Why Stores Where You Can't Buy Anything Are The Future

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embedPhoto: Courtesy of AYR.
Just two months after its online debut, the luxe-basics brand AYR is already expanding, with its first brick-and-mortar location opening yesterday. But, it looks nothing like any other shop you've seen — namely because you can't actually buy anything in it.

Fashionista reports that AYR's new store is based on the "Guideshop" concept employed by its brother brand, the menswear e-comm startup Bonobos (which you've surely heard of if you listen to any podcasts). The idea is this: Guideshops carry no inventory for sale. Instead, they stock one size of every style, and serve as a space for customers to check out the line in-person, try on, and order clothes for delivery in two days.

It's a business model that allows AYR, Bonobos, and Warby Parker, whose brick-and-mortar location works in a similar way, to minimize its stores' square footage and number of staff — thus saving overhead while still giving the impression of a high-end shopping experience, complete with personal styling advice.

When you think about it, this could be the future of retail. If you've ever found yourself digging through endless stacks of denim to find your size, you know there's something to be said for a more spare inventory. Moreover, shoppers already treat the IRL retail experience as a showroom before buying online. Instead of fighting that, as some retailers do, why not embrace the concept? For a brand that's heretofore been exclusively online and specializes in tricky-to-fit items like jeans, the "can't-try-on" barrier is a huge hurdle to overcome. So, getting your product in front of customers just makes sense. AYR cofounder Maggie Winter reports that customers don't even mind that they can't walk out with their purchases on the same day: "They’re always on their way to drinks or dinner or a meeting or work, so to not have to lug it around is great." True — nothing harshes a good happy-hour buzz like lugging around every shopping bag you picked up on your jaunt down Broadway.

AYR's Guideshop is now open in New York on 45 West 25th Street, fourth floor, and we definitely plan to stop by to check out its much-talked-about denim line and chambray shirt that drapes like silk. What do you think — is the nothing-for-sale concept the future of retail? For our part, we can definitely live without the instant gratification of walking out with our buys — there's always overnight shipping, after all. (Fashionista)

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