The outpost is slated to open at 17 Rue Montmartre in spring 2017, and will combine services with the company’s product offering. In addition to providing customers a new place to shop, the location is an exercise in branding.
“It raises the profile of Birchbox and shows we’re really committed to serving the French consumer,” said Birchbox cofounder and chief executive officer Katia Beauchamp. “It puts Birchbox on a map, literally, [and] it does a lot to help build our brand.”
That brand has been established in France in 2012 with the acquisition of JolieBox. Today, France is the company’s largest market in Europe, according to Beauchamp, with 200,000 box subscribers. The region has also been profitable since the end of 2015, according to the company. Birchbox operates in the U.S., Spain and the U.K. in addition to France.
Building a brick-and-mortar home in the French market also means Birchbox will be to sell additional brands in that region, as certain rules prevent just-online sales, according to Beauchamp. “That is a part of why retail’s important in this market in general,” Beauchamp said. “It allows access to brands where that is a really important part of the business…having a brick-and-mortar store we will be opening new brand accounts.”
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Similar to Birchbox’s Manhattan outpost, the Paris location will merchandise products by category rather than brand, meaning that all hair products, lipsticks, etc., will be grouped together — something Birchbox believes is new to the French market. Customers at the Rue Montmartre location can also build their own sample boxes with product selections organized by themed categories, such as green beauty or Korean beauty.
The store is Birchbox’s first move into retail since two rounds of 2016 layoffs put its previous plans on hold, but the company continues to weigh opening future locations in subscriber-dense areas, noting that the value of off-line consumers is three times higher than that of just online shoppers.
“Our belief is that retail is an important part of serving the customer….We are definitely always talking about what’s the right timing and what format and what market,” Beauchamp said.
The Paris store comes as Birchbox has reached a financial milestone, running ahead of schedule with its profitability goals, according to Beauchamp. The company switched gears from growth mode to profitability mode in 2016, resulting in the layoffs and several other business changes in its quest to become profitable.
Sales over the holiday period seemed to be encouraging — in addition to gift subscriptions, which are normally popular over the holidays, Birchbox saw a 35 percent year-over-year increase in self-subscriptions, the company said. During that time, mobile orders surpassed desktop orders for the first time, with 55 percent of orders coming from mobile during cyber week with a 35 percent higher conversion rate, year over year, according to the company.
“We’re coming off a really strong holiday and that means we have to outperform that now,” Beauchamp said. “We’re way ahead of plan for our numbers.”