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Coronavirus might accelerate the retail apocalypse, but DTC brands like Warby Parker are in the clear

1 week ago by Julia Gray in Markets

The retail apocalypse was already claiming retailers before Coronavirus hit American soil - now, it's certain to accelerate. The pandemic looms as a potential death knell for already struggling retailers like Neiman Marcus ($PRIVE_NEIMANMARCUS), which is currently considering bankruptcy as COVID-19 causes more store closures.

Direct-to-consumer brands now pose an even bigger threat to traditional retail companies, designed without reliance on physical storefronts. Take Warby Parker, for example, often referred to as the godfather of DTC.

Quarantined people still need their spectacles and don’t have the option to venture out in search of sight. Luckily, Warby Parker ($PRIV_WARBYPARKER) offers both digital and home try-on options for free. You can order five pairs to choose from and send back whatever you don’t like.

What Warby Parker isn't able to offer right now is a traditional retail transaction. In a recent statement, the company announced it will be temporarily closing all of its locations through March 27. "Our retail team members will continue to be paid as if they were working in stores during this time," the statement reads.

As it stands, Warby Parker is currently deprioritizing in-store business and emphasizing e-commerce, slashing retail job openings by 57% since earlier this month.

But Facebook ($NASDAQ:FB) mentions of the brand have remained high at 3,940, up 31% from earlier this month. The number even outpaces pre-Christmas buzz by 89%.

The company has over 100 store locations, none of which have permanently closed due to Coronavirus. And, as much of Warby Parker's business comes from online sales, it may be in the clear.

About the Data:

Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online - jobs, social and web traffic, product sales and app ratings - and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales. 

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Julia Gray

Julia is Thinknum's Innovation Editor. She also writes about music, art, and culture for the Washington Post, Playboy, Stereogum, Uproxx, and Paper Magazine.

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