This past October, e-commerce design site Fab launched a furniture company that aimed to be “the first affordable high-end design brand created to serve online-direct customers.” Now, the furniture brand Hem has gone brick and mortar with its first flagship store, opening this week in Berlin. The new store attempts to solve one of the most intractable problems with buying furniture online: How do you know what that table really looks like?
At 2,000 square feet, the store showcases all 300 products available on Hem’s site–a mix of stylish pieces that emphasize affordability, customization, and easy assembly. The difference between Hem’s store and, say, a CB2 or Blu Dot location is that it’s not cash and carry. Because Hem’s defining concept from the outset was digital-first, the store operates more like a showroom–a way for customers to check out what the furniture looks and feels like in person, something that’s impossible with online-only retail. After browsing, customers place their orders online via computers in the store. Products are then delivered to their homes a few days later.
“The store is the next step in building the brand,” CEO Jason Goldberg says in a phone interview with Co.Design. Since its launch, Hem has sold thousands of units, with an average order value of more than $1,000, Goldberg says.
It’s a tricky move. Some brands that first launched online have had a tough time making the transition to brick and mortar (Kate Spade Saturday and Gap’s Piperlime offer cautionary tales). “For us, it’s not about whether it’s online or offline. It’s all one omni-channel strategy,” Goldberg says. “We want to establish a direct relationship with customers, and a brick-and-mortar location offers a way to do that more effectively.”
The layout of the store aims to reflect the company’s motto, “Design Made Easy.” It’s simple and understated–lots of white and gray, with pops of color–and allows customers to better visualize how the pieces would look arranged in a living room or dining room setting. Depending on the success of the first store, Hem plans to open more locations around the world–the brand’s main markets are in Germany, France, the U.K., and the U.S.
*An earlier version of this article was titled “Fab’s Online Furniture Brand Gambles on Brick and Mortar.” Fab and Hem are no longer connected as of March 3. We regret the error.