After launching in February, the online essentials brand Ayr is taking a step forward in the form of its first brick-and-mortar location, open Thursday. But don't expect it to be a traditional retail experience: Like Warby Parker, the store carries no inventory for sale, functioning as a walk-in closet where customers can order clothing for delivery in one to two days.
Called a "Guideshop," the store is based on a same-name concept pioneered by Ayr's parent company, the menswear startup Bonobos. By stocking only one of every size per style, Bonobos's Guideshops are able to operate on a very small footprint and staff — a great way to save on overhead (one of the key features of online-native brands in the first place) while giving the customer the impression of a luxe personal shopping experience, including styling advice.
Following in its big brother's steps, Ayr's Guideshop operates out of its headquarters on 45 West 25th Street, Floor 4, one level down from Bonobos's flagship location. Although the focus on customer service over inventory is the same, the utility of Ayr's shop will be slightly different from that of Bonobos.
As co-founder Maggie Winter says, their store space is less about offering interaction with a guide than it is about checking out the line in person. This is key, considering that Ayr's core category is jeans, a product that usually takes about 15 different sizes and cuts and an hour of time to find one pair that fits perfectly. Winning shoppers over to denim is tricky online — customers might order a pair or two to test out the brand, but if they don't fit right on the first try, they may never come back.
So are women going to miss the experience of coming home triumphant with a purchase in hand? Winter and Cameron are hoping not. They've been testing the Guideshops out on and say that the friends and family who have tested out the Guideshop over the last few weeks don't.
"What we found is that they love it," Winters says. "They’re always on their way to drinks or dinner or a meeting or work, so to not have to lug it around is great. We haven’t heard a single person be like, 'What do you mean I can’t walk out with it?'"
Most emerging online clothing brands are aware that they need to have an offline presence, too — preferably an original store concept that changes up the way consumers think about shopping IRL. Ayr's Guideshop is a pretty elegant answer to that, with the added bonus that the sales assistants also happen to be the designers.