Why we're going analogue, by Richard Moross

The founder of Moo.com - and one of the UK's best-known tech entrepreneurs - has opened his first retail store. The offline backlash begins here.

by Richard Moross
Last Updated: 09 Jul 2013
When I started Moo in 2006, I only ever envisioned it would be online.
 
But we found that at trade shows and conferences people loved seeing the products, touching and feeling them and getting excited about them. This is what led us to make the decision to open our first real-world, bricks-and-mortar store earlier this year. We wanted to create an inspiring environment where people could physically engage with the Moo brand.
 
Personal branding and beautiful design go hand in hand and are equally important to our customers, so I wanted them to be able to touch and feel the products and paper stocks, and see printed samples first hand.  
 
The question, of course, is why risk taking a successful online business onto the high street, when the high street has been so badly affected – particularly by the rise of online shopping?  
 
To start with – and developers might not want to admit it – but there are limits to what a website can do. Online and offline can complement one another perfectly.
 
Also, as an online business, your inventory is often low, unlike many traditional retailers who have high fixed costs and a sprawling retail property empire to contend with. You can use your offline presence in a hybrid way, paralleling your online efforts and providing a true three-dimensional experience.
 
Other successful online brands are also seeing the value of getting customers into a physical store. The Cambridge Satchel Company launched its first store in Covent Garden this year and Etsy, the e-commerce site specialising in handmade and vintage goods, unveiled its first retail space in December.  Even pioneering e-tailer Amazon is rumoured to be opening a store to sell its Kindle devices.
 
We entered the high street cautiously, with a small store in Shoreditch’s Boxpark ‘pop-up mall’ to test the idea for six months. If things go well, we can extend the lease or move to bigger premises. Other online brands have chosen to go down the pop-up shop route to take advantage of lower retail costs and to maximise sales during busy shopping periods.
 
We have also been very conscious to make this not just a shop, but a hub – somewhere that like-minded people – creatives, entrepreneurs, business owners and freelancers – can meet, share experiences and hear inspirational speakers talking about everything from design to sourcing funding.
 
For all of the technological developments and the power of online, something I have built my own business on, physical stores are a practical way of bridging the touch-feel gap and continuing to engage with customers. For Moo, this blending of offline and online might just be the perfect combination.
 
- Richard Moross is the founder and chief executive of custom print site Moo.com

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