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people outside of the Wayfair store
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Wayfair Goes from URL to IRL with First-Ever Store

Wayfair opened the doors to its first-ever brick-and-mortar store yesterday in the Chicago suburb of Wilmette, IL. Located in the revitalized Edens Plaza, the massive, two-level store spans 150,000 sq. ft. of space previously occupied by the department store Carson Pirie Scott. Described by the company as “a one-stop shopping destination for all things home”, the vibrant purple-and-white exterior ushers shoppers into an emporium of 80,000 products spread across 19 different departments, “including furniture, home decor, housewares, appliances and home improvement products, for any style, space or budget.” Check out our video coverage of the grand opening on our Instagram.

people shopping at Wayfair

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The Wayfair store showcases dozens of home vignettes across its two floors, featuring styles ranging from modern to coastal to Bohemian to suit different customer tastes. Also, the company’s signature brands such as Joss & Main are featured alongside name brands like Samsung, Kohler, and Bissell. All twelve checkout lanes were staffed to support the day’s influx of shoppers and employees armed with tablets were stationed throughout the store to help guests in individual departments and at the consultation counters.

examples of vignettes

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Wayfair’s brick-and-mortar debut has been highly anticipated by both a loyal fanbase of online customers and industry professionals keen to see how the digitally native retailer would bring the digital shopping experience to life in stores. During our visit, our retail experts noted experiential, omnichannel, and educational elements executed throughout the store.

customers shopping

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Wayfair brought the shopping experience to life particularly in its plumbing and sleep categories and in its onsite restaurant. Pictured below, customers in “The Shower Experience” zone can press buttons to test the water flow of individual showerheads. Similarly, a row of sink faucets lets you explore the features and test the water pressure of a wide range of faucets. For the sleep category, the mattress department dubbed “The Dream Center” encourages guests to make a bed with different combinations of pillows, duvets, and toppers to “complete your perfect sleep setup”.

plumbing and sleep products

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An onsite restaurant called The Porch (whose name seems oddly similar to Crate & Barrel’s in-store restaurant, The Table), features a full menu of small bites, entrees, and beverages. Offering refreshments onsite can drive incremental sales and ensure customers do not go hungry in what can sometimes be an hours-long furniture shopping experience. In addition, the all-day café can dually serve guests who are not necessarily shopping for their homes but want to stop in for a bite or a drink. The menu includes beer and wine selections, and Wayfair-branded, purple shopping carts feature a cup holder to offer customers over the age of 21 a “sip and shop” experience.

customers at a restaurant

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Omnichannel shopping options, electronic shelf tags, and endless aisle displays help to bridge the online to offline furniture shopping experience. Upon entry into the store, signage communicates the three ways guests can shop: grab & go, pick up today, and free & fast delivery. Wayfair offers not one, but two zones located on opposite ends of the store for order pickup, curbside pickup, and returns, with digital screens overhead displaying customer names and order pickup status. Individual items are tagged with electronic shelf labels that show the item’s price, estimated shipping time, and QR code linking to its product webpage. In addition, touchscreen displays throughout the store provide an endless aisle experience, offering customers access to Wayfair’s complete online assortment, detailed product specifications, and customer reviews. As Wayfair continues to invest in brick-and-mortar retail, we hope to see supply chain integrations, such as listing real-time in-store inventory levels and in-store item locations on website product pages and in the Wayfair app. Wayfair should also consider exploring self-checkout kiosks or in-store scan-and-go capabilities to drive convenience and labor savings.

examples of signage and price tags

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Simple, concise signage throughout the store offers educational content – such as guides for selecting rug sizes, chair heights, and door handles – to help shoppers make informed selections that will best fit their needs. In-store communications call out critical “need to know before buying” details, like knowing the size of your existing cooktop and your home’s type of fuel line, before picking out a new cooktop range. Wayfair also offers upholstery customization, free design consultations, and home improvement installation services as comprehensive solutions for customers.

signs to educate customers

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Despite the significant buzz and optimism surrounding the company’s first large-format store, Wayfair still faces the headwinds of a post-pandemic slowdown in home furnishings spending. The housing market remains constrained by a lack of home inventory, consumer spending has shifted to out-of-home purchases, and Americans have tightened their wallets on discretionary categories, like furnishings, amid an ongoing inflationary environment.

shoppers at a customer service desk

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Earlier this month, Wayfair reported mixed results in its Q1 earnings. The company grew active customer count year-over-year and shifted to a positive adjusted EBITDA, but also reported a net loss of $248 million, demonstrating the ongoing challenge of achieving profitability. Wayfair cut 13% of its global workforce in January, its third major round of layoffs since 2022, as it continues to right-size the organization to save money after over-hiring during the pandemic. Wayfair also continues to get cited as a company at risk of bankruptcy by retail industry publications. Amid these broader challenges, a single store seems unlikely to move the needle enough to drive a substantial change in the company’s financial performance, but only time will tell whether the combined efforts of Wayfair’s strategic initiatives will get the company on the path to profitability.

shoppers in a checkout line

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Similar to other store grand openings we’ve reported on, our McMillanDoolittle experts will return to the Wayfair store once shopper foot traffic has normalized to reevaluate the store under conditions that are more representative of what our readers would likely encounter on a “typical” shopping day. Stay tuned for our future appraisal. In the meantime, check out McMillanDoolittle’s grand opening coverage of McDonald’s first-of-its-kind CosMc’s beverage concept and the Asian-inspired Gangnam Market.

Amanda Lai

Amanda manages McMillanDoolittle’s food retail practice and supports strategic planning, retail concept development, consumer research, and real estate analysis for a wide range of global retail clients. Since joining the team in 2017, Amanda has worked with brands across the Grocery, Restaurant, Apparel, Consumer Electronics, Automotive, and Real Estate sectors. She has been featured as a subject matter expert on TD Ameritrade, CBS News, and Chicago’s WGN Radio, and has been quoted in publications including The Chicago Tribune, Crain’s, Progressive Grocer, Drug Store News, and Convenience Store News.

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