Never Say Never

In 2012, online clothing brand Everlane’s founder and CEO made a bold proclamation to The New York Times:

“We are going to shut the company down before we go to physical retail.”

But five years later, Everlane has jumped onto the brick-and-mortar bandwagon, like so many other once online-only brands that now realize physical retail is a key component to their overall success. Read on to see how Everlane translated its ethos of radical transparency into a real-life retail space.

By Lola Thélin

For the past couple of years, online retailer Everlane—whose founder and CEO Michael Preysman once vowed his company would never go brick and mortar—has been testing the waters in New York with various physical retail experiences. From pop-ups to “pop-ins” and “open houses,” Everlane was trying to find the best approach for its store format, one that would balance community and commerce. And this past December, Everlane did the semi-unexpected: it opened its first physical store, a 2,000-sq.-ft. flagship location on 28 Prince St. in New York’s SoHo neighborhood.

“It was a natural fit to open our first store here, since we have an incredible community and were able to take our learnings from past retail experiences and apply them to our first store,” Everlane said in a statement. From a business standpoint, the store will help boost sales, improve customer service and increase brand awareness—reaching new customers while better interacting with existing ones. Preysman has also explained that customers indicated a desire for stores so they can try on products and discover the sizes. “Our customers tell us all the time that they want to touch a product before they buy it,” said Preysman in a November article in The Washington Post. “We realized we need to have stores if we’re going to grow on a national and global scale.”

So why the change of heart regarding physical retail? “There was this belief back then that the online experience was far superior to the physical one,” Preysman also told The Washington Post. “But as we’ve grown, our brand has become about more than just our products. We’ve created a community.”

The direct-to-consumer fashion label launched in 2011 with one item—now its trademark cotton T-shirt. The company grew to include most modern basics, all with a no-nonsense style, and most recently debuted a denim line. Its unique business model—to offer radical transparency around its prices and to only sell ethically made goods—helped the company gain customer traction and respect. Its factories go through a yearlong vetting process to ensure that they pay fair wages and make environmentally friendly decisions.

To remain true to the company’s vision, Preysman translated the concept of transparency into his brick-and-mortar store’s aesthetics by using 4,500 pounds of glass. The Everlane team incorporated the four expansive skylights that run through the middle of the standalone building. The skylight helps further create a transparency aesthetic (quite literally) by adding an abundance of natural light.

The front of the store is wall-to-ceiling glass and is barebones in terms of Everlane products. “Instead of a traditional window display or putting product at the very front, we instead put community front and center with stadium seating and a wall that will rotate with brand and transparency messaging along with seasonal installations,” the brand said. The seating encourages shoppers to hang out with likeminded customers who can connect, learn and share ideas with one another, and continue to learn more about the brand. It also will serve as a venue for factory installations, workshops, panels, community events and even art installations.

New York design agency Leong Leong created a peaceful oasis with Chantilly Lace white walls, blond wood floors and the use of natural materials: wood, granite and greenery throughout. The end result is a clean, crisp space that showcases the products, but also allows customers to experience Everlane’s aesthetics in real life.

For the build out, Everlane worked with Burlingame, Calif.-based B+N Industries. “With the use of white perforated panel material, we manufactured floor-to-ceiling shelving fins, which are attached at right angles along the store walls,” says Gary Somberg, B+N’s business developer. “The shelving fins with the natural wood color shelves and white perforated side panels once again convey the light airy feel yet are a very large structure to merchandise on.” Using the same style perforated panel, B+N also fabricated a screen wall behind the cashwrap to be used to mount the Everlane logo and as additional merchandising space.

One of Everlane’s key online elements is informative material about the creation of its products and the factories. In the store, headphones playing the “Sound of a Tee”—audio about how its T-shirts are made in the company’s Los Angeles factory—are available to customers. There are also factory information cards and images of the denim factory throughout the store, and every few months the store will update the experience with new transparency moments.

As an original direct-to-consumer clothing brand that was born on and of the internet, Everlane brought forth as many online strategies as possible to its brick-and-mortar presence. The company designed its own point-of-sale system from scratch to capture the ease of online shopping. At checkout, customers who have shopped online may log into their Everlane online account. The integrated I.D. System lets customers return items in-store, use a credit card already on file and apply any existing credits to their purchase. For customers, this process provides great ease, while from an analytic standpoint, it allows the company to review data and determine how customers shop—ultimately improving their shopping experience.

Everlane’s next brick-and-mortar move will be a second flagship location, slated to open in February (as of press time) in San Francisco’s Mission District. Digital is officially getting physical.


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