For many of us, shopping online is a lifestyle. But with clothing there is sometimes a disconnect, especially when it comes to the fit of a garment and the feel of its material. Making up for that tangible loss requires a bit of thinking outside of the computer screen. And one new L.A. store aims to do just that.
Bonobos, the largest originally online-only menswear brand in the United States, opened its first Los Angeles bricks-and-mortar store last Friday where customers can feel and try on products sold online. Its 10th so-called "guideshop" nationwide, the store offers suits, shirts, belts, swim trunks, sweaters and Bonobos' signature chinos. But what its owners say makes the spot different is that instead of customers leaving with the clothes they buy, they order them on-site and wait for the products to be shipped to their homes.
Call it the opposite of instant gratification.
The company believes this blend of in-person and Internet interaction allows stores to keep and manage the bulk of their inventory off-site, giving employees more time to interact with customers and giving customers a relief from the pressures of impulse buying.
"The premise of the brand is to create a more evolved experience, where you should love the clothes and the customer service. Originally, we thought the best way to do that was online only," says Andy Dunn, Bonobos co-founder and CEO. "But we realized that people still like to touch and feel their clothes and that you do not have to fulfill your order at the point of sale."
A few years ago, Tyler Kantor, the store's manager, says demand for in-person interaction with Bonobos' clothes was so high that customers traveled to the online company's headquarters in New York, knocking on the door and asking for clothes to try on. Now Bonobos is planning to double its guideshop locations this year, finding that customers typically spend twice as much in the store than online.
Founded by two athletic business school students, the brand caters largely to athletic men. The employees look the part, and the garments they sell are known for accentuating men's backsides. Bonobos is best known for its chinos, which feature curved waistbands that get rid of what owners call "khaki diaper butt." The pants go for around $100, but Bonobos has an expansive collection that includes $700 suits, $65 swim trunks, $100 sweaters and $400 shoes.
The latest Bonobos location — on La Brea Avenue, one in a series of stores aimed at guys on the famous shopping street — is 1,500 square feet and features sleek, movable clothing racks, couches and blocks where garments are displayed. In addition, the Bonobos store in Los Angeles is the first to have the SELFY, a camera that takes photos through a full-length mirror. After taking the pictures, customers can then send them by email and text others for comments on their potential new look.
"We knew that when we were building this guideshop we needed to build something that catered to the customer here," said Kantor. "And if there is any time to experiment with a great focus on technology and enhancing the customer experience, L.A. is the place to do it because it is such a shopping mecca."
Customers also have the ability to schedule one-on-one appointments with employees — called "guides" — ahead of time and water and beer are offered at the store.
"We want to make this an experience that guys want to have," said Kantor.
Brad Wulff of Los Angeles, who came into the store on an afternoon walk, said that coming out empty-handed was "a little interesting, but kind of nice too." He bought a pair of chinos called the "chino grigios."
"It makes you think a little bit more about what you need because there's not necessarily an impulse," said Wulff. "I don't buy a lot of clothes online ... so to be able to come in is great, and I know I can go back to the website whenever I want."
Orders of $250 or more get free two-day shipping, while all others arrive in three to five business days.
Bonobos, 101 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.