Upstart beauty brand and retailer Glossier announced today that it plans to open Glossier Flagship, its first flagship store at 123 Lafayette Street in New York City on November 8, at the same address where the company was originally founded back in 2014.
In only a few short years, Glossier has exploded onto the scene. The words “brand” and “retailer” may not even do it justice. Having raised over $86 million in funding and expanded into four countries, Glossier is and should be in rarefied air because it and its newest flagship store just may be the industry’s first looking glass into the future.
Glossier founder and CEO Emily Weiss first caught my eye at the WWD Digital Forum in 2015. At the time, she was speaking a new language, a language whose words had the temerity to preach that brands were made from the consumer up, rather from the top down. At the time, she was young and raw, and when I saw her again at ShopTalk 2018, she had transformed. Weiss had grown from a visionary with an idea to one of the bona fide leaders of the coming retail reformation. “Brands are irrelevant,” she said with a confident and inspirational tone that pulled at the audience’s heart strings. It was Grade A CEO stuff at a time when the industry was, and still is, sorely lacking in inspirational messages.
Weiss’s almost four year journey as an individual is also the perfect microcosm to describe the evolution of the Glossier brand as well. What started as an idea, a community via her blog, Into the Gloss, has quickly become a business, a business the likes of which the retail industry has never seen before.
It is what Weiss calls it, “emotional commerce.” Emotional commerce is the idea that retail is still about discovery and art. Google and Amazon may own search, but no one owns creation, neither in the digital or the physical worlds. Creation is one of the lone remaining points of differentiation.
“Since the beginning, what’s made Glossier different is that we have encouraged our community to co-create the company with us. Opening our Flagship at 123 Lafayette . . . is a nod to those who have been with us since the beginning and makes sure that we are always staying in conversation and evolving with our community,” Weiss told me.
Glossier Flagship, roughly 3,000 square feet, will be a permanent retail location in a two-story ground floor retail space. Glossier Flagship is meant to be “the ultimate physical expression of the brand” and a place for customers, as a company spokesperson told me, “to meet Glossier in real life.” Designed by Gachot Studios and P.R.O., Glossier Flagship will even allow visitors to interact with Glossier’s Offline Editors, create content while in the space, and make friends with fellow flagship goers.
First, similar to Glossier’s recent pop-ups in San Francisco and Chicago, and similar to its original Glossier Showroom which, it is worth noting, generated more revenue per square foot than the average Apple store, the experience will be tailored to the ne of the community.
Glossier Flagship will have a new layout as well as custom surfaces to enhance the discovery experience. The wet area expands in size to make visitors feel like they are in the comfort of their own bathrooms, and, to celebrate Glossier’s most successful product, the Boy Brow, Glossier Flagship will also have a dedicated room to inspire customers to create social content and to start conversations with the rest of Glossier’s community.
Second, and perhaps, most importantly, Glossier’s technology plans for the store are light years in front of the competition. For Glossier Flagship, the company has invested in its own proprietary point-of-sale system. Even though, as a company spokesman mentioned, it was the far more expensive route to go, Glossier believed building its own system was worth the extra effort and cost because it was the best way to augment the brand’s connection to its customers.
Online purchases are synced with offline purchases, meaning customers can start orders in store and then finish them online. My personal favorite, too: Glossier’s proprietary point-of-sale system will also give Glossier’s Offline Editors (aka its store representatives) real-time context about their customers, which should also help them to guide and educate customers better while they shop.
As the same spokesperson told me, in an age where people pull out their phones to help them decide on a purchase, whether by texting a friend or by reading a review, Glossier’s Offline Editors “are trained to act like an educated and knowledgeable friend” inside a Glossier Flagship experience that is about “conversation, story telling and community building.”
At Glossier Flagship, shopping and buying are not one and the same. The physical experience is about shopping. How the consumer actually takes the product home is an afterthought. Fulfillment does not matter because it is the joy of shopping, the joy of discovery, of living, of immersing, and of creating memories within the artistic expression of experiences that inspires people.
Put another way, it’s about soul. It’s about breathing life into a physical space much the same way a European town square ebbs and flows with its community. E-commerce may have cornered the market on buying/fulfillment, but soul is unique to individuals and to communities.
Weiss and Glossier appear to get the punchline to the joke — that retail is about so much more than convenience, and that what matters most is leveraging technology to create commercial experiences that are not bound by walls, but instead are unbounded by matter, with no beginning or end. They simply just exist through a set of d experiences among communities.
Digital? Physical? It isn’t one or the other. It is both, working in absolute synchronization at all times.