The beginning of this decade saw many online-only retailers enter the market. Companies like clothing store Everlane and men’s footwear seller Jack Erwin promised high quality and low price by selling directly to customers online, cutting out middlemen and eliminating the cost of walk-in locations. The model has proven immensely successful and many of these companies have garnered millions of online customers.

 

Why, then, are they now turning to the real world? Both companies have opened walk-in showrooms within the past three years, and while they look fantastic, given the online nature of the companies’ founding, the move might raise a few eyebrows. On Everlane’s job listings, they proudly claim, “[They] have no physical stores…[they] design [their] own luxury basics and sell them exclusively at Everlane.com.”

 

That’s technically still the truth. Everlane’s NYC and SF locations (the latter pictured above) aren’t stores, but showrooms that carry their latest women’s lines and allow customers to try on clothing. You can’t walk out with a bag, but you can place an order on-site that will be delivered to your home free of charge.

 

(WSJ)

(WSJ)

Jack Erwin runs its Tribeca Fitting Room similarly. The founders’ vision for “an accessible brand” is visible in their walk-in showroom, whose page concludes with “Come in and say hi. You’re always welcome.” Visitors can get fitted in any shoe from Jack Erwin’s various footwear collections, and though the store carries no inventory, they can also place orders with free expedited shipping.

 

Regardless of whether or not these showrooms go against the initial vision of these companies, consumers certainly benefit; walk-in locations are simply the next step to appeal to a larger consumer base. There is, and will always be, a segment of online shoppers who are content with purchasing clothing without trying it on first, perhaps returning or reordering in a different size if a garment does not fit. Customers in this group were the ones captured by the initial wave of cheap online-only retailers. Walk-in locations, however, seek to draw in the more cautious buyer who prefers to judge the fit of a garment or shoe first. Seeing as there are multiple popular sites dedicated to judging how shoes and clothing fit, this group of consumers must be quite sizable. Everlane’s and Jack Erwin’s showrooms, then, make more sense than they seemed to.

 

The advantages of these walk-in locations go beyond accurate fitting, too. By opening locations in major cities, both Everlane and Jack Erwin drastically increased their exposure. Although you still won’t see shoppers walking around Manhattan with branded paper bags, countless commuters now pass by the showrooms every day, and customers can effectively advertise as well, directing friends to those locations when they receive compliments on their clothing.

 

Would you visit a showroom just for fitting? Let’s char here, or on Twitter @BillChangNY