While internet shopping certainly offers its perks, sometimes you just can’t beat the in-store experience.

Internet retailers seem to be realizing this too, as more and more online-only companies begin to launch test stores in cities around the country. Amazon opened its first physical book store in 2015, with a second location planned for Manhattan later this year. Men’s clothing provider Bonobos launched a showroom-style store in 2011. The online makeup subscription Birchbox launched a beauty boutique in 2016. And BaubleBar opened a store-within-a-store concept in select Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom stores in New York. Now, one more name can be added to the list.

Lumen Optical, the boutique spinoff of 1-800-CONTACTS, launched its own brick-and-mortar concept last April at Kimco’s The Shops at Kildeer in Kildeer, Illinois.

The internet goes physical

The clicks-to-bricks trend has been picking up steam, despite the continued popularity of online shopping. While the convenience of web-based retailers is certainly a perk, physical stores have benefits that online simply can’t master. They provide individual attention, the ability to try on and sample products, and experience-based opportunities, rather than simply sales.

Brick-and-mortar spaces are perfect for any retail store that has a lifestyle or experience component. At Lumen, for example, you can buy glasses, or you can take an eye exam. This penchant toward experiences makes it especially easy for health- and wellness-based retailers to thrive in brick-and-mortar environments, since individualized input and hands-on participation is often encouraged in these industries.

Why Lumen Optical works

While many online retailers begin their clicks-to-bricks journey with small pop-up stores in big cities, Lumen decided to jump right in with their first store, leasing a 3,024-square-foot outparcel at the Shops at Kildeer. It was one of several companies who had checked out the space, located in a high-end shopping center in the suburbs of Chicago.

Rather than simply moving all of its inventory to the physical store and calling it a day, Lumen takes advantage of everything the online retail experience is missing. For example, the store offers high-tech eye exams, serves fruit-infused water, and helps with personalized eyewear advice based on eye type and prescription. Lumen also makes their lenses in-house, meaning that they can have them ready in 24 hours—in many cases, that’s faster than online delivery.

Not only that, but the store has taken an active interest in the community it chose to build its physical presence in. Lumen’s eye exams are designed to be more affordable, so residents with and without insurance can take care of their vision needs. The store also participated in a Shooting Stars summer program to give free eye exams and glasses to 20 local children in need of vision care.

Since opening at the Shops at Kildeer, Lumen has opened another two stores across the northern Chicago suburbs, with the possibility of opening more as time goes on. While they may have started out online, in many ways, these clicks-to-bricks stores do a great job of reminding retailers exactly what the strengths of brick-and-mortar are. Certainly, Lumen Optical has seen the benefits.

This has been an installment of StoreFront, an interview series with leaders of successful retail businesses. For more interviews, visit the StoreFront page. To learn how you can be featured, email us. We’d love to hear from you.

  • CATEGORY: Storefront
  • DATE: Thursday, February 23, 2017