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Zappos Tests the Brick and Mortar Waters With Vegas Holiday Shop

The retailer also wants to remind shoppers that it sells more than just shoes.

Companies that built their businesses as online-only retailers seem to all have brick and mortar on the brain as of late. Following in the footsteps of brands like Warby Parker, Birchbox and NastyGal, Zappos opened its first IRL location in downtown Las Vegas on Friday. It's open 24/7 until December 31, making it perfect for Vegas partiers and desperate last-minute holiday shoppers alike.

If you're wondering why the retailer ventured into Vegas first, it's because Zappos is headquartered there, as is Shop With Me, the retail logistics company Zappos partnered with to launch the pop-up. Ultimately, the store is more of a testing ground for Zappos than anything else. Steve Hill, Zappos's vice president of merchandising, explained over the phone on Friday that the retailer is deliberately filling the store with a wide variety of product -- from shoes to dresses to gift items -- to do "a lot of testing" and to "take all the information and figure out next steps." 

Hill also wants the store to remind people that Zappos sells more than just shoes. To that end, the 20,000 square feet are organized in 16 sections or "vignettes" that you wander through, and the shoes are located all the way in the back. Some of the product will be available to purchase and take home then and there, while others you can order online. Let us explain.

Zappos partnered with Shop With Me to solve the problem that has kept Zappos out of the brick and mortar game until now, which is that it has been impossible to replicate the breadth of product Zappos has online in a physical setting. The two companies teamed up on a point of sale system that is connected to all of Zappos's distribution centers so that you can purchase a product that isn't necessarily in that store. For instance, say you like a boot in-store but you want a different color or size -- you can scan it with your phone, see all of the other colors and add it to a virtual shopping cart in your size. "It puts point of sale in a new light," explained Jonathan Jenkins, CEO of Shop With Me. "You’re not confined by the four walls that you’re shopping anymore." He also mentioned repeatedly that "you’ll never leave the store disappointed," thanks to the capability to find a different color and/or size online and have it shipped for free.

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In that sense, the store acts partially as a showroom, but there will also be "gifts to go" products that you can take with you. Again, it's all about testing. But testing for what? "I wouldn’t say there’s plans to open a permanent store in the near future," explained Hill, adding that whatever they do next could be permanent or a series of more pop up shops. In any case, this most likely won't be the end of brick and mortar for Zappos.