Most retailers have been closing brick-and-mortar stores as their online business expands. But Fabletics, an activewear and accessories manufacturer, is doing the exact opposite: It is growing its number of store locations nationwide.
Even more head-scratching: Those locations are part of its strategy to grow online sales.
This flies in the face of many pre-conceived notions, which have long viewed physical stores as an opponent of online sales. But Fabletics isn’t crazy — rather, they’re making a smart business decision based on what we’ve come to understand about a strong omnichannel experience.
When deployed the right way, stores can uplift online selling, rather than distract from them. Fabletics is launching stores with this new omnichannel strategy in mind.
Fluid Selling For Fluid Shoppers
At this year’s eTail West conference, Fabletics president of retail Gregg Throgmartin said that the company’s early efforts to drive online sales through physical stores proved to be very successful. The results encouraged the company to open additional locations in the future.
“As we’ve opened these stores, we see that customers really like this omnichannel experience,” Throgmartin said, according to Internet Retailer. “They’re not just shopping in one channel. They may want to go in the store, try it on, feel the fabric and then buy online that night.
“The response has been good enough for us to want to crank out a lot more in 2016, 2017 and beyond. Our sales in the stores are great, but we also see a positive lift for our online business as well.”
Throgmartin wouldn’t specify just how successful its online stores has proven, but if Fabletics already has a multi-year expansion plan in place, you can be sure it’s very excited about the trends emerging from its physical stores.
Fabletics isn’t the first company to use physical stores to build its online business, either. Warby Parker is perhaps a better-known brand that began exclusively online, and has since started to open showrooms in select locations across the country.
As Fast Company reported last year, Warby Parker used its online name-brand recognition to drive incredible results in its showrooms. The company’s retail locations average about $3,000 in sales per square footage of retail space, a figure that rivals high-end jewelry brand Tiffany’s.
Warby Parker’s glasses are envisioned as a stylish-but-affordable alternative to other name-brand glasses sold in optometrist offices, but both the name and the glasses are very recognizable to consumers, and its online selection is strong enough that consumers can easily walk in to a store, try on glasses they’ve already picked out online, and order them on the spot.
Throgmartin noted that Fabletics has recognized a consumer desire for flexibility — the option to shop in stores and online, and to move fluidly between the two. In that sense, Fabletics isn’t being particularly revolutionary — it’s just giving its customers what they want.
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