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'Try, then buy' is part of a shopping trend

Amazon as well as some other online shopping sites are offering the facility

Claire Coghlan | NYT 

shopping, clothes
Shopping portal subscribers are charged only for items they keep. Photo: Shutterstock

When I was a child, I would watch my grandmother try on dresses and coats she had brought home on “appro” (or approbation) from Mrs Downey’s boutique in Dungarvan, Ireland: deciding, at her leisure, what to buy and what to return. Who knew that, decades later, “appro,” aka “try on”, would become the way to shop?

And not just at Amazon, which recently announced such a service for its Prime members, who are not charged while they mull up to 15 items for a week.

In December, Debora LaBudde started Memo, which lets online shoppers try fine jewellery by established and emerging designers for a three-day period. “The practice of allowing a client to take merchandise home prior to making a purchase has long been a tradition in the jewellery industry, but it’s most often reserved for VIP clientele,” LaBudde said. But she said she believed “every client should enjoy the same luxury experience”. Prices range from $350 to $15,000, and insured return shipping is included with delivery.

Colleen McKinnie helped found Lyon & Post (tagline: “Say farewell to fitting rooms”), which sells casual clothing, including active wear and swimwear. “There’s no checkout process,” McKinnie said. Members add items to Netflix-style queues by clicking “Try It On”. Within a day, the top four items are shipped. After a week, members can return whatever they don’t want in a prepaid return bag, at which point they are charged only for what they keep. “Our average retail price is $140, with the overall range sitting between $50 and $500,” said McKinnie, who plans to add accessories, shoes and handbags to the stock.

After filling out a style profile at Bungalow Clothing, which Rob Wright founded in 2013, customers are paired with stylists. “From there, they interact via text, phone or email,” said Wright, whose partners include the musician John Legend. After previewing items in a “Dressing Room” and making any desired adjustments, shoppers get six to 15 items shipped to them for a five-day try-on period.

“Our core demographic is a 35- to 45-year-old mom, of which 80 per cent work,” said Wright, adding that his average customer spends about $400 in one go. “They’ve got money; they just don’t have time.”

For men who are short on time, there’s Bombfell, a men’s casual wear subscription service that began shipping to subscribers in 2011. “When I look at retail, before the internet, I see two buckets,” said Bernie Yoo, a founder. “One was a self-service customer: They’re confident, they know what looks good on and they can do it all on their own. The second is the full-service customer: They’re the ones who would go to personal shoppers or actively seek out help from sales associates.”

In an online age, Bombfell is targeted at the latter. “We’re focused on using technology to make the personal styling process much more efficient so we can deliver it at scale,” Yoo said. Private-label stock was added to the site last year. Clients choose how often they receive shipments and how many things they receive (the average price is $85), and they have seven days to decide on which items to keep.

© 2017 New York Times Service