Eyebobs on Wednesday said it will open two physical stores, one an 868 square-foot space in the Mall of America on Thursday and in Orlando's Florida Mall later this summer.
The brick and mortar effort was first tested in October at the Minneapolis-based online eyewear retailer's Glenwood Avenue headquarters, according to a company press release. At the time, Eyebobs, founded in 2001 by Julie Allinson, also added prescription lenses to its lineup.
The brick-and-mortar expansion is led by CEO Mike Hollenstein, who joined the company last year and said in a statement that the retailer is on pace for three-year revenue growth of over 30% by the end of 2018.
The "retail apocalypse" narrative bandied about these days is predicated on the many locations being shuttered by specialty retailers in ailing malls and by department stores, with Macy's, J.C. Penney and Sears featured prominently, not to mention the slew of bankruptcies leveling many longstanding retail businesses in recent years.
But with the bulk of retail sales still ringing up in brick and mortar, stores remain crucial to the business, and many pure-play e-commerce players are turning to them in the hopes of growth. Eyebobs rival Warby Parker made the move a few years ago and has since expanded its brick-and-mortar plans. Up-and-coming apparel retailer Marine Layer similarly launched a store expansion plan after a pop-up designed just to collect customer emails proved to be a compelling sales channel.
For Eyebobs' entry into brick and mortar, the company has trained what it calls "Bobtender" stylists to provide customers with styling advice in stores. Eyewear offerings include custom prescriptions as well as grab-and-go options like readers and sunglasses, the company said.
That high-touch effort in physical stores could help drive younger consumers to shop as well. While millennials are supremely channel-agnostic, seamlessly switching between buying online (52%) and in physical stores (59%) weekly Gen Z is more store-focused. Almost all (98%) of Gen Z shoppers, although they're in the first generation born into a world dominated by smartphones, said they buy in a store "some or most of the time," according to reports from the National Retail Federation and IBM's Institute for Business Value. In fact, three times as many Gen Zers said they shop mostly in stores, compared to those shopping mostly online, according to that research.