Should my store just be for show?

While stores in some categories (e.g., furniture) have long used showrooms—spaces where you can experience the product but don’t actually take it directly home—today’s digital marketplace has expanded the model in unexpected directions.

 

Now you’ll find menswear retailers like Bonobos opening stores with no inventory; glasses companies like Warby Parker with physical spaces that are only for modeling frames; shoe stores like Paul Evans that are just for trying on. Customers still get to interact with the items, but they must complete their purchases online. It’s a hybrid response to the changing marketplace: Many people do their shopping digitally, but there are just some things that need to be experienced in person first.

What are the benefits of a showroom approach?

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Most showroom-only stores started online, expanding to physical spaces as a way to satisfy customer demand for an in-person experience while still maintaining many of the advantages of online commerce. Established retail outlets are unlikely to destock anytime soon: Much of their branding is connected to the immediate gratification of an item in hand.

 

As you consider your branding strategy moving forward, how will you balance online sales and physical stores? Is the showroom model right for you?