Beauty retailer Birchbox just joined the ranks of other formerly online-only businesses (see: Warby Parker, Rent the Runway and Bonobos) and opened its first permanent store in New York City's SoHo neighborhood.
It's not the first time Birchbox has hit the streets, though. Founders Katia Beauchamp and Hayley Barna opened a pop-up shop last fall in Chelsea Market to test out the concept, which proved to be popular. "We had so many people come in the door who had never heard of us," Barna says. "But subscribers brought friends who aren’t subscribers and then wanted to become subscribers." The founders chose both the Chelsea Market location and the current SoHo location with tourist traffic in mind -- people who are visiting New York City are "excited to discover new things," says Barna.
The shop is sleek and fun, and does a good job of translating Birchbox's online DNA into the real world. First of all, the products are merchandised by category rather than by brand. "All traditional beauty stores [organize] by brands -- it’s sort of a legacy thing. But we are able, coming from the web, to say we wanted it to feel more like a website," Barna says. "We know our customer shops for product categories." The store feels large and well-stocked. You can find 2,000 products and about half of Birchbox's roughly 500 brands in-store.
And of course Birchbox wouldn't be Birchbox without the box. In the back of the store, there's a section called "BYOB" ("Build Your Own Birchbox") where for $15 customers can choose five deluxe sample sizes from five different categories including hair care, fragrance and skin care. Other features include a "Try Bar" for testing products; multiple tech stations, where shoppers can access video reviews and get specific product recommendations based on their profiles; and a salon offering hair, makeup and nail services, and group classes.
So will more Birchbox stores be coming? "We are looking at how this performs so we can answer that question!" Barna says. "We’re eager to expand if it’s something that makes sense."
Store Photos: Kent Rogowski/Birchbox