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Click-to-Brick: Why Online Retailers Want Stores in Real Life

Proper Cloth showroom at 481 Broadway
Proper Cloth showroom at 481 BroadwayCourtesy Harrison Brunswick for Proper Cloth

It doesn’t feel so long ago that brick-and-mortar retailers were rushing to develop online stores. Now that evolution often happens in reverse: Retailers start online and migrate to the real world, where customers can touch, taste, and try on their goodies. That group includes eyewear maker Warby Parker, which opened a Manhattan storefront this spring, and fashion accessories startup BaubleBar, which has experimented with a variety of brick-and-mortar models to appeal to women for whom shopping is a social activity. There’s also Gap’s “online-only” brand, which (irony alert) opened a brick-and-mortar boutique last fall.

Custom shirt maker Proper Cloth is the latest to join the click-to-brick crowd with a SoHo showroom that opened in June. Founder Seph Skerritt says the startup needed a physical presence to establish its brand. “Our goal is to be a timeless menswear brand,” he says. “That’s a tough sell if you’re only online.”