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  • Writer's pictureLauren Goldberg

How do these glasses look?

During my recent trip to New York, I stopped by the Warby Parker store on the Upper East Side, just a few blocks from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Sidebar- fashionphiles need to check out the Costume Institute Exhibit “Heavenly Bodies – Fashion and the Catholic Imagination”. Beautiful! But I digress….

­­­Warby Parker started in 2010 as an online retailer of eyeglasses, positioned as a fashionable brand with fair prices. Consumers could request frames to be sent to them to try them on in the comfort of their own home. The concept took off and while doing extremely well (and by well, an estimated $250M in revenue in 2017) , customers still wanted to try on frames in a store. Warby opened their first store in 2013 and considered it an experiment and branding opportunity. But sales took off and based on sales per square foot, they were in Apple Store territory. They currently have 50+ stores and expect to have close to 70 by the end of the year. I was excited to check it out.

Walking into the store, it was quickly evident how service is at the heart of this concept. We were greeted by an associate (or as WP calls them, an advisor) with an iPad, asking if we had an appointment for an exam (yes, they do eye exams onsite with a lab) or needed help. We decided to browse. All told, there were at least 8 advisors on the first floor, but it never felt “sales-y”. For a Thursday afternoon, post lunch time, the store was fairly full with shoppers.

Glasses were organized by collection and all stated the fit. For a true omni-channel experience, sales advisors can quickly find any frames that you “favorited” on the site. They can also take a picture of you in your frames and email directly to you, with instructions on how to purchase, if you want to do it later.

An advisor quickly helped me find narrow frames. Associate was helpful, but not in an overbearing way. They understand when to step in and when to step away. There are mirrors everywhere – handheld, cabinet size and full length. I think I like the Rose frames on me 😊

The store design was very “on brand” and was all about a love of books. Large displays of leather bound books went from ceiling to floor. Scattered throughout the frames, there was an eclectic assortment of books for purchase. Loved the mural of the best neighborhood places to sit and read….very tongue in check with suggestions like “high chair in coffee shop on 83rd and 3rd” or “Box on 80th and Park”.

Overall, very impressed on how Warby Parker took the essence of their popular website and created a truly omni-channel experience. This is a perfect example of how retail isn't "dead". By giving customers what they value (in this case service and a fun branded experience), retail is thriving.

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