This July Birchbox opened it’s first permanent brick-and-mortar store. It’s an exiting even for all Birchbox fans. Naturally, I could not resist the temptation to visit the store to try some products I have been eyeing on Birchbox.com and check out their BYOB (build your own Birchbox) service.
The store is locate in Soho, a trendy NYC neighborhood. The store has very modern look, which is enhanced by design and iPads placed through out the store.
However, the cool neighborhood and fancy technology was not what brought me to the store. The products did. As was mentioned in Birchbox press release, products are arranged by category, such as “face”, “eyes”, “skin care”, rather than by brand. There is also separate stand for “this month products”, featuring all products that were shipped in current month boxes (as you probably guessed). The first floor is dedicated to fragrances, make up, skin care and Build Your Own Birchbox, while body, hair and nail products, and will as Birchbox man, some lifestyle and services are downstairs. The staff is very friendly and helpful, but not overbearing. I was wondering around the store for good 40 minutes, swatching, trying and smelling things. Twice I was offered assistance, but when I declined I was left to browse in piece. I really like that, as opposed to being bombarded with suggestions. However, when I came back with questions, store associates were eager to assist.
The store also offers some beauty services and classes. Services include hair styles, make up applications and nails designs at reasonable (by New York standards)prices. Classes are free for subscribers, which is cool. I’ll probably be back to check those out.
According to the store associates the store supports Birchbox point system, your receive 10 points for each $1 spent (just like on their web site), and you can use your points for store purchases. Also, I was told that online discount coupons, such as anniversary codes can be used in the store as well (but not on services and BYOB). According to store associates, at the moment the store does not accept returns on products purchased online as their system is not fully integrated yet, but they do plan to accept such returns in future. At the mean time, the store offers the same generous 90 days return policy as the web site (with the exception of BYOB).
Overall, I liked the store. My only gripe is limited stock. I really wanted to swatch some lip colors, but they didn’t have any Alima Pure Lip Tints and had very limited selection of Jouer Lip Glosses (only 3 or 4 shades as opposed to 13 shown on the website). Somewhat limited selection of skin care products as well.
BYOB turned out to be much more limited than I anticipated. In order to compile “your own” box you have to chose one item in each of 5 categories – Body & Nails, Skincare, Fragrance, Hair and Make Up. There are 3-5 items offered in each category. You cannot skip category. You cannot pick more that one item in a category. I was told by an associate that the selection is different every month, and it changes somewhere around 2nd week of the month. (I’m guessing because the store was opened on the 11th). It seems that samples are very similar to the one’s that sent out in the regular boxes. For example I previously received 3 samples out of 4 offered in Hair category, and 2 out of 5 offered in Make Up. I almost forgot to mention that you can choose color of your box – brown, white or hot pink, which is cute, but somewhat useless. On a plus side, all offered samples were deluxe, t.e. multiple use and re-sealable, no foil packets. However, I still feel that it’s hardly worth $15 + tax. Unless of course you happen to actually like/want something in each category. I went for it mostly for the experience, and I almost regret it. There are better ways to send $15 (in the very same store). The fact that I was given points for my BYOB purchased made me feel a bit better, even though I had to email customer service to have these points applied to my account. However, I’m willing to wright of the delay as one the new store/integration hiccups. Unfortunately, samples from BYOB cannot be reviewed for points. The samples I got were entered in their system, I’m guessing it means that I won’t be receiving dupes of these in future boxes.
Bottom Line: the store is great option if you would like to try/swatch/smell a product, before committing to a purchase (provided that they do have these products in stock). Most of available products do have testers, and there are large mirrors and make removers available. The store is also a way to save on shipping. Keep in mind that you will be charged New York sales tax. However, I think I prefer to shop on their web site for now. I may be back to check out one or more of their classes though.
NOTE: all information about store policies such as use of points and discounts was provided by (very helpful) store employees verbally.
ANOTHER NOTE: sorry for crappy pictures! They were taken with my phone, and I had to try really hard not to catch any other shoppers, as I didn’t want to violate anyone’s privacy.