Why Warby Parker Invited 20,000 Customers To Their Apartment

What could go wrong if you're the hippest retailer in the game? Inventory, for one. Here's what happened when demand surged past available product, and Warby Parker got creative with a solution.

Is there such a thing as having a launch go too well? That was nearly the case with Warby Parker when the über-trendy eyewear company began its try-at-home program.

"We launched with these features in GQ and Vogue, and within 48 hours we were stocked out of all our home try-on inventory," cofounder Dave Gilboa tells TechCrunch. "We had a waitlist of 20,000 customers waiting for home try-ons. We kind of freaked out and didn’t know what to do."

Demand was turning into pressure: They'd taken thousands of orders. People were calling them, asking where they could try on the glasses. And Warby Parker, the masters of the retail without the store model, didn't have the brickspace to welcome would-be customers.

Or did they?

"We said, well, the store’s my apartment," Gilboa recalls, "come on over."

And so Gilboa was soon hosting people from all over the company's home base of Philadelphia. They came over to the cofounders' apartments, where glasses were laid out on their dining-room table for perusal.

Customers loved meeting the people behind the brand, Gilboa says. They sold a pair to everyone that visited. He says that experience of connecting with users brought the company to where it is now—opening physical stores that are an extension of the brand's quirky coolness.

As we've profiled, the brand's bookish foothold in New York's ever-chic SoHo neighborhood has an Apple-like obsession with customer experience—though it's more Zooey Deschanel than Steve Jobs: Think library ladders, a photo booth, and endless mirrors.

It's a sign of spectacles to come.

"The future of our business and all retail is going to have some online and some offline component," Gilboa told Fast Company. "The world doesn’t have to be black and white."

Bottom Line: Have grace, and mad creativity, under pressure.

Warby Parker’s Dave Gilboa On Selling Frames From His Apartment, Partnerships, And A Big “No Comment” On Those Google Glass Rumors

[Image: Flickr user Alexis Lamster]

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