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Lands' End, Warby Parker Brick-and-Mortar Expansion Extends to New Jersey

Former Catalog Company, Online Eyeglass Retailer Take Advantage of Changing Retail Landscape
September 14, 2018
Lands’ End and Warby Parker, two companies that didn’t start off as traditional retailers, are marking their expansion with brick-and-mortar locations across the nation by opening their first outlets in New Jersey this weekend.

Lands’ End, whose roots are in hawking classic American apparel through catalogs, is holding a grand opening event on Saturday at its new store at Chimney Rock Crossing in Bridgewater, New Jersey.

And Warby Parker, which got its start selling eyeglasses online that appeal to hipsters, on Saturday is also opening its first store in New Jersey, at the Garden State Plaza mall in Paramus.

The two companies' dive into brick-and-mortar may seem counterintuitive because the industry has seen such upheaval. But it is part of their effort to reinvent themselves and create an omnichannel experience for consumers, allowing them to shop easily via whatever platform they choose.

In Warby Parker's case, the opening of stores is a transformation that James Cook, Americas director of retail research at brokerage firm Jones Lang LaSalle calls "clicks to bricks," or e-commerce companies recognizing that they need physical stores to maintain or increase their market share.

"Retail is reinventing itself, whether it be stores that are downsizing or in this case, stores that for years were catalog and eventually online, are also seeing the value of bricks and mortar. What it really says is that retailers are recognizing that probably the future of retail is not one or the other, but both," said Chuck Lanyard, president of The Goldstein Group, a retail broker based in Paramus. "More and more we’re going to see retailers who might have smaller versions of their stores are still going to want bricks and mortar. It means people still want to be able to walk in and walk out with the products for instant gratification."

In the case of Lands’ End, creating its own chain of standalone stores is filling the gap it faces because of the dire straits of Sears. That legacy retailer, which acquired Lands’ End in 2002 and then spun it off in 2014, still sells the clothing brand at locations within its stores. But Sears has been shutting its own stores, thereby diminishing Lands’ End’s footprint in brick-and-mortar.

By ramping up their store expansions, Lands’ End and Warby Parker represent the new breed of retailers that are filling up space vacated by defunct or downsizing companies such as Toys R Us and a long list of other failed retail chains.

That was one of the conclusions of a retail outlook report, "Out With the Old: Store Closures Present Opportunities for New Retail and New Uses," that JLL released Wednesday.

"Just as some retailers are struggling and shuttering their stores, others are flourishing and expanding. Formerly pure-play online retailers are moving to bricks and mortar to more effectively reach consumers," the JLL report said.

Including Bridgewater, Lands’ End has opened four stores so far this year, for a total of 15 U.S. locations. Earlier this year, the company debuted new stores in Staten Island, New York; Kildeer, Illinois; and Burlington, Massachusetts.

In addition to Paramus, Manhattan-based Warby Parker said that it plans to open two additional stores in New Jersey, in Westfield and Hoboken. The eyeglass retailer opened its first store in 2013 on Greene Street in Manhattan and now has more than 75 in the United States and Canada, with plans to bring that number to 90 by the end of the year, according to a company spokeswoman.

"Warby Parker started as a pure-play e-commerce retailer, and today they make more revenue from their physical stores than they do from selling online," Cook said. "They realized people want to buy glasses in the stores. They thought they could earn and maintain market share purely through e-commerce, but they quickly realized they could only go so far without having physical stores."

Lands’ End, which is based in Dodgeville, Wisconsin, has chosen a new shopping center, Chimney Rock Crossing, for its entrance into the Garden State.

"The combination of a completely new shopping center with convenient parking, easy access and restaurant options make this a great location for our new store concept," Claudia Mazo, senior vice president of retail at Lands' End, said in a statement.

At the new Lands’ End standalone sites, patrons can check out merchandise anywhere in the store. And at a digital kiosk, they can order goods at the company’s website. Those store orders come with free shipping and can be returned free of charge.

Warby Parker, for its Garden State Plaza location, has commissioned murals from artist Ping Zhu to decorate the premises. The shop’s design has elements of a classic library, with a 'reference desk' for frame adjustments and order pickups.

"New York City has been our home for years, so expanding right across the George Washington Bridge is a big milestone for us," David Gilboa, Warby Parker co-founder and co-chief executive, said in a statement. "Here in Garden State Plaza, we’re not only a part of some of the best shopping in the area, but we’re also surrounded by great community parks and green spaces."

The eyewear firm said that it has even designed sunglasses, "in whiskey tortoise with flash-mirrored Pacific blue lenses," that will be available at the mall for a limited time.

New Jersey is a popular location for retailers like Lands’ End and Warby Parker because of its population density and the household income of residents, according to Lanyard.



Linda Moss, Northern New Jersey Market Reporter  CoStar Group   
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