One of the most challenging places for web-based companies to compete has been with clothing. While traditional brick and mortar retailers have found the need to have a presence on the web, few companies have developed through a web only platform with a focus on clothing. Retailers like Amazon and Zappos sell products from other brands and don’t maintain physical stores and sell little that of their own brand. Today we are seeing a handful of companies with a focus on clothes come to the market with a focus on luxury and service that are even developing private labels.
Companies like Macy’s, J Crew, and small local apparel boutiques face this new threat in luxury apparel. Personal stylists or personal shoppers at brick and mortar stores are facing a challenge from the new online personal stylist. Trunk Club (now owned by Nordstrom’s), LeTote, and StitchFix are only a few examples of companies looking to take on market share through a model with luxury items with good customer service, but a lower cost.
These online stylists work much like an in-store one would. Trunk Club has customers complete a profile before a customer is connected with a stylist. The customer selects a few styles or outfits and puts them together in a “trunk” that will be shipped to the customer. Once received, they can then try on the clothes and decide what they want to keep and ship other items back. Customers only pay for the items they keep and shipping is free. The model seems like it could be convenient, especially for someone who lives a busy life or just needs help finding a style that fits him or her.
Trunk Club describes what they do quite well on their website:
“Trunk Club was started to solve a simple problem – shopping for clothes in stores or online just doesn’t work for most guys. It’s overwhelming and inconvenient. With Trunk Club, guys discover awesome clothes that are perfect for them without ever having to go shopping. We combine top brands, expert service, and unparalleled convenience to deliver a highly personalized experience that helps guys look their best.”
These types of services are in their infancy, but have the potential to challenge existing retailers or expand the market for luxury items. A fear of the impact of these programs led Nordstrom’s to purchase Trunk Club over the summer and to help them join the e-Stylist business and J. Crew’s launch of their J Crew At Home Service.