E-tailer Lumen opens first physical stores

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Publish Date: December 15, 2016

With little fanfare, online concept Lumen Optical has begun opening stores. The clicks-to-bricks trend is hardly new anymore, but Lumen’s move represents something different: an online store trying to move into mainstream retailing and not upscale or specialty sites, according to Chris Ressa, senior vice president of leasing at DLC Management. Ressa oversaw Lumen’s recent leasing of 3,400 square feet at DLC Management’s Randhurst Village, an open-air shopping center in north suburban Chicago anchored by Carson Pirie Scott, Costco, Home Depot and Jewel-Osco. “Lumen is going into traditional, open-air shopping centers,” Ressa said. “Compare that with Amazon or Warby Parker, whose strategy puts them into high-profile urban locations or other trophy assets.”

There are two additional Lumen stores so far: a 3,300-square-foot unit at the open-air Deer Park (Ill.) Town Center (a Kimco property that includes an Apple store, a Bed Bath & Beyond and a Dick’s Sporting Goods), and a store that opened in December in the Church Street shopping district, in the affluent suburb of Evanston, north of Chicago.

The concept was founded by 1-800 Contacts as a sister company. Lumens has thus far disclosed no details about its future strategy, but beyond the aforementioned offbeat aspect of the retailer’s clicks-to-bricks movements, Ressa describes it as otherwise fairly conventional: “Take your shops to the Chicago suburbs, which are something of a stand-in for the country as a whole,” he said, “and grow them there as a prelude to growth on a larger scale.”

Lumen takes a service-intensive approach at its stores, which offer a boutique setting that makes custom lenses in-house, delivering new glasses in 24 hours. Eye exams are priced at $79, with contact-lens fitting and retinal imaging services provided at no extra charge. The assortment of frames is wide, ranging from $49 to $699.

“Doing omni-channel well is difficult, but entering mainstream shopping centers is a trend that could take off,” Ressa said. “Other online retailers are watching Lumen.”