Hybrid E-Commerce Opens in Los Angeles

June 26, 2014

Bonobos, a New York–headquartered men’s clothing brand, helped introduce a new retail model when itsGuideshops opened in 2011. Bonobos would deliver one-on-one service to those who wanted a bricks-and-mortar store experience, then ship the clothes to the consumer just like other e-commerce stores do.

The company opened its first Los Angeles Bonobos Guideshop at 101 S. La Brea Ave. on June 27 at theDistrict La Brea retail compound. The company believes that the unique hybrid model has already been proven to be a success, since nine other Guideshops have opened across the United States in the past three years. A San Francisco Bonobos Guideshop opened in 2013.

At the Guideshops, Bonobos hopes to provide the best of e-commerce and bricks-and-mortar shopping, said Erin Ersenkal, Bonobos’ vice president of Guideshops and planning. Shoppers drop by the Guideshop to view Bonobos chinos, jeans, shirts, suits, swimwear and Maide, Bonobos’ performance golf line. Bonobos jeans are manufactured in Los Angeles. The shop’s staff, called “guides,” work with the shopper to confirm his measurements and what fits look good on the shopper.

“We are able to offer an experience that is customized to those who want to shop in person but don’t want to deal with the hassles of a traditional retail store,” Ersenkal said in an email. “Our Guideshop model gives customers the chance to touch and feel Bonobos clothing before they buy, which helps to take the guesswork out of shopping online. Additionally, this model allows us to showcase our entire fit and style offering in 1,500 square feet, something that is impossible for traditional retailers to do because they’re constrained by showing the same shirt or pant in multiple sizes, which takes up more room.”

Ersenkal said that Bonobos shoppers don’t mind waiting two to four days before the clothes they ordered at the Guideshop are delivered from Bonobos’ Boston-area warehouse. Delivery times are shorter on the East Coast.

“As for not walking out with your purchases, we’ve learned that most men don’t care about carrying their bags of goods around and actually prefer having it delivered right to their door,” Ersenkal said. “More importantly, our customer feedback shows that the service experience one receives in the Guideshop greatly outweighs the instant-gratification element. We’ve seen that transactions in our stores are double what they are online, and customers who have come to the Guideshop visit more frequently, which we attribute to the high-touch, highly personalized service customers receive in the store.”

While consumers are welcome to drop by Guideshops as frequently as they wish, the Bonobos model calls for them to shop and to make purchases online after their initial trip to the Guideshop. There are a handful of Internet-launched product lines that have opened physical retail shops, such as Warby Parker, an eyewear company. However, there is a difference in delivery methods. Warby Parker allows shoppers to leave stores with sunglasses immediately after making their purchase. Prescription glasses are delivered from a warehouse, a Warby Parker clerk said.

This new model of shop is one of the many that retailers are experimenting with as the industry embraces omnichannel retail, or the retail model where consumers can shop and purchase clothing in a myriad of ways, including e-commerce, m-commerce and bricks-and-mortar retail. The model also has roots in an old form of apparel retail—the made-to-measure tailor, said Jeff Van Sinderen, a senior analyst at Los Angeles–based financial services firm B.Riley & Co. Like the made-to-measure shop, Bonobos will keep shoppers’ measurements on file and have them ready when the shopper needs to buy new clothes.

Van Sinderen has not shopped at Bonobos and could not think of another retailer who offers a similar hybrid retail operation.

The Bonobos Los Angeles shop also was intended to offer a unique architectural style. The e-commerce company worked with the Space 4 architecture company to make custom fixtures that are movable. The space also features an exposed ceiling bounded by wood beams, concrete floors, wood cabinets and display tables.

The store’s tech is not limited to its e-commerce model. It also offers a photo mirror called Selfy, where shoppers can take full-length photos of themselves in Bonobos looks. They can later review the pictures on a custom iPad app. The customers also can be given prints of the pictures, along with an email detailing product information and sizing details.