When online eyewear retailer Warby Parker first floated the idea of opening physical stores, it was met with skeptics–including its own founders. Only after repeated prodding from J.Crew CEO Mickey Drexler, a strategic investor, did the startup decide to give brick-and-mortar a try, according to cofounder and co-chief executive Dave Gilboa.
Now what began as a marketing experiment, with storefronts in trendy neighborhoods like Boston’s Newbury Street and New York’s Meatpacking District, is proving to be a vital part of the company’s business. Yesterday Gilboa said that the company’s eight retail outlets are turning a profit, and that the first locations, which started opening in mid-2013, have already generated enough revenue to cover their launch costs.
“We quickly realized that while we were seeing all the benefits we expected from branding and marketing–the ‘halo’ effect of having a store open–stores could be a meaningful driver of sales and profitability, which was really unexpected,” he told the Wall Street Journal.
On average, Warby stores are selling $3,000 per square foot–an annual amount comparable to retail leaders like Apple ($4,568) and Tiffany & Co. ($3,043). With an average store size of 1,613 square feet, that would place the current run rate for annual in-store revenues close to $40 million, with new stores in Chicago and San Francisco set to open before Christmas.