Zappos Opens First Store

Zappos
The first-ever Zappos pop-up outside Las Vegas will be followed by other pop-ups throughout the year.
Courtesy photo

Zappos today is launching a 20,000-square-foot pop-up shop in downtown Las Vegas. The physical store, Zappos’ first, is driven by technology and will be open for business 24-7 during the holiday period though Dec. 31.

The Zappos pop-up shop is merchandised with 16 different areas offering everything from couture to athletic wear.

Zappos joins other e-tailers dipping a toe into physical retail such as Warby Parker, Boohoo and Nasty Gal, which opened its first physical location on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles.

Steve Hill, vice president of merchandising at Zappos, said the company had been talking about physical retail for the past year, but didn’t want to do a traditional store. “We didn’t know how we would convey the breadth of the assortment,” he said. Then Zappos partnered with OrderWithMe, a retail logistics firm that’s been managing its inventory for more than four years and recently raised $28 million. OrderWithMe uses algorithms that allow mom and pop retailers to band together and buy in bulk at a discount.

“We want to learn about what consumers like and the different categories they prefer,” said Jonathan Jenkins, OrderWithMe’s chief executive officer. “Zappos is known for shoes, but they also have wedding dresses and performance apparel. This allows consumers to find products and touch and feel them. If a size or color isn’t available, shoppers can scan items to their virtual carts and the order will be delivered free of charge to their home the following day.”

“One of the reasons we wanted such a big footprint is to see what customers are most interested in,” Hill said, adding that the space is divided into rooms with vignettes showcasing different types of apparel that eventually lead to the shoe room. What shoppers purchase “will inform future stores we decide to open,” he said.

The pop-up is open 24-7 “because you don’t go to Zappos.com at 3 a.m. and they say, ‘We’re closed,'” Jenkins said. “Zappos is known for its customer service and the people working at the pop-up are bringing that to life in real time.” Hill said employees have been trained to “focus on taking care of customers, not selling.”

Still, with all the back-up inventory online, “no one will ever feel disappointed if Zappos doesn’t have the size or color they want because they’ll get it the next day,” Jenkins said.

One of Zappos’ initiatives is growing its apparel business and Hill said that about three-quarters of the store is devoted to clothing. Zappos features designers such as Elie Tahari, Nicole Miller, Trina Turke, Kate Spade New York, BCBG Max Azria and Nanette Lepore.

The store’s parking lot has been transformed into a winter wonderland with a 50-foot Christmas tree and banks of fake snow. Shoppers are asked to bring a gift to put under the tree.

The store has a cafe serving hot chocolate, sliders, sandwiches and tacos. A bar serves alcoholic beverages, but Zappos really sees the pop-up as a family affair. On weekends, food trucks will arrive serving funnel cakes and other holiday treats.

Hill declined to project sales volume for the store. “It’s an experiment so we can see what might make sense for a freestanding physical location,” he said. “People can walk in and physically experience the brand.”