Coronavirus BRIEFING

Warby Parker Starts Gradual Reopening of Its Stores


NEW YORK—Warby Parker, one of the first retailers in the country and in the optical market to close down its stores on March 14, as reported by VMAIL, due to the advent of COVID-19, has started to slowly reopen its brick-and-mortar locations. The first seven reopened last week and several dozen more are to follow in the coming weeks, with a goal of opening all—depending on a series of pandemic metrics, consumer demand, store locations and formats in the coming weeks, co-founder and co-CEO, Dave Gilboa told VMAIL. Warby Parker currently operates 120 physical stores, 3 locations of those are in Canada.

To date, Warby Parker has reopened its 9th and 9th store in Salt Lake City, Edgehill Village (pictured) in Nashville, Classen Curve in Oklahoma City, Olka., downtown Summerlin, Las Vegas, The Woodlands, Woodlands, Texas, North Hills, Raleigh, N.C. and Dairy Block, Denver.

Gilboa said, "Since the beginning of the crisis, our North Star has been the health and safety of our team, our customers and patients. Our optical lab in Sloatsburg, N.Y. has continued to operate and we shut it down for a day to institute new safety protocols immediately in mid-March, taking apart work stations and equipment in order for our 100 people there to be able to safely function and support our online business as well as emergent care need. We tested many approaches there and found we could apply those learnings to what we'd need in our distribution center and, eventually, our stores."

He added, "We put together a safety rubric that takes into account a number of factors to assess when it will be safe to open, ranging from recommendations from the CDC and health care monitoring groups for the virus, like Johns Hopkins' metrics of the virus and then state and local guidance, the specific locations of the stores, whether an indoor mall or outdoor, open location, the size of the store and other factors to see how things are trending. Each of our stores have their own daily metrics for these considerations"

Gilboa said that protocols for the Warby Parker doctors of optometry as well as those for associates inside the stores have been updated to "clearly create a new type of customer and patient experience for these times. We are intentionally limiting store traffic, bringing each customer on a guided shopping experience with an associate. We have emphasized digital patient intake, contactless paying and new tools to help people when they are there. “When our stores were closed, our doctors began offering Virtual Vision Consultations, to help serve patients remotely," he said.  

Gilboa said that the safety and sanitation procedures have also been updated for Warby's Home Try-On program. In general, Gilboa said that the company's online sales are up significantly. "Since the COVID-19 crisis began, we have seen record-breaking e-commerce sales every week as well as record-breaking engagements with our Prescription Check app, our Virtual TryOn, too. We are seeing business from existing customers as well as many new customers. We survey those customers consistently. Our contact lens sales, too, have been going very well throughout and we will experience a record month for our contact lens sales this month."

Asked about long term trends which might prevail even after the pandemic abates, Gilboa said, "Crises have a way of accelerating trends already underway. We will see an expansion in telemedicine and the crisis will be a catalyst for the use of digital technology among ODs as well as with the patient. We will see a continued interest in blue light lenses. No one is excited by the pandemic, certainly, but it will create a lasting series of changes in the optical business, in all businesses."