Eyeglass retailer Warby Parker launches its first national retail partnership with US luxury department store Nordstrom.
Warby Parker has partnered with department store chain Nordstrom to feature its eyeglasses as part of the department store’s monthly pop-up shops, marking the first such deal the eyeglass retailer has done with a national retailer.
With the exception of a few indie boutiques like Imogene + Willie in Nashville and Art in the Age in Philly, Warby Parker has never sold a range of its eyewear through another national retailer, until now.
The originally online brand is being recognised as one of the quickest and most successful brands to morph into the bricks-and-mortar space, with each of its retail outlets in the US selling an average of US$3,000 per square foot, which according to one estimate makes their stores more profitable per square foot than Tiffany and Best Buy.
The eyeglass retailer announced its plans to partner with national department store chain Nordstrom on Friday. It’s part of a rotating pop-up shop curated by Olivia Kim (Nordstrom’s director of creative products) that gets a new theme or collaborator each month and lives in select Nordstrom locations as well as online.
In addition to selling a number of existing Warby Parker frames, the pop-up will feature four exclusive new sunglass styles designed by Warby Parker, as well as curated a selection of non-eyewear items, including McSweeney’s books, Pike St. Press notecards and Clare V foldover clutches. The pop-up will run through until September 6th.
Warby Parker chose to work with Nordstrom in particular because it likes the Seattle-based department store’s business model, its devotion to customer service and the way it links online and in-store inventory.
“We’ve always had a lot of respect for Nordstrom as a retailer, in particular its emphasis on providing great customer service,” Warby Co-Founder Dave Gilboa said. “It’s better than any other large-scale retailer.”
“The two of us have a lot in common — a shared reverence for offering impeccable customer experiences, a keen interest in pounding new retail pavement, and a love of design,” Warby Parker’s blog post stated. “We hope you’ll swing by.”
Nordstrom’s focus on leveraging technology and innovation to improve the customer experience, something Warby is similarly very into, also appealed to Gilboa — specifically that its in-store inventory is connected to its online inventory. “We’ve had conversations with other national retailers, but none of those partnerships felt like they made sense from a customer service perspective.”
Director of Mobile Customer Applications Aaron Smith recently spoke at the Online Retailer Conference last month:
“Nordstrom’s daily focus is on the customer and this is at the core of our technology and innovation,” he said. “We have a great tech team and we nurture a culture of ideas designed around giving the customer what they want.
“Whether it’s through our digital loyalty program, mobile near store notifications, or pocket stylist, we’re constantly innovating and refining as we grow to ensure we’re getting the customer what they’re looking for, quickly.”
Gilboa sees the pop-up store as a way to introduce Warby Parker to a new customer base. “The brand is five years old and we’ve grown much faster than we’ve ever expected, and the vast majority of that has been through word of mouth,” he said. “Now we’re focused on getting the word out.”
While he says the company has no intention of exploring wholesale relationships, he described this as a “test,” comparing it to the pop-ups the company opened before establishing its own permanent stores, suggesting it might explore similar partnerships down the line.
Warby Parker started out only five short years ago with an online distribution model that allowed customers to order and try on several pairs of brand-name glasses, retailing for under $100, before purchasing. The start-up was able to offer the glasses at a discount by cutting out third parties and sending directly to consumers. In 2013, they opened nine bricks-and-mortar stores across a selection of US cities as a way to test selling the product in-store, but these stores now represent half of the company’s employee base.
You can read more about the story of Warby Parker, founded by Neil Blumenthal and Dave Gilboa, in the E-Commerce Marketing Gospel, detailing its winning combination of social consciousness and social media marketing in unifying the online brand with its physical presence. You can also read about how the brand is dominating on Instagram on our sister site,Power Content.