All retailers are aware of the potential revenue-eroding threat to their businesses from online giants such as Amazon thanks to “showrooming” — the consumer act of sizing up merchandise in a street-front store before going home to buy it for the cheapest possible price online.
But a budding trend for online retailers is to embrace just the opposite: when a seasoned online-only retailer wants to really grow and extend the business these days, it opens up a physical store.
Vancouver-based online retailer ClearlyContacts.ca, the world’s largest online retailer of contact lenses and eyeglasses, is the latest to embrace the idea, with plans to open a 1,000-square-foot boutique on the city’s bustling Robson Street retail strip on March 23.
Roger Hardy, chief executive of parent company Coastal Contacts Inc., says retail stores might still be the best way to reach some consumers who still prefer to buy certain categories — whether it be glasses or shoes — in a store first so they can try on the merchandise.
“ClearlyContacts.ca has a high-service [online] model,” Mr. Hardy explained in a recent interview en route from the Vancouver airport. “We make it easy [to buy], returns are no problem, we pay for the return.”
And [while] the twentysomething demographic has no problem buying glasses online, it is some of the other segments … we want to get them over the hump of trying on that first pair of glasses [in a store] and then realizing they can get a great pair of glasses online at an amazing price.”