The roughly 1,100-square-foot Warby Parker Green Room opening Saturday, has an adjacent area that the eyewear company’s turned into a green screen space where visitors can create their own 15-second videos. The company’s even there to help jump-start ideas with different backgrounds and special effects.
“This is the next iteration of a photo booth, one that’s far more interactive and fun and shareable,” cofounder and cochief executive Neil Blumenthal said of the concept.
The executive went on to say, “Whenever we’re designing a new store, we always take inspiration first and foremost from the community that we’re entering and Los Angeles has been a community that we’ve been part of now basically since we started and there’s always the thinking about the entertainment industry and the film industry in particular [for this market].”
Melrose Avenue was a street the company has had its eye on, waiting for the right piece of real estate to open up, Blumenthal said. The location will be its eighth in the state and also marks the company’s 50th location. About 25 total openings are slated for this year and that pace is expected to continue in the future, according to Blumenthal.
That growth has certainly been helped by the $215 million raised to date by the company, which has a reported valuation of about $1 billion.
“If you would have asked us when we launched Warby Parker in 2010, if we would open up stores we probably said ‘maybe’ and maybe we’d have a handful of flagships,” Blumenthal said. “But we certainly, in the early days, didn’t envision 50 stores. I think one of the things that we found is that within four walls we’re able to design and build a really exceptional customer experience that some of our customers prefer, just like some of our customers prefer to be online.”
Warby Parker essentially aims to be where its customers are, fancying itself as what Blumenthal called “medium agnostic” when it comes to the selling channels.
The company recently opened its first optical lab where the lenses are cut and inserted into frames. The facility in Sloatsburg, about an hour outside of New York City, marks Warby Parker’s first foray into light manufacturing with the expectation of hiring about 130 for the lab.
With more stores on the horizon, it begs the question of whether the company ever envisions turning the brand into a full lifestyle line and branching out into other categories. Blumenthal and team appear somewhat open-minded about the prospects, seeing as how the company did make the leap from prescription only to now also include sunwear. However, product for the eyes remains at the forefront, the executive said.
“I know somebody could argue, well, they’re [prescription and sun] both forms of eyewear, but at the end of the day the customer behavior is wildly different between somebody buying prescription glasses and somebody buying sunglasses,” Blumenthal said, adding stores also carry books and during the holidays there were mugs and sleeping masks available. “Right now, eyewear is such a large category and one with so much room to grow that we are primarily focused there.”
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