Wayfair is saying so long ― for now ― to brick-and-mortar retail.
The Boston-based online seller of home goods told employees on Wednesday that it is shutting down its only standalone store, located in the Natick Mall, on Dec. 31. Wayfair opened it in 2019 as a way to test the waters for a broader brick-and-mortar strategy.
Despite the closing, Wayfair considers the store to be a success, spokeswoman Jane Carpenter said. The store whetted the appetite among visitors for the company’s broader online catalog, she said, adding that management learned lessons about how physical stores can help it build personal relationships with shoppers. Even though the pandemic reduced mall traffic, Carpenter said, customers visited the store “in large volumes and often with high purchase intent.”
That gives Wayfair more confidence in the demand for physical stores, particularly in the home furnishings world, she said. It was challenging, she said, to display a representative selection of inventory in a 3,700-square-foot space. That’s particularly true for a company the size of Wayfair, which reported more than $9 billion in revenue last year.
“That’s a pretty small size for us to bring our brand to life,” Carpenter said.
The Natick store offers a variety of smaller items that can be purchased and taken home, such as pillows, dishes, glassware, and seasonal decorations. It also features several furniture “vignettes” ― spaces styled like rooms in a house ― that allow customers to touch and sit on furniture being sold online, and to see how they look in a home setting.
Carpenter said Wayfair will inevitably give physical stores another go in the future, but probably in a larger space.
“We feel like it’s an important part of a long-term strategy,” she said of brick-and-mortar stores. “The bigger the brand gets, the more people are excited about it.”
Wayfair tinkered with formats via several mall pop-up stores in 2018 and 2019. The company also opened an outlet store at one of its warehouses in Kentucky. That store remains closed due to the pandemic.