Warby Parker to embark on ambitious physical expansion
Around a month after Warby Parker filed confidentially for an initial public offering, the digital-first eyewear retailer is reportedly planning on opening hundreds of new locations in order to drive its next phase of growth.
The company has said that it intends to open some three dozen physical locations this year alone, a move that would bring its total store fleet up to around 160. And this would just be the start of a much more significant brick-and-mortar expansion.
“There’s still room for us to open hundreds of stores,” said Warby Parker co-founder and co-CEO Neil Blumenthal in an interview cited by Bloomberg. “When we look at our competitors—the large public optical retailers—they all have well over a thousand locations across the U.S. At the end of the day, the vast majority of Americans need glasses and prefer to buy those in person.”
When it launched as a digital native in 2010, Warby Parker was an online pioneer and set a precedent for an explosion of direct-to-consumer brands. Offering glasses for around $100, the company sent different frames to customers so that they could try them on, choose their favorite and then provide the retailer their prescription details to get their glasses made.
Growth was fast in the company’s first few years but has slowed as newer digital natives have popped up and older, more traditional retailers have improved their e-commerce experiences and capabilities.
Currently valued at $3 billion, Warby Parker is therefore eagerly searching for the move that will unlock the next stage of its growth. This will most likely involve complementing its brick-and-mortar expansion by bringing more trained eye doctors into its stores, around 80 of which already offer this kind of service. Becoming a covered provider on more vision insurance plans would also seem to be a likely and potentially successful strategy for the eyewear retailer.
In any case, as the company seeks to kickstart its momentum and makes preparations for its IPO, the success of its renewed physical retail efforts will be of paramount importance to Warby Parker and its investors, who have put some $530 million into the business over the last 11 years.
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