Modcloth has plans to expand its "Fitshop" stores — inventory-less locations where customers can try on samples and get styling advice, then order their choices online, Business Insider reports.
After experimenting with the model for a few years, the now Walmart-owned brand runs two Fitshops, in Austin, Texas and San Francisco, where styling appointments can be made for individuals, groups and brides.
That will expand to five this year — including shops in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and Washington, DC — and eight by 2019, according to Business Insider. Requests for more information weren’t immediately returned by Modcloth or Walmart.
Modcloth’s Fitshops are run like Bonobos’ Guideshops and Nordstrom Local — with an emphasis on service, socializing and relaxation and without actual merchandise to buy and take home.
The expansion of the brick-and-mortar experiments run by the brand for a couple of years now is made possible by its new owner’s decidedly deep pockets. Walmart bought Modcloth a little over a year ago and Antonio Nieves, who has previous experience at both Modcloth and Bonobos (also now owned by Walmart), has served as CEO of the online women's apparel vertical since October.
Nieves' previous experience with ModCloth's team was especially fortuitous, Ravi Jariwala, senior director of public relations at Walmart.com, told Retail Dive in an interview earlier this year. Though it's his experience at Bonobos, a more robust brand that is farther along in its brick-and-mortar operations, that may be especially important.
The showroom model, meanwhile, is gaining steam as a win-win for both retailers and their customers. The reduced level of inventory allows for leases on much smaller spaces, which can be especially beneficial in key urban areas. For stores that can make the concept work, as Bonobos has, it can be far superior financially, according to Lee Peterson, executive vice president of brand strategy and design at design firm WD Partners. Bonobos, for example, takes in an average $3,000 per square foot in showrooms, while The Gap averages closer to $450 per square foot.
And more space can be dedicated to services and shopper lounging areas, which help cement the relationship between brands and their customers, especially the younger shoppers who are more amenable than their parents to waiting for their purchases to be delivered. Modcloth's Fitshop pages also include invitations to musicians to perform in its stores, indicating an attempt to create more experiential spaces than a traditional store.