Threadless Goes Offline

By Scott Smith in Miscellaneous on Jan 10, 2007 5:30PM

2007_01_threadless2.jpgWe’re pretty used to seeing T-shirts from online retailer Threadless all over the streets of Chicago. But within six months, impatient hipsters seeking cleverly designed gear will not only be able to give in to their need for immediate gratification, but also experience the company’s website in a decidedly offline way.

At the end of last year, some Flickr photos got people talking about Threadless’ plan to open its very first retail-oriented location in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago (though T-shirts were always available at its Ravenswood Avenue warehouse space). This followed a major media blitz several months ago with feature stories in the Chicago Tribune and on CNN.

Already the most well-known venture of skinnyCorp, the move to a traditional brick-and-mortar store is seen as another way for Threadless to raise its profile locally and expand its robust community. The company’s current plan is for a May or June opening at 3011 N. Broadway.

“We’re not concerned about just selling shirts,” says Ursula Arsenault, Retail Projects Manager for Threadless. “With the retail store, it’s going to be non-traditional retail. It’s going to serve as a gallery space [and] we want to host different events there.” These events range from meet-and-greets with some of Threadless’ designers and users to classes in Photoshop and Illustrator that will help others contribute their own ideas to the site.

In addition, the space itself will utilize an open layout that encourages a dialogue between the company and its community of consumers. “We want there to be participation, we want people to feel comfortable to hang out. It’s not just about a shopping experience,” says Arsenault.

While many companies use their Web sites to drive traffic to their retail locations, Threadless wants the buzz generated by the retail store to help people become more familiar with its site. Arsenault says that the company wants the staff to help customers feel as comfortable in the store as they would surfing at home.

“The people who work here and run stuff are just as involved as all the other users,” says Arsenault. “Everyone’s got a personality and a presence. I think that’s pretty unique about the company.”

Full disclosure: This writer is a friend of skinnyCorp's Chief Creative Officer.