Going Offline: Why Four Online-Only Brands Expanded To Brick-And-Mortar

In the past few years, the subscription box industry has exploded in popularity. Forbes magazine reported that in the month of April 2017, subscription company websites had around 37 million visitors, and that number has grown 800 percent since 2014. Whether it’s grocery items, lifestyle, apparel, or pet toys, chances are you can find a box that fits your flair.

While online shopping—particularly subscription services—continues to grow, even the biggest brands see value in taking business offline to enhance the customer experience, offer more flexibility, and engage with its customers face-to-face.

Here are a few online-only brands that have traveled off the web to attract new customers and retain its existing base by incorporating physical retail into long-term plans.


One online company that has fully embraced the brick-and-mortar concept is Birchbox. If you are unfamiliar with the subscription service, Birchbox sends curated samples of beauty products to its customers to introduce them to new brands.

The idea is simple. Subscribers take time to fill out a personalized beauty profile that provides data to the company about their preferences. Then, the customer is sent samples of beauty products that fit their style. After four years of business, Birchbox recognized the need to add physical retail stores to its plan.

In 2014, the brand opened its first brick-and-mortar in Soho, New York City. The retail shop “brings the Birchbox experience to life,” according to company reps. Consumers can quickly get their hands on product offerings, shop by category, and test out trends at a Try Bar—a special in-store area that houses the hottest products on the market.

Customers are also able to build their own Birchbox and earn points toward future purchases, both online and at the store. And finally, there are options to book hair, makeup, and beauty services that feature all of the products you might find in your box.

Birchbox found the setup so successful that they plan to open more physical stores in the future. In fact, the company confirmed its plans to open a second retail location in Paris last year.

Although Birchbox co-founders admitted that they never expected to manage a retail store, they also said that the experience has been extremely valuable. The company reported that shoppers at the retail location have a 3X higher lifetime value with the brand. And by collecting data from their customers at the store, they are able to tailor the brand to meet customers’ needs.


That’s right! Even pets can enjoy their own monthly subscription box. BarkBox is a monthly box of dog toys, treats, and goodies sent to dog owners who want to pamper their pup. The collection is themed every month with past boxes including Knights of the Hound Table, Chewrassic Bark, and The Good—The Bad—And the Pugly.

Recently, BarkBox made the announcement that the company’s treats and toys would be available at Target shopping centers. This is the first time that BarkBox items have been offered in a retail setting. This partnership makes it much easier for consumers to interact with the brand while offering more opportunities to get their subscription service in front of new clientele.

Target is continuing its efforts to partner with subscription brands.  Senior Vice President of Essentials and Beauty at Target, Christina Hennington, said that offering “new and exclusive pet brands” would help set them apart as the “ultimate pet destination.”

Rent The Runway

Lovers of fashion have been flocking to Rent The Runway to enjoy what the New York Times has called “a Netflix Model for Haute Couture.” A service that provides accessory and designer clothing rentals, Rent The Runway promises customers a “dream closet on demand.”

Clients can choose from an array of designer options—giving them a chance to dress in the newest fashions without paying high retail prices. Even with the company’s online success, co-founder Jennifer Fleiss said that it was clear customers wanted a physical retail store.

Although it wasn’t in the brand’s initial plans, they decided to test out the concept in 2012 at the company’s corporate headquarters. Rent The Runway has since opened retail shops in New York City, Las Vegas, Chicago, and Washington D.C.

Customers claimed they wanted an in-store experience with the ability to browse, try on items, and get advice from one of the company’s professional stylists. Rent The Runway responded by delivering a convenient experience where consumers can access the brand in-person, online, and even via app. This type of adaptation is key to pleasing a customer base.


Today’s retail landscape calls for flexibility—even with monthly subscription services. HelloFresh, a company that sends recipes with quality ingredients to its subscribers, saw the need for the brand to become more accessible and less restrained by scheduled delivery dates.

In response to customer feedback, HelloFresh opened its first physical retail pop-up shop on the busy streets of London in March 2017. This four-week experiment aimed to please its subscribers who said they would prefer the option of picking up a kit on the way home from work. While the pop-up shop didn’t offer the brand’s full menu, it did give commuters a chance to purchase from a select list of popular recipe kits.

The pop-up shop was a way for HelloFresh to test how they would operate in a physical retail space, while evaluating customer interest for the long-term.

Click here to see images of the London pop-up shop.

 Have you ever purchased a subscription service? What other online-only brands would you like to see in physical retail locations? Let us know!

Make sure you’re staying on top of the latest trends, newest developments and hottest new stores in Huntsville by subscribing to our weekly blog updates!

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Downtown Huntsville Property To Undergo Renovation: 117 Clinton Avenue

Vibrant Clinton Row in the heart of Downtown Huntsville has steadily grown into one of the city’s most unique and frequented retail destinations. Illuminated by its many shops and boutiques and adorned with twinkling string lights, Clinton Row is easily recognized when exploring the Downtown neighborhood.

Over the years, you watched as Clinton Row made its transformation to the retail, dining, and entertainment hub that it is today. A city parking deck became The Garage at Clinton Row retail center. Downtown storage units were converted into the Clinton Row Shops— home to more than a dozen independently owned and operated stores. U.G. White Mercantile added even more unique, quality goods to the area and Pints & Pixels brought delicious food and fun.

Very soon, Clinton Row will be introducing its next opportunity for new restaurant and retail concepts to join this popular scene.

Crunkleton Commercial Real Estate is excited to announce that 117 Clinton Avenue is scheduled to receive major renovations that will make it the ideal home for Clinton Row’s next exciting retail shop or restaurant.

Proposed renovations for 117 Clinton Avenue.

The location currently has two units available for lease, and more information can be found here. Stay tuned to our blog for more updates as this project moves along.

Interested parties can contact Crunkleton Commercial Real Estate Group for more information by calling 256-536-8809. Or send an email to info@crunkletonassociates.com.

Make sure you’re staying on top of the latest trends, newest developments and hottest new stores in Huntsville by subscribing to our weekly blog updates!

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The Trend Report: Emerging 2018 Insights

Each year, we take a look at the Emerging Trends in Real Estate report that’s released by PWC and the Urban Land Institute to see what changes to expect in the commercial real estate industry. The report for 2018 is out, and Crunkleton has a breakdown of the major highlights when it comes to office and retail.

Although these trends are presenting themselves nationwide, it’s important to note that many of the items found in Emerging Trends generally take a longer time to reach smaller markets—on average 5-7 years. This must be considered when examining Huntsville.

So what trends should you be watching in the years to come? Here are just a few:

A Focus On “Generation Z”

It’s true that while Millennials are still on everyone’s mind, the younger Generation Z is beginning to influence the future of office space, retail, and housing.

Generation Z falls between 1995-2001 and totals around 65 million to 75 million people within the United States. As the newest group to enter the workforce, businesses and building owners are carefully looking at the major transformations they could bring to the workplace.

According to Emerging Trends, this generation is likely to show the same initial preferences for urban-based work environments that Millennials did. However, there are some key differences that should be noted.

  • Surveys suggest that potential for growth and stability are the two main factors Generation Z desires when searching for a job.
  • The design of workspaces will need to adapt to accommodate the collaborative space-loving Millennials and the structure-seeking Generation Z. Emerging Trends reports that the new generation is trending toward more structured/personal office space.

While Generation Z is the next hot topic, one can’t forget that the workplace is multigenerational. Baby Boomers are staying in the workforce much longer than expected, and this greatly affects the preferences you’ll see in the modern work environment.

When it comes to retail, Generation Z is seeking more omni-channel experiences. Essentially, they want to be reached on a number of channels that make purchasing convenient and engaging.

Omni-Channel Retail Becoming The Norm

If you aren’t familiar with the concept of “omni-channel retail” here’s a quick breakdown of how it works. Retailers are reaching potential and current customers on several channels at once—online, mobile, email, apps, social media, and physical stores. It makes it increasingly easy to purchase an item on whatever channel suits the consumer.

Emerging Trends states, “even the largest online retailers are now acquiring brick-and-mortar locations and moving away from pure-play Internet distribution.” This allows retailers to reach customers from every angle and make their brand an experience.

There’s an increasing demand for the “eat, play, live” model that makes a shopping experience double as a social exchange. This means developers are called to become increasingly creative with how they implement new shopping destinations in the market.

An Evolving Office Landscape

Office job growth is strong and expanding 2.2 percent on average compared to 1.6 percent total job growth. Employers are competing for talent and are creating attractive, flexible office spaces to help draw in new employees.

Emerging Trends reports a demand for close-in suburb offices that provide central business district amenities. Millennials particularly are looking for the best of both worlds. Offices in suburban areas with reliable public transportation, walkability, high-quality real estate, and live/work amenities are important. Examples of these “new suburb” areas include Brooklyn in New York City and Belleview in Seattle.

The lines between working and playing are continually blurring, and many offices are attracting tenants with “transformational office amenities” like large public gathering spaces, food options, high-end fitness facilities, and rooftop spaces—just to name a few. This is further expanding to include daycare facilities, rest areas, and game rooms.

However, office owners are constantly working to develop spaces that not only offer open-space environments, but also plenty of flexibility for private spaces that reduce noise and increase focus.

And finally, technology is affecting the office real estate landscape. Spaces are evolving to become more energy efficient with conveniences like motion-activated lights and the most advanced audio/video setups that the market has to offer.

Deconstructing The Department Store Model

It has been decades in the making, but the deconstruction of the full-line department store business model is in its final phase. In the words of Emerging Trends, “department stores are closing operations at an increasing pace, threatening all but the best malls with extinction.” The report states that department store sales once totaled in the hundred billions of dollars annually, but only comes to around $70 billion today.

This means malls have to adapt in order to attract consumers—by adding more unique retailers and local goods. And most large department stores have decreased their product offerings over time and now only provide three primary categories of goods: apparel, housewares, and cosmetics/fragrances.

Other factors are affecting the retail real estate industry, as well. Some of them include changing consumer demographics and preferences. Baby Boomers are still the largest single U.S. consumer group but are entering a new stage of life where they will consume less, shed assets, and spend higher amounts on entertainment, dining out, and travel. Millennials are appearing to follow suit by spending less on apparel and housewares and more on entertainment and dining out. This is all the more reason to create retail centers that add a “social dimension.”

Old-fashioned human interaction cannot be computer-generated. And the outlook looks great for retailers who are able to harness the power of community and offer more than an exchange of cash for goods.

All information, opinions, and predictions presented in this article come from the Emerging Trends in Real Estate Report 2018.

 Interested in reading the full report? CLICK HERE to download the document.

“Now in its 39th year, Emerging Trends in Real Estate is one of the oldest, most highly regarded annual industry outlook for the real estate and land use industry. The market outlooks included in each edition are based on an extensive survey, multiple interviews, and individual market focus groups. Readers’ interest in all markets continues to increase, so the 2018 edition provides a regionally based look at all 78 markets included in this year’s survey. Throughout the report, we’ll explore a variety of trends we’re seeing in the industry, as well as analyze the prospects for 78 metropolitan markets for the coming year.”

Make sure you’re staying on top of the latest trends, newest developments and hottest new stores in Huntsville by subscribing to our weekly blog updates!

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Broker Spotlight: Richard Crunkleton

Richard Crunkleton, CCIM

How did you become interested in commercial real estate?

I was busy doing other things in life related to construction and development when I came across it. My interest began when I started purchasing value-added properties and fixing them up—I’d lease and eventually sell them.

I began to think that doing deals like that every day would be a fun way to make a living. Soon after, I pursued my real estate license and earned my CCIM designation. It feels like this business was personally made for me. I’m able to work with numbers and people—two things I love.

What were you doing before you discovered commercial real estate?

Great question. I had a number of “day jobs” that led me to where I am today. My background is in Civil Engineering. In fact, I earned my degree from The University of Kentucky in that field. I knew I wasn’t going to work in that industry full time after graduation, but I did a lot of design work while in school for different co-op engineering firms. What really appealed to me about those types of jobs was working with numbers.

I’ve worked in Atlanta at a construction consulting firm, in Dallas with a developer, and ended up in Columbus, Ohio at a highway contracting firm. Columbus was where I made my next big career move by purchasing a Stanley Steemer franchise. My wife Nancy and I ended up moving to Montgomery, Alabama and running that business together for 10 years. She ran it on her own for another 10 when I moved on to commercial real estate.

How did you end up in Huntsville?

Well, at the time I was unhappy in Montgomery. I knew the Huntsville market pretty well and I saw opportunities.

We didn’t know anyone in the area, but we quickly became involved. It wasn’t long before we started Crunkleton Commercial Real Estate. We knew shortly after that we wanted to grow the business.

What do you think contributes to a successful commercial real estate business?

In commercial real estate, you have to offer exceptional service in areas like leasing, property management, selling of properties, and development. But really the value lies in providing industry knowledge to your client and applying that knowledge to deals that will maximize their benefit.

We care a lot about our clientele, and we have had the pleasure of working with some of them several times.

What do you love about your job?

Every day is a new challenge with different opportunities. Figuring out how to make a deal work well for everyone is what I love the most.

Sometimes a client will come to you and not know exactly what they need. You have to take the time to assess the situation and discover what that is. You have to find out what’s important to them so you can draw lines in negotiations.

I really enjoy working with people and helping them discover their needs so a mutually beneficial deal can be made.

What would you say to someone who is interested in becoming a broker?

You need a passion for it. It has to be something that you wake up every morning wanting to do. You also have to be prepared to work on the same deal for a long time. Things in this business don’t happen overnight. Actually, the longest deal I ever worked on took more than 9 years to complete. But the deal worked out well.

Patience and attention to detail help make deals successful and advantageous for all parties involved.

What do you think contributes to Huntsville’s continual growth?

This city is always asking what they can do to make more of an impact—to make things better. It’s an extremely supportive community when it comes to new endeavors and ideas. It’s that outlook that makes growth possible.

I always encourage people to serve on local committees or boards. Nancy and I have been involved with the Huntsville Museum of Art since we moved here. It’s where we have developed many friends and business relationships.

We consider ourselves very blessed and we enjoy giving back to the community. No matter how much you give, you always get more back.

What do you enjoy doing outside of the office?

Spending time with Nancy and my family is very important to me. And, many people don’t know this, but I used to drive race cars—Porsches mostly. I quit driving in 2010, but I’ll always love it. I also love spending time at the family farm and I cherish the memories we’ve made there.

Make sure you’re staying on top of the latest trends, newest developments and hottest new stores in Huntsville by subscribing to our weekly blog updates!

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