEO Michael Preysman told BuzzFeed News. "As we've gotten bigger, we've realized how important that is and there's just a barrier for a lot of people in online-only."
Everlane, the San Francisco-based clothing company known for its minimal aesthetic and "radical transparency" about its manufacturing process, will open its first brick-and-mortar store on Prince Street in New York City after six years of operating solely online.
The move comes as shopping trends show consumers want to shop both in-store and online, forcing digitally native retailers to abandon the idea that operating outlets merely adds to company overhead.
Everlane is just the most recent online-born company to retreat from only being on the internet. It follows similar moves by several other companies including Warby Parker, Bonobos and even Amazon, which now has physical bookstores and a massive nationwide presence via Whole Foods, which it acquired this year.
When online shoppers show up in person, however, they expect more than a quick deal — they want an experience, according to Everlane's Preysman. "The customer today is more more intelligent than ever," Preysman said. "They know exactly what they want. So the question is why do you come into a store when you can just buy online? It has to be more than that. Those experiences, that building of the brand, and wanting to be a part of it and having a mission and a purpose is really critical."
In an attempt to create these experiences, Everlane's flagship store carries 257 of its top-selling items and its window display area has a set of benches for events and lounging, instead of mannequins in seasonal apparel. All clothing prices are the same in-store as they are online.
Between a small men's section and a wall of sweaters is a set of headphones where shoppers can listen to the sound of one of Everlane's signature t-shirts being assembled in a Los Angeles factory. Around the store are several arrangements of large palm leaves in white vases shining under the space's high ceilings with skylights.
"No hideous fluorescents here," the company says in a press release. "We wanted to create a beautiful space that not only showcased our products, but also allowed our customers to experience our aesthetic in real life. Plus, natural light means you can actually see your outfit."
The flagship store comes after Everlane launched a handful of pop-ups to explore a physical retail strategy — Not a Shop, Shoe Park, Cashmere Cabin, and at a limited number of Nordstrom stores. While these experiments focused on letting consumers browse merchandise, the Prince Street store will be the first to operate as a full boutique that will also accept returns for online orders. Only its denim line must be ordered online after trying them on in-store.
Preysman said that the pop-up experiments taught the company that it needs to give "people a real sense of the brand beyond just the digital platform."
"Having a space where you can come and actually experience and learn about our factories and talk to the design team is just really different," he said. "The other piece of it was a lot of new customers were coming in and wanted to explore and touch the product for the first time before buying it. As we've gotten bigger, we've realized how important that is and there's just a barrier for a lot of people in online-only."