Clicks to Bricks: Online Retailers Find the Lure of a Store


Professional Sources

Many home-design showrooms were once the domain of professional designers and architects. Most homeowners either didn’t know they existed, or were purposely excluded. With the widespread availability of designer resources online, that has changed.

Showrooms are increasingly fielding requests from individual homeowners who want to buy direct, and many are opening street-level retail stores to become more accessible.

Poliform, an Italian manufacturer of streamlined kitchens, closets and furniture, has long had a showroom inside the A&D Building in Midtown Manhattan, where it catered largely to design professionals. But at the end of September, it opened a 10,000-square-foot street-level flagship store on Madison Avenue to have a larger retail presence.

While the A&D Building showroom remains, “it’s a destination for people who know we’re there, not really a retail location,” said Laura Anzani, the chief operating officer of Poliform USA.

The Madison Avenue store, which is designed to resemble an extravagant, enormous apartment, “is a big billboard,” Ms. Anzani said. “It’s totally different being on the street. Before the store was even open, people came in and bought things.”

Exquisite Surfaces, a wood-flooring, stone and tile company that was also previously in the A&D Building, moved into a street-level store in Manhattan’s Hudson Square neighborhood last month. The 5,000-square-foot space includes elements to make shoppers feel at home, like seating areas inspired by residential settings.

The British designer Tom Dixon opened an expanded 3,000-square-foot store in SoHo in July, after establishing his first 1,000-square-foot American retail store last November. Previously, Mr. Dixon, who produces sculptural copper, brass and chrome light fixtures as well as furniture and tabletop objects, ran a New York showroom for professional designers that was open by appointment only.


The shoe brand M. Gemi, which started as an online business last year, opened its first retail storefront, in SoHo, in September.

Danny Ghitis for The New York Times

Clicks to Bricks

Perhaps one of the most surprising retail trends is the proliferation of physical stores opened by companies that started out as online-only enterprises.

M. Gemi began last year as a web-based, direct-to-consumer business selling its own line of high-end Italian-made shoes that cost about half as much as similar luxury goods. With shoes ranging from about $150 to $600 per pair, the company describes its prices as “postluxury.”

In September, it opened its first brick-and-mortar store in SoHo. “It’s to let her try shoes on, feel the fabric and experience the brand in a tactile way that she can’t experience digitally,” said Ben Fischman, the company’s chief executive and co-founder.

There is only minimal inventory in the store; the vast majority of purchases are shipped directly to a shopper’s home, just like online purchases. And if shoppers do not want to make a purchase on the spot, store staff can add items to their online shopping carts for later consideration.

“We want the in-store experience to really influence what your digital experience becomes,” Mr. Fischman said. “When she goes home and logs on, sitting there in her cart are the shoes she said she wanted to buy.”

M. Gemi follows in the footsteps of companies like the eyewear brand Warby Parker (whose latest store is due to open inside Grand Central Terminal this month) and the men’s wear brand Bonobos (which opened its fifth New York store in Midtown in September). Both started out as online retailers, but now have an extensive network of physical stores.

None of these stores carry inventory. Shoppers can try products on, but then place orders to have purchases delivered.

At Bonobos, “It was a really humbling discovery to learn that retail stores were going to be one of the core parts of what was originally conceived as a digital-only brand,” said Andy Dunn, the company’s chief executive, who describes his business as “digitally native.”

After opening fitting rooms at New York-based Bonobos’s headquarters in 2011, Mr. Dunn said, he was amazed at how they accelerated sales, and hatched the idea of the company’s so-called guideshops.

“The guideshops attract a really high-value customer,” Mr. Dunn said. “He spends more money, he’s more valuable in the long run, and he’s more engaged with more categories. He’s buying sweaters, suits, dress shirts and outerwear, in addition to our iconic better-fitting pants.”

Many new companies are now running with that model. AYR, a women’s fashion brand that Mr. Dunn helped start, opened a showroom on the eighth floor of 648 Broadway in NoHo in June, where customers can drop in or book a champagne-and-snacks try-on session with friends for $100, which can be used as credit toward purchases. Next year, AYR plans to open a street-level store.

Other digitally driven companies are opening physical stores that do have products in stock. AHA Front in Dumbo, Brooklyn, offers home and personal accessories, including sculptural ceramic vases and angular beer glasses. Pintrill in Williamsburg sells fashionably whimsical pins. And the outerwear brand The Arrivals is running a pop-up shop in SoHo through the end of this month.

Paradoxically, the rise of online shopping may just make this one of the most exciting times in recent memory for shoppers to get back out onto city streets.

Destination Stores in New York City

General Fashion

Adidas Originals Classic street-style sneakers at a new flagship store. 115 Spring Street, 212-966-0954.

Aquatalia Weatherproof Italian footwear and handbags. 965 Madison Avenue, 646-677-5555.

Boglioli The Milanese fashion house’s first store in the United States, designed by Dimore Studio. 10 Bond Street, 646-870-8250.

Burton A new location for the pioneering snowboard brand, opening this month. 69 Greene Street, 212-966-8070.

M. Gemi A place to try on shoes from the online purveyor of Italian-made footwear. 120 Wooster Street, (212) 941-1601.

North Sails A flagship store for nautically inspired apparel from a company best known for its sails. 108 Fifth Avenue.

Rick Owens Muscular furniture and avant-garde fashion in a purist interior of concrete and white walls. 30 Howard Street, 212-627-7222.

R.M. Williams Leather boots, belts and apparel from the Australian brand, founded in 1932. 152 Spring Street, 212-219-3619.

Ted Baker A clothing store crossed with an art gallery, in partnership with Pop International Galleries. 117 Wooster Street, 212-226-2053.

The Arrivals A monthlong pop-up shop, running through the end of November, from the online outerwear brand. 39½ Crosby Street.

Vineyard Vines Martha’s Vineyard-inspired clothing with a touch of whimsy from a company with the smiling pink whale logo. Grand Central Terminal, 89 East 42nd Street, 212-297-0269.

Women’s Fashion

AYR Studioshop Try-on space for jeans and minimalist women’s wear from the online brand. 648 Broadway, Suite 808, 917-675-7472.

Bergdorf Goodman A luminous, newly renovated main floor, designed with the architect Michael Newman. 754 Fifth Avenue, 800-558-1855.

Enfold Women’s ready-to-wear from Japan with a sense of relaxed simplicity. 411 Bleecker Street, 646-600-6011.

Moussy Premium Japanese denim for women, offering more than 26 styles of jeans. 474 Broome Street, 646-600-6012.

Pinko The first American boutique for the Italian women’s fashion brand, which has stores across Europe, Asia and the Middle East. 1058 Madison Avenue, 347-378-9430.

Saks Fifth Avenue Downtown A new 86,000-square-foot women’s store designed by Found Associates to have the appeal of a boutique. Brookfield Place, 225 Liberty Street, 646-344-6300.

Thakoon Women’s fashion by Thakoon Panichgul in a sleek space designed with Giancarlo Valle of SHoP Architects. 70 Wooster Street, 212-929-0700.

The Row Women’s fashion from Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen in a pared-down townhouse setting. 17 East 71st Street, 212-755-2017.

Men’s Fashion

Bonobos The online men’s wear company’s fifth try-on store in New York. 488 Madison Avenue, 646-939-7834.

Orlebar Brown Tailored British swimwear and beach apparel for men. 451 Broome Street, 212-966-6379.

Stone Island A flagship store from the sporty Italian men’s brand. 41-43 Greene Street, 646-918-6549.


A/D/O A design shop within a new designer support center, scheduled to open this month. 29 Norman Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-218-5052.

AHA Front Curated home and personal accessories from the online retailer AHA. 147 Front Street, Brooklyn, 646-454-1110.

ALT Box A showroom and coffee shop from the textiles and home accessories company ALT for Living. 234 East 60th Street, 212-431-1000.

B&B Italia Sleek, modern furniture from Italy in a new location. 135 Madison Avenue, 212-889-9606.

Canvas Home Furniture and housewares, many with a handmade textural appeal. 426 Broome Street, 212-372-7706.

Exquisite Surfaces A street-level showroom designed by Commune for wood flooring, stone and tile. 95 Vandam Street, 212-355-7990.

Foscarini Sculptural Italian light fixtures in a new, larger store. 20 Greene Street, 212-257-4412.

Hawkins New York A Manhattan outpost for clean-lined modern home products from a brand based in Hudson, N.Y. 17 Eighth Avenue, 844-469-3344.

Herman Miller The first permanent American store from the modern furniture giant since 1967, scheduled to open Nov. 22. 251 Park Avenue South, 212-318-3977.

Lee Broom British furniture, tabletop accessories and light fixtures, including lamps made from hollowed-out marble. 34 Greene Street, 212-804-8477.

L’Objet Home accessories with luxurious appeal, like bronze-colored vases with the texture of crocodile skin. 370 Bleecker Street, 212-659-0316.

MoMA Design Store An overhauled shopping experience for the museum’s popular shop, courtesy of Lumsden Design and Gensler. 44 West 53rd Street, 212-767-1050.

Pirch A 32,000-square-foot hands-on kitchen and bath store for trying out fixtures and appliances. 200 Lafayette Street, 212-951-0696.

Poliform Streamlined kitchens, storage systems and furniture from the Italian brand in a new street-level store. 112 Madison Avenue, 212-672-0060.

Sarajo Antique textiles, costumes, art and jewelry collected around the world. 31 Howard Street, 646-370-6801.

Sennheiser High-fidelity German audio gear in a pop-up shop open through March. 134 Prince Street, 646-998-3081.

Sonos Sound-isolation huts for trying the company’s wireless speakers. 101 Greene Street, 917-768-0101.

Studio Oliver Gustav Antiques and contemporary pieces from the Copenhagen-based dealer. 11 Howard Street, 929-400-5225.

Tom Dixon A new, larger store from the British furniture, lighting and home accessories designer. 19 Howard Street, 212-228-7337.

Toto Shapely toilets, bathtubs and plumbing fixtures by way of Japan. 20 West 22nd Street, 917-237-0665.


Cartier The jewelry brand’s flagship mansion, newly renovated by the architect Thierry W. Despont. 653 Fifth Avenue, 212-446-3400.

John Hardy Jewelry made by Balinese artisans, scheduled to open Nov. 25. 118 Prince Street, 212-343-9000.

Monica Castiglione Strikingly creative jewelry from the Milan-based designer. 268 Court Street, Brooklyn, 347-703-0809.

Monica Vinader The first American store for the British jewelry brand, scheduled to open Nov. 21. 151 Spring Street, 855-753-5555.

Pintrill Colorful, statement-making pins. 231 Grand Street, Brooklyn, 718-782-1000.

Wempe Fine watches and jewelry in a store that has more than doubled in size. 700 Fifth Avenue, 212-397-9000.


Target A smaller-format store in Manhattan. 255 Greenwich Street, 917-438-2214.

Westfield World Trade Center Manhattan’s grand new shopping center in the World Trade Center Transportation Hub. 185 Greenwich Street, 212-284-9982.

Correction: November 11, 2016

An earlier version of this article, using information from a publicist, misstated the date of John Hardy’s store opening. It is Nov. 25, not 21.

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