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Innovative retail concept in store expansion mode


A tech-savvy retailer with an unusual business model is expanding its brick-and-mortar footprint nationally.

b8ta announced plans to open four new stores, designed by Gensler, with locations in San Francisco, San Jose, Calif. (Santana Row), Houston (Galleria), and New York City. The expansion, which brings the company's total store count to nine, kicks off with the opening of a store in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley neighborhood on Sept. 29.

b8ta stores are designed to give shoppers a hands-on demonstration of cutting-edge tech products and gadgets — most of them from start-up companies that lack the resources and/or know-how for entering traditional retail channels. Indeed, most of the featured companies (or “makers” in b8ta speak) sell products directly on their websites or through crowd funding campaigns. Each store feature a mix of more than 100 products, and customers are encouraged to see, touch and try out the products.

b8ta is different than the traditional retail model in that the company makes its money essentially by leasing space in its stores to the product makers/manufacturers. Proceeds of all in-store sales go directly to the makers themselves.

Data powers the entire enterprise and b8ta’s inventory changes month-to-month based on performance, offering frequent opportunities for new makers — and novel experiences for customers. The product makers have access to detailed data and the ability to test and control the experience of their product in store.

b8ta opened its first store in late 2015, in California. The company was founded by Vibhu Norby (CEO), William Mintun (COO), and Phillip Raub (CMO).

“In December 2015, we opened our first b8ta store in Palo Alto to prove that retail wasn’t dying because consumers had lost interest in shopping, but because the makers behind the best products had lost interest in working with retailers," said Norby. "After opening our first five stores, filling them with hundreds of unique products, and engaging 25,000+ customers a month, we’ve proven our thesis. In the next few months, we’re extending our reach coast to coast, allowing our amazing makers to meet their customers across the country.”

b8ta has also launched its e-commerce platform, giving customers the opportunity to purchase products online from any of the store locations. The company’s growth has been fueled by a $19.5 million funding round led by Khosla Ventures, Fifth Wall Ventures, and TriplePoint Capital with participation from Comcast Ventures and national mall operator Macerich.

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