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Warby Parker To Increase Store Count By 25% This Year As IPO Looms

A Warby Parker store at the Heights Mercantile Mall in Houston

One of the more famous clicks-to-bricks retailers needs more bricks in order to keep growing.

Warby Parker plans to open 36 new retail stores before the end of the year, adding to its existing footprint of 140 stores by 25%, Bloomberg reports. Noting that its top competitors like LensCrafters and Pearle Vision have "thousands of stores," Warby Parker co-founder and co-CEO Neil Blumenthal told Bloomberg that the retailer could eventually open "hundreds" of new locations.

"At the end of the day, the vast majority of Americans need glasses and prefer to buy those in person," Blumenthal told Bloomberg.

The aggressive push may be a signal of intent to potential investors, as Warby Parker confidentially filed for an initial public offering in June, CNBC reports. No timeline has been given for the official IPO. The company's latest private fundraising round was a $120M Series G led by D1 Capital Partners in August that valued Warby Parker at $2.9M, Crunchbase reports. Investment management firm T. Rowe Price is one of the company's biggest outside investors, having led two fundraising rounds worth a combined $175M, Public reports.

Launched in 2010 as an online-only company that shipped five sets of frames to consumers free of charge ahead of them choosing which pairs to buy, Warby Parker opened its first brick-and-mortar store in 2013. Though it was one of the earliest adopters of a direct-to-consumer, try-before-you-buy model for e-commerce retailers, the need for prescriptions makes eyeglasses a tougher sector than fashion to rely on that model, Bloomberg reports.

All of the new Warby Parker locations will have on-site eye doctors, as 80 of its operational stores already do, Bloomberg reports. Though its commitment to physical retail is born from a need to reach a broader consumer base, the retailer also wants to improve its online business, exploring ways to conduct eye exams online. 

​​​“We continue to invest in telemedicine, [where] we think we’re in the top of the first inning,” Warby Parker's other co-CEO, Dave Gilboa, told Bloomberg.