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From Clicks to Bricks: How Ecommerce Companies Benefit From Physical Stores Find out why some web companies are expanding their business offline.

By Grant Davis

This story appears in the December 2014 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »


A funny thing happened when e-tail menswear pioneer Bonobos tried to sell shirts on its website. The New York City-based brand, which shot to the forefront of the direct-to-consumer online trend in 2007 with its line of pants, believed its model heralded the future of retail and set out to prove it with its first collection of shirts in 2012. Problem was, nobody wanted to buy them.

"Customers kept asking if there was any place they could try them on, though, so we built a couple of fitting rooms in the office's lobby," says founder and CEO Andy Dunn. "We didn't tell many people about it, but it took off through word-of-mouth. Next thing I knew, we were on track to do $1 million in sales—out of our lobby."

That experience changed Bonobos' model forever. Today the company has 10 U.S. shops and plans to add 30 more in the next three years. And it's not just Bonobos that's changing its tune regarding brick-and-mortar: In October Amazon announced it will open a store in Manhattan, as well as pop-up shops in California. Women's clothiers Nasty Gal and Rent the Runway are opening storefronts, as are subscription services and e-tailers Birchbox (beauty, grooming and lifestyle) and JustFab (shoes, clothing and accessories). Even Inspirato, a private vacation club, has come to appreciate the power of a physical consumer-facing presence.

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