Another digital retailer has made the leap to the physical space. Online beauty subscription company Birchbox, famous for the pink boxes packed with sample products that it sends to subscribers each month, has opened its first brick-and-mortar store, in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood.
The duplex-styled, 4,500-sq.-ft. space is bright and airy, with light woods and a white palette accented with pops of color. With a friendly, inviting vibe, the store is designed to bring the Birchbox digital experience to life, creating a shopping and lifestyle destination where shoppers can check out the newest products and receive expert advice. It also offers quick-fix hair, nail and makeup services, and group classes on beauty and skincare topics. (Birchbox’s in-house design team worked closely with RPG, New York City, on the design of the store.)
The store features a curated assortment of nearly 2,000 products from approximately 250 brands. Similar to Birchbox’s website, the merchandise is organized and displayed by category as opposed to the standard practice of by brand. An upfront case, updated on a regular basis, showcases the company’s top 10 online best sellers. Many of the displays carry editorially styled comments that mirror the playful tone found online.
Birchbox encourages customers to test-drive the latest products with a dedicated “Try Bar” area. (Testers of every product in the store are also available.) And in keeping with the company’s roots, there is a “BYOB” (Build Your Own Birchbox) area where shoppers can create their own custom Birchbox, for $15, with their choice of box color and five sample products from across categories.
Birchbox is savvy in its deployment of technology, using it not to dazzle the customer as much as to create a more personalized shopping experience. Shoppers can view customer reviews and recommendations and video demonstrations to assist in their product selection on the iPads that are positioned around the store. Video screens feature tutorials to keep shoppers entertained — and get them inspired to try something new. At a touchscreen on the main floor, shoppers input key data (hair type, skin color, age, etc.) and receive personalized product recommendations and customer reviews.
Beauty services are offered on the basement level, also home to hair care and nail products, and men’s grooming items. It’s also where Birchbox’s classes are held. The classes, which are free for Birchbox subscribers and $30 for non-subscribers, are designed to appeal to all types of beauty consumers and allow them to sample, try and learn about the products.
“Our goal with Birchbox has always been to make it easy, efficient and fun for people to discover new brands and products fit for their lifestyle,” stated Katia Beauchamp, co-founder and co-CEO of Birchbox. “We have learned so much about how we can drive customers to change their behavior online, and we see an opportunity to extend into offline retail to evolve with our customers’ needs.”
Launched in 2010 by two former Harvard Business School classmates, Birchbox has been on an upward trajectory ever since. The New York City-based start-up now has more than 800,000 active subscribers who pay $10 per month to receive a pink box full of sample beauty products tailored to each subscriber’s needs. It counts more than 800 brand partners.
In 2012, Birchbox acquired an international competitor, JolieBox, giving it a presence in France, Spain and the United Kingdom. That same year, it launched Birchbox Man, which delivers a monthly box of gadgets, grooming and lifestyle products. While the majority of Birchbox’s revenue comes from the monthly boxes, roughly 30% of sales now come from the full-sized products that the company sells on its site.
In April 2014, Birchbox closed a $60 million round of Series B funding from a group led by Greenwich, Connecticut-based Viking Global Investors and was reportedly valued at $485 million. The retailer has said it would use the capital to, among other things, support global growth and expansion. Another possibility: a line of company beauty products.