Brooklinen opened its first physical location Friday, Nov. 9, in SoHo. The store will be open through the holiday season, according to an email the company sent to Retail Dive.
The direct-to-consumer retailer, which launched in 2014, recently reached $100 million in revenue after raising $10 million in a Series A funding round, the company confirmed to Retail Dive.
Customers can use the store to immediately purchase products or browse items in person to potentially purchase online later. The 2,000-square-foot store opened its doors on Spring Street in SoHo and will remain open until February.
For a company which believes that by "cutting out the middleman, we bypass costs like wholesaling, storefronts and designer licensing fees that have no bearing on quality," it may be shaking up its approach — at least temporarily.
While Brooklinen may not be pulling a full-on Warby Parker, it is following the trend of direct-to-consumer companies dipping their toes into the physical space. "The DTC space is extremely crowded: if you can have an Instagram account, you can have a brand," Lauren Bitar, director of retail consulting at RetailNext, told Retail Dive in an email. "As the acquisition and marketing costs brands face for customers beyond the initial evangelical following continue to go up, brands are realizing that e-commerce isn't necessarily the most cost effective solution. Storefronts once again are being viewed almost as free, constant advertising and a way to stay in a shopper's consideration set."
Another direct-to-consumer company, Brandless, opened a pop-up in New York City last month in part to try out marketing they might not otherwise be able to do online. According to Magid SVP of Retail Matt Sargent these types of brands struggle with discovery, "particularly those as tactile as home decor," he said in an email to Retail Dive. Introducing a brand to consumers is difficult "without a physical touch point."
Similar to other online-exclusive retailers, Brooklinen is using a temporary storefront to communicate with existing customers, but also in an attempt to broaden its customer base, CEO Rich Fulop said in an email. He added that it's "an efficient path to sales, as customers are much more likely to leave having purchased something than they would if they were browsing our website."
Brooklinen customers will have the opportunity to test the merchandise in person, which for a highly personal product like bedding, is something that was missed in the online-exclusive experience. The retailer will also hold inventory in store, giving customers the opportunity to walk out with the product in hand.
"Many pop ups offer to mail customers product after they make a purchase, but we believed that customers would be far more excited to rush home and get a fresh set of sheets on their bed the same day," Fulop told Retail Dive in an email.
He also said the timing of the pop-up was intentional. It allows the retailer to reach a large audience during the height of the holidays, but also analyze traffic once the season dies down, which Sargent believes will help the company's consumer base in the long run.
"Shopping during holiday is a joy (not meant sarcastically) for many people," he said. "Physically engaging with brands is important and creates a lasting halo effect. Win the customer during [the holidays] and you win them for life."