People like to say that brick-and-mortar retail is dead, but direct-to-consumer businesses continue to dabble with physical stores all the same.
Why? Because brick-and-mortar retail provides businesses with benefits an online shopping platform can’t, namely consumer experiences that create and sustain shoppers’ relationships with brands.
To help the next generation of digitally native stores expand into the physical world, Uppercase, formerly known as thisopenspace, is launching out of stealth with $3.5 million in venture capital funding. Lerer Hippeau has led the round, with participation from CRV and SV Angels.
Uppercase works with real estate agents, architects and designers to build stores for online brands in New York City, Los Angeles and Toronto.
Co-founder and CEO Yashar Nejati started the company after noticing that online brands were experimenting with pop-up shops then establishing permanent storefronts.
Men’s retailer Frank & Oak, which picked up a $16 million Series C this year, is a great example of that trend. The company began as an internet retailer and now has several stores throughout Canada. Luggage startup Away, trendy shoe company Allbirds and Emily Weiss’ makeup company Glossier have done the same.
“Anyone can launch an online brand,” Nejati told TechCrunch. “Brands truly stand out from the crowd once they grow beyond digital — we’re seeing this with Warby Parker, Casper and Indochino, who will have over 350 stores by the end of 2018. Uppercase is part of a modern growth strategy, providing tech-enabled flexible retail stores for brands to launch, analyze and grow their retail presence.”
So far, Uppercase has built stores for furniture company Joybird and Venus et Fleur, which sells artfully arranged roses.
Early-stage investor Lerer Hippeau has backed a number of direct-to-consumer brands, including the aforementioned Allbirds and Casper.
“We’ve seen the importance of an omnichannel strategy as companies scale,” Lerer Hippeau Graham Brown told TechCrunch. “Uppercase is the perfect partner for brands born online looking to expand into the physical world.”