E-commerce retailer thredUP on Tuesday announced the launch of its first brick-and-mortar "smart" thrift store in San Marcos, Tex., and plans to open four additional locations by the end of 2017, according to a press release emailed to Retail Dive.
The store, powered by data analytics, curates fashions by determining what brands and styles are trending in the region and updates inventory on a rolling basis, the company said.
Using mobile technology, thredUP said it will begin sending customers notifications when their favorite brands, styles and products in their size appear in store. Salespeople will also be able to personalize a store visit by pre-stocking a dressing room and selecting add ons based on online browsing, the company said.
Upstart thredUP, launched in 2009 and headquartered in San Fransisco, is the largest online seller of women's and children's secondhand clothing, according to the company. In 2015, thredUP raked in $81 million in funding to expand its business, at the time talking up its "clean out bag" program, which allows sellers to clear out their closets of like-new items and ship them to thredUP for cash or store credit. Now it's looking for new growth opportunities.
The upstart is joining the ranks of former pure-players Warby Parker and Bonobos by building out brick-and-mortar stores. And analytics have been key to the growth of these companies. By aggregating data on online browsing and buying behavior, the company can provide more personalized shopping experiences that it expects to drive purchase frequency.
"We're changing the way people think about thrift. In fact, 50% of our customers had never shopped 'used' before trying thredUP online," James Reinhart, CEO and co-founder of thredUP, said in a statement. "With 85% of apparel still bought offline, stores help us reach those who need to 'see it to believe it.'"
Physical stores and malls (their much-maligned partners in retail) continue to experience growth in sales per square foot, at least at the high end, according to L2's “Death of PurePlay Retail” report released last year. While internet darlings like Warby Parker and Casper Mattress are often considered examples of pure-play's viability, L2 contends they’re likely to see broader success by opening stores. Investment strategies are proving it: Two-thirds of venture capital-backed e-retailers raised funds “with the explicit purpose of building stores,” according to L2's report.
While off-price retailers like TJMaxx and secondhand sellers like Buffalo Exchange have thrived off of their treasure hunt appeal, they've remained woefully behind the e-commerce curve in terms of technology. By sending shoppers alerts on their mobile devices when relevant products arrive, threadUP is aiming to cater to younger generations. They also hope to smooth out the buying process so shoppers know when it's worth their time to head into the physical store, rather than spend hours scouring racks for a pair of black pants they may never find in their size.
While analytics and technology are no silver bullet, they are powerful weapons for e-commerce startups looking for growth in a world where most shoppers still prefer to touch, feel and try out products before purchasing.