The upending world of fashion retail

Ready, set, uh-oh? The retail world is undergoing a seismic shift these days and in fashion it seems as though some of my favorite stores are getting left behind. A recent spate of business articles outlines the shifts taking place and highlights the ever-growing gap between so-called ‘fast fashion’ and traditional retailers. The picture is looking kind of grim.

Let’s begin with the class of the field these days: Zara. Although I find Zara to be hit and miss myself there is no denying that their brilliant production strategy based on rapid turnaround via feedback from local stores is paying off for them in spades. They are one of the most successful retailers out there right now and their stock is likely the most valuable fashion stock out there. The Wall Street Journal has thoughtfully outlined why Zara is outperforming while other fashion retailers find their stocks, sales and profits tumbling. Zara is able to produce medium to great quality items at a fraction of the cost of traditional retailers, and get new designs into stores fast. Fast seems to be sells what right now.

Another angle of the pie finds discounters like TJ Maxx and Burlington Coat Factory doing similarly well with another slice of consumers — those that don’t care about the latest trends but are price-conscious. This fascinating article takes a look at why and also sheds a bit of light on TJ Maxx’s secret sauce of what to buy for its stores and what to leave alone. Bottom line? Right now it takes TJ Maxx stores on average 25 days to sell their merchandise, compared to 4-5 months for department stores like Macy’s or Kohl’s.

That is to say nothing about the stores I mainly cover on this blog. Poor J. Crew has had a really rough few months, first with President Jenna Lyons leaving, followed CEO emeritus Mickey Drexler admitting he miscalculated the digital world’s effect on fashion (eep!) and quickly after that it was announced he would step down. The alarms are surely going off for midrange and starter luxury tiers.

And then there is this: last week, Amazon announced an amazing new service called Prime Wardrobe, which basically allows you to try on your items for up to 7 days before you buy them. Amazon Fashion is one of this blog’s newest partners and I’m delighted to be one of their Ambassadors, especially with great services like this! A separate post on this service is coming up; for now I will say that although their selection can be overwhelming, when I know what I’m looking for Prime Wardrobe is just what this fashionista ordered — and other retailers and subscription services should be quaking in their boots. You can read a great business-side article on the service here from the Wall Street Journal.

What’s a traditional retailer to do? They are being attacked from all angles: younger retailers are matching their quality and getting new items to the racks faster; discounters are eating up the price-conscious consumers and agile digital companies are taking the friction away from the sales process via loss-leading consumer-friendly products and services. (A loss leader is a program that loses money for its company but allows it to gain other valuable leverage such as consumer share, volume or supplier advantages for example.)

If you’re Anthropologie, you go big — literally. I had an amazing time attending the opening of its first ever large-format store in Portland, Ore. last year, and since then Anthro has opened several new so-called Anthropologie & Cos around the USA. Unfortunately these big store openings coincided with a tremendous dip in quality, appeal and identity branding. At least one business expert thinks these new huge Anthro stores are a swing and a miss, but I’m not so sure. Anthropologie used to have a unique appeal based on how fun it was to wander around the store and discover new clothing items (CLOTHING ITEMS, Anthro, not home or beauty but yes fine accessories too) which made it fun to linger and retrace steps already taken for sometimes an hour or more.

That fun is part of what I believe traditional retailers need to recapture to compete. Over the last several weeks I’ve been on a whirlwind tour with my job, pitching several traditional fashion retailers strategies meant to catch them up to the digital age without sacrificing the in-store experience, and aiming to increase traffic to stores while also making their online experience smooth and reducing friction. The pitches went even better than I’d ever imagined and I am convinced that C-level execs are finally starting to listen that yeah, this whole InstagetitFacebookySnapwidgety thing (an actual term I head from an, ahem, old school exec) is really catching on!

So, moving away from my job briefly and putting my blogger cap back on, what are some of the things that retailers need to do to get customers into their stores more? Here are a few quick ideas, and then I’d love to hear yours….

1 – Mannequins need to show one item in 4-5 outfits. 
I’m shocked that no other retailers have caught onto the Forever 21 and Zara standard of clumping 6-8 mannequins together and showing a single item styled several ways in their stores. In Zara’s case the item tends to be together in one clump several ways while in Forever 21 you have the clumps, but the item itself is spread out around the store in many clumps so that one item is seen repeatedly around the store, leading customers to hunt for that one item they see and find other things along the way.

2 – Leverage your digital goldmine of fans wearing your clothing.
Although my job and this blog require me to be digitally savvy, I’m shocked by how many of my friends don’t use Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat (I don’t even use Snapchat) and the like. So while brands are already in the habit of regramming, sharing FB posts and such, they are missing a tremendous swath of customers by not taking the digital offline in stores. My non-digital group by the way includes tons of Millennial friends which always seems to shock the executive suites I pitch to. Yes, Millennials are more connected than any previous generation but you still have a significant number who don’t care about tech. Same goes across an generation really.

For fashion retailers, what this means is that their stores present a huge opportunity to help customers style items by presenting all the way fans are showing off their clothing digitally. Whether it’s a kiosk, a big old screen by a rack of items or something in the fitting rooms, there is no reason why stores shouldn’t be sharing their fans’ Instagrams, Facebook posts, and so on in their stores to help customers out.

3 – Go to Trunk Show fulfillment. 
Ever been to a trunk show? A designer will bring one of every size of a particular item, which you can try on, and when you find an item and the size you like it’s drop-shipped to your home.

Why oh why are stores not doing this? Bonobos does it for men — they carry all their items in-store (none of this online only crap) which guys can try on, and when they find a style they like in the correct size rather than selling the one in-store, a new pair of pants is shipped to the customer directly. For women you have to go to Europe to shop this fulfillment model.

Does this cut off instant gratification? Sure. But these days it’s possible to get overnight delivery (same day in many large cities) and most retailers have upped their logistics to having warehouses within a day of any destination in the USA and metro Canada. What’s more frustrating than having to wait a day to get the item you tried on? Oh I don’t know, how about going to a store and finding out the item you want is either online only (UGH) or not available in your size in the store to try on? (Double UGH).

Retailers have to start evolving, or they will join the ranks of the picked off retailers like Bebe, The Limited and more that have recently shut their doors entirely. What are your suggestions for helping the in-store experience? What stores do you think nail the digital and store experience?

If you’re interested in reading fashion business articles on the regular like me, I highly recommend a Wall Street Journal subscription! Their articles tend to be very well-researched with a good balance of business-focus and consumer-focus.

55 Comments

  1. kelly
    June 26, 2017 / 10:16 am

    Thank you for this thoughtful and informative post.

    I will always prefer shopping in stores vs. online because I like to see and try on items in person, without having to guess on sizing, fit, or quality and then have to deal with the hassle of a return. For that reason, the idea of trunk show fulfillment quite appeals to me.

    In terms of store experience, I think that what used to really work for Anthro (that sense of discovery in wandering around the store and finding the clothing interspersed throughout the housewares, etc.) no longer works because there just TOO MUCH STUFF. It used to be a smaller selection of more carefully curated items; that's what made it fun and seen like a treasure hunt.

    Now the stores are stuffed to the rafters with piles and piles of generic stuff you could find anywhere. And instead of one lacy white top, there are now 10 of them with only slight variations. It's not fun, it's exhausting. And I'm just talking about the regular stores, as I've never had the chance to visit a mega-store.

    • June 26, 2017 / 6:39 pm

      I too like trying stuff on in-store, but I have realized that I'm ever more of an online shopper these days because I know that if I wait, the thing I like will go on promo within two weeks. I don't mind paying full price for stuff but if I don't have to I don't want to.

  2. chewy
    June 26, 2017 / 10:22 am

    I am definitely in the price-conscious group. That doesn't mean I won't spend $100-200 for a dress, but if I purchase a skirt for $50 online yesterday and it just got marked down further today, I expect a price adjustment otherwise I feel like I got ripped off. This just happened to me at Ann Taylor and the rep would not budge..the item has not even shipped! I think Anthropologie has spoiled me with their price adjustment policy, but it rubbed me the wrong way.

    • Maggie
      June 26, 2017 / 10:51 am

      I find Ann Taylor to be particularly egregious in this regard. Also never price matching their own website, acting like they are not aware of their own website. When the mall store nearest to me closed, I did not wonder why: they are not keeping up with how consumers shop.

    • Stefanie
      June 26, 2017 / 6:38 pm

      Order it again!

    • June 26, 2017 / 6:42 pm

      The kind of research I've been doing recently at work has helped me realize that the majority of shoppers are in the same category as you chewy, price conscious. Because I leaned trendy myself (especially in my early 20s!) I figured that more than 50% of shoppers like trendy or at least modern but I was so wrong!

      I also figured that as wealth grew shoppers would be less price conscious but again I was dead wrong. So with an overwhelming number of options in terms of stores and price points to shop at I'm no longer as surprised that all these midprice retailers are losing out on market share.

  3. Karen
    June 26, 2017 / 11:12 am

    I went to altar'd state for the first time ever last week and was really impressed with the store layout. Most of their clothing is too young for me to wear (I'm 31) but I found myself wishing I could wear a lot of it. When I got home I checked out the website and nothing really caught my eye. In the store they have fully accessories outfits of almost every item. That dress that looks like nothing special on the website suddenly looks really great when paired with a sweater, necklaces, shoes. Most of the items were under $60. A good in store experience can make me think about buying stuff I wouldn't look twice at online. I think Ann Taylor has the worst in store experience. The lighting is terrible, not a lot of outfits on display, no real logic to how merchandise is displayed.

    • June 26, 2017 / 6:43 pm

      I love that Karen! I feel the same way about Lucky Brand that you do about altar'd state. Online, some of Lucky Brand's stuff looks very appealing but I find myself confused how to wear it. Then I go into their stores where outfits are fully done up and it all makes sense.

      Remember when Anthropologie used to have a dress form with a fully accessorized outfit in-store, and right behind the dress form was every component of the outfit? I miss the days when they set up stores that way.

      • Maggie
        June 27, 2017 / 2:02 am

        Oh my gosh, I spend so much time at Anthro asking where the items on a mannequin are located WHEN THEY SHOULD BE NEAR THE MANNEQUIN ….. well, shall I say "I could spend so much time at Anthro asking…." but I don't because the SAs are often like "oh things got rearranged um where is that blouse…." how hard it is it to have the clothes right there?

        • June 27, 2017 / 9:17 pm

          I'm also SHOCKED by the amount of stuff stores keep in backstock. I can't tell you how many times I've gone to a store and had this unfold.

          Me: "Hi! I'm looking for xyz item. Your system says you have 25 in my size but I can't find it on the floor, is it in backstock perhaps?"
          SA: "No, I don't think we have that item."
          Me: "…"
          Me: "Would you mind checking inventory? Here is the style number."
          SA: *checks inventory* "Oh you're right, we do have 25 in your size. Must be in backstock!"

          Meanwhile pretty much any other customer isn't going to see that item til it hits sale because it's hiding in backstock. I do not get it.

          • Stefanie
            June 27, 2017 / 9:31 pm

            Agree. And if they don't have enough staff to go get it… even more annoying

  4. Christy
    June 26, 2017 / 11:13 am

    As a full-time working (outside the home) mother of 3, I hardly have time to run into a brick and mortar store to actually browse.
    I purchase most of my items online, where I have the luxury of trying them on in my home with my own lights and mirrors. It’s easier for me to purchase multiple sizes and items and then quickly run in and return whatever doesn’t work.
    I absolutely loathe going into most retail stores in my area. LOFT, BR, and Jcrew have the rudest employees that offer no customer service. I absolutely cannot stand to go into their stores.
    I miss the days of wanting to wander around Anthro, but the lust is gone and so there is really no place I love to shop in store unless I have a free day (without kids) and would prefer to go bargain hunting at TJ Maxx and Marshalls.
    Perhaps my style is changing, but I can’t recall the last item I purchased that made me super excited as clothing once did.
    I do enjoy looking at blogs and sometimes Instagram, but I also question whether or not the person is actually wearing these outfits. Don’t get me wrong, they are usually pretty put-together and adorable. However, wearing 5” heels while carrying a toddler on my hip doesn’t seem practical. Again, I’m probably changing in my style as you rarely find me in heels over 2” these days.
    I am hoping Anthro can make a change to survive this as I would miss them when they are gone. I do think stores need to offer an “experience” to get customers in the doors. Nobody wants rude employees, loud music, and then mediocre choices.

    • Lori
      June 26, 2017 / 12:22 pm

      Well stated Christy. I think many of the retailers just need to know their customers better, and your comments summarize the lifestyle of many parents, including myself, with professional careers, families, and busy lives. I mostly shop or browse online, though I do enjoy going to Anthro or yes TJMaxx when I have some free time. Anthro is probably best to cultivate the atmosphere of the store, as this seems to be what everyone loves. I love the vibe of the store, but honestly I hate "hunting" for the items I saw online. And my store moves them all the time, so they are never in the same place. Though the browsing and finding something unique is always fun. I do love the rack of onsies which are mostly online only items that have been returned. This feels special to browse though somehow. Anyway I think Christy's sentiment are on track for me.

      • Anthropolitan
        June 26, 2017 / 1:39 pm

        Oh, goodness, the moving stuff around. Drives me nuts. Even the store employees don't know where stuff went half the time.

        And totally love the one racks. My stores are very inconsistent with these, and I wish they would always do them. I always take at least one thing into the fitting room to try.

        • Christy
          June 26, 2017 / 2:21 pm

          LOVE the one racks, too!!!!

          • Eina
            June 27, 2017 / 1:15 pm

            That's where I head when I've done my returns. Everything I'm interested is online-only these days, or as Anthropologie puts it:

            "Item unavailable for pickup at this store."

            Oh,how I miss having an Anthropologie dressing room packed with clothes to try on when I had an afternoon off (not that most people have that luxury).

    • June 26, 2017 / 6:45 pm

      I hear you! I definitely remember times when I'd be so very excited about my newest piece of clothing, and I think part of that was just the 'Yay! I can afford nice stuff now!' feeling. I still get excited about clothing (I love my recent LOFT purchases for example) but it's on a more subdued level.

  5. Cindy
    June 26, 2017 / 11:59 am

    Luv walking into a store. I do not shop online. Anthro. was a fav., sadly no longer. Tag sale I was going to just pass on but popped in as I am an optimist…. why waste my time. It has lost me. Clothing is meh. I am not in the least a "social" tech. gal. I am not swayed or seduced by " trend", quite the opposite….. think this was why I came to Anthro., unique and could freshen your closet/ use with what was there. I mainly and quite happily shop TJ Maxx only Brick n mortar , they have a web site that is very difficult. I came to the blog world and so enjoyed the Sunday readers outfits here. It was refreshing to see happy and joyful faces.

    • June 26, 2017 / 6:46 pm

      The TJ Maxx article goes into why their website is so hard to shop — it's because of their business model. I think they like it that way. 😬

  6. June 26, 2017 / 12:40 pm

    *sighhhhh* I remember the days when I would spend up to two hours just walking around my tiny Anthro store. It was an experience and the clothes were so unique and fun to look at, even though I couldn't afford them (back in 2010 I was newly-graduated and broke as a joke). Now that I have a good job and can afford more, I spent less time than ever in Anthro. 🙁

    • June 26, 2017 / 6:47 pm

      Yup, this is pretty much how I feel! 2008, every lunch break I was in Anthro on 5th Ave/16th Street for nearly the entire time. I remember when I saved up enough to purchase the Ferrous Flower Sheath late that summer and how thrilled I was!!

  7. June 26, 2017 / 1:16 pm

    This is a fabulous post! As someone who works in corporate retail we are always trying to figure out how to recapture our "lost" customers and I think some of your ideas are awesome! With 50% of our sales shifting digital, I would love to hear your ideas for building our better websites. As someone mentioned above, what looks flat online looks great when you see it modeled in-store or on a blogger.

    • June 26, 2017 / 6:49 pm

      Thanks Gentry Adams! Personally I think the key to having a good fashion retail website is presenting items in a consistent way, utilizing as many angles and outfits as possible, and also having a shot of the item on a white background which makes it easy for fashion rags/bloggers to utilize the items in collages.

      For some good examples, I think Zara's website is great at this, as is Madewell's. Nordstrom's site is really good at incorporating items into outfits, though it fails at linking up entire related items in the outfit. Unfortunately with its colored backgrounds and weird angles I'd say Anthropologie's website is an example of what not to do.

    • Lori
      June 27, 2017 / 8:04 am

      I also think ease of use and how quickly images load, and being able to see a lot of the items at once is really important. I can't stand websites that require me to click through pages and pages just to browse. It should be easy.
      If you want another website annoyance or tip: have the fabric content available in "quick view" of the item. I cannot stand the fact that I have to click on each individual item to see if it is cotton or the dreaded poly. This drives me crazy at Ann Taylor/Loft. I do not shop online with them, as I cannot easily browse and I have to click on each item only to discover that yes it is polyester and I don't want it.

      • Eina
        June 27, 2017 / 1:10 pm

        Funny, Zara used to have a feature where you could filter out by fabric content, but as the quality went down in the last couple of years, they took that feature away. And the exact fabric content used to be at the top of the page, where you could see it first thing, and now it is buried at the bottom and you have to click on it.

        Anthro still can't get their fabric content right. It needs detail, and it needs to be correct.

  8. Eina
    June 26, 2017 / 1:34 pm

    Great post, as usual.

    These days I prefer small labels that use natural fabrics, and fit me without major alterations, so I've been paying more and buying less for new clothes. I never know where I'll find something, but I've even ordered from Europe when the size info is super ultra detailed and accurate. Sadly Anthro's stores have mostly fillers these days, but plenty of online-only clothes and shoes are selling out with free shipping or a 20% discount. They seem to do well with brands that are hard to find in the US.

    As for the online experience, which I am loathing more and more with Anthro, I find it a shame that they still can't even get the sizing right, or the colors consistent, or even show an item that can be worn different ways. I just bought a silk dress that comes with a separate slip that I found in-store when I did my last returns and it never even hit my radar online. It is petite, and yet fits so much better than the model, and I can wear it three ways which isn't shown online.

    As for Zara, I have some incredibly well-made and perfectly fitting suits and dresses going back some years, and they still look edgy yet classic if that makes sense. They were mostly the Studio line. I bought them because BR, Anthro, and even the labels carried by Saks and Nieman just didn't fit my body right. But the last time I kept something was a year ago. Their quality has gone down too.

    I will be placing an order for a UZI NYC dress if my size pops back, as the reviews make me think it will be good for hot days. Might throw in a pair of shoes too.

    • Melanie
      June 26, 2017 / 4:15 pm

      I am curious what small labels you have had good luck with. I started out shopping at Anthro for the fun and unique pieces, but over the years, I began to prefer their casual basics (fitted tops, wide leg pants, shorts etc). That is more my style now as I get older, and I had been happy with the selection at Anthro. But these kind of pieces are becoming harder to find there now…seriously, no Pilcro linen widelgs this year?!? Those have been staples for me for years. So now I am trying to figure out where else to turn for the polished casual basics I prefer. I know I may be in the minority as far as what other readers miss about Anthro, but this is another category that has gone downhill…

      • Eina
        June 27, 2017 / 1:02 pm

        Well, few clothes I buy new now are even close to being casual basics, so the labels won't help much. Like you, I primarily go to Anthro for fun and original pieces, and started moving to basics with a twist the last couple of years. I even paid full price as they had petite cuts, but I must say I'm disappointed that they start falling apart so soon even with hand washing and air drying.

        Anthro house-brand trousers never worked for me, only some of the Cartonnier's vintage style shorts that I've bought every year.

        You may want to also look at garmentory and need supply as they show stock from small boutiques and there are many small labels they carry. I've ordered cotton t-shirts and less fitted items through them. I also look at net-a-porter, yoox, matchesfashion.co.uk, brownsfashion.com, although I far too short for the items from Lemaire and Roksanda Ilinčić that I love (but could rarely afford to buy).

        Do also look at Danish and Swedish labels as I find their quality is often stellar. Sadly, my lack of height and waist to hip ratio hasn't worked for any of the trousers I've tried so far (Baum und Pferdgarten, Malene Birger, etc. pp.).

        • Shari
          June 29, 2017 / 6:22 am

          A retailer I shop at Reformation uses a good deal if not all natural materials. Their price points are higher and because the clothing is trendy it sells out quickly but i have purchased some cute pieces from them and they are nice quality.

      • Pamela
        July 10, 2017 / 4:10 pm

        This is exactly how I feel! I was so bummed when there were no linen pants this year. I would like to see more basic tees with cute details like hems, lace, ruffles, assymetrical details . Left of center is a good example.

    • June 26, 2017 / 6:57 pm

      My favorite Zara top is a blouse from 2010 or 2009 maybe, it's a pinstriped oxford stripe cotton percale blouse with slightly ruffly shoulders and two arm bands for fit. It is my favorite blouse ever!! Sadly I had to get rid of it a year ago after it stained permanently…the look was very 1940s journalist and I adored it!

      Here it is on me:
      <img src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_580e8gfCdyw/S700JJN2pYI/AAAAAAAAGWA/UBdBvEgiou8/s1600/2010-04-07_2120.jpg&quot; />

  9. Anthropolitan
    June 26, 2017 / 6:32 pm

    Love these types of posts, Roxy, so thank you for the analysis. I find the business side of things as interesting as the fashion side!

    I will buy online, but I very strongly prefer to shop instore and do the bulk of my shopping that way. Ease of returns is the #1 thing I consider when shopping online, and by ease of returns I mean can I bring it back to a physical store for an immediate refund. I do like what I see in the Boden, Sundance and Garnet Hill catalogues, but I rarely buy from them because returns mean packaging things back up and taking them to a post office, and then waiting 2-4 weeks to see my money back. This often crosses a credit card cycle too, which means that I will have to pay for something I'm not even keeping. I bought so much more from Boden back when they did trunk shows, even though I had less money to spend.

    I also agree with the showcasing items instore. I went to Anthro to do a return last week and actually tried on 3 things that I really loved. One of them has been online for weeks, but I never noticed it because it's a very cropped top, and I'm not going to wear that. BUT- they had this top: https://www.anthropologie.com/shop/villa-midi-top… layered over this dress as a capelet: https://www.anthropologie.com/shop/laced-hem-slip… and I could suddenly see how I could (and would) wear it. (Note – I thought the dress looked horribly cheap, and size down on the top). I also saw how rich and gorgeous the colors in the top were, which totally does not show online. I almost bought it on the spot.

    I do a lot of shopping at consignment shops because everything is right there in front of you to try on and take home that day, completely unique, and reasonably priced. Also, I can sell my clothes and use store credit to purchase new things, so often I'm not spending any money at all. Can't go wrong there!

    • June 26, 2017 / 6:59 pm

      I do agree that I still get inspired in-store by Anthro, in situations just like you've mentioned where they style items well together. I'm surprised they don't do that more and there seems to be a disconnect in leveraging those stylings online…? I dunno, I give up trying to figure them out. They seem to have their fingers in their ears chanting la la la while their ship is taking on water.

  10. Karend
    June 26, 2017 / 7:49 pm

    I have shopped at Anthropologie with my daughters over the years and we were always able to find things that we liked in spite of our age differences. I use to always say that I could just "move in and live there" because the stores were always so inviting, plus there were always the bedding displays! I find it harder to find things that look good on me these days and I thought that maybe it was just my age. It sounds like I'm not the only one who feels that way. I really miss the natural fabrics of the past and I hope that Anthropologie returns to that. I have to order online because I live so far from a store but I love to visit the stores whenever I travel. I have to admit, a visit to Anthropologie is still a highlight of my vacations.

    • June 27, 2017 / 10:19 am

      It does seem like Anthropologie has followed the likes of the Gap into using production houses where quality, consistency and material are questionable at best. I don't understand it at all.

  11. Jules
    June 26, 2017 / 10:29 pm

    Hi, Roxy!!

    First time on your new site and it's amazing! So profesh!! I'm so happy to see you expand out since anthro has been going on an oddball track the last few years!

    I feel like every time I came to your blogspot site, I just wanted to complain about anthro! And now you launch this amazing site and I feel like I took a breath of fresh air and realized that there's more to life than anthro!

    That's all! Rock on!
    Julie <3

    • June 27, 2017 / 10:18 am

      Thank you Jules!! I'm so delighted that you like the new site. 😄 What a lovely compliment!

  12. lazypadawan
    June 26, 2017 / 11:03 pm

    I've shopped at Zara for over 20 years. One of the genius things they do in-store is they will put on display an entire outfit on the same racks. You've got the blouse or dress, a jacket, pants, matching shoes, and matching bags all right there so the shopper never says to herself, "What the hell would I wear with that?" Better yet, the shopper thinks, "Why not take the whole wad?"

    • June 27, 2017 / 10:20 am

      Exactly! It is not some mystery!!!

  13. Anonymous
    June 26, 2017 / 11:08 pm

    As someone who is on the larger end of the size spectrum, I wholeheartedly agree with the trunk show idea. I'm tired of paying shipping just for the privilege of trying an item on! Does it take up that much extra space to carry the 16's in store too?

    • June 27, 2017 / 10:22 am

      It's totally a psychological thing. It is based on a primal fear people have that they will be cast out of society if they wander too far outside the norms. In fashion it's often particularly twisted — designers claim to be outside the norm but then do peculiar things like only designing for sizes 10 and down. It's conformism leaking out in sick ways. 100 years ago to be plump was considered a sign of outstanding health, and somewhere along the line Madison Ave corrupted 'health' into thin at any cost.

      I do believe we're heading into a sea change in this regard. We shall see!

  14. Becky
    June 27, 2017 / 1:37 am

    I think people are realizing why pay a high price for the same quality and aesthetic as f21 or similar. I would pay a higher price at Anthro cuz the designs were unique even if the quality was hit or miss. Now it just seems so basic and I could find the same pieces elsewhere for cheap. And yeah I have f21 shirts for years that I still wear and hey they are cotton.

  15. Chavi
    June 27, 2017 / 2:35 am

    I live overseas and do a lot of my shopping online which is then slipped to a friend who then brings it to me… It's anticlimactic to buy something and then wait two weeks to revive it but I don't often have any alternative. So it's even more disappointing when I purchase a dress from Anthropologie and it turns out completely different from what it looked like online. Either the label is different, or the material is different or there's no zipper when the description says there is. If you're relying on online shoppers you have to be more accurate in your description of items you're selling. Also, I think I might scream if u see another cold shoulder top/dress….. There's one thing with being on trend, but another to translate it to 75% of your merchandise. Please, please, please more dresses with sleeves, more tops that don't end above your belly button.
    🙂

    • June 27, 2017 / 10:24 am

      Yes! I can remember about a year ago, maybe more, starting to get highly annoyed that an item in Anthro's catalogues had little resemblance to the final product. Perhaps that is when my love affair started to sour? Now I barely pay attention to the lookbooks.

  16. Soleil
    June 27, 2017 / 9:32 am

    Great analysis, Roxy — your point about giving shoppers styling inspiration is #1 to me. If you're standing in a store (or sitting in front of your computer), considering an item you love but can't think of what you'd wear it with or how to style it, an image or a mannequin can make all the difference. The inverse is true too–an image can make you want something you had no idea you needed. Huge missed opportunity that Anthro and JCrew used to get so right.

    Online retail could also learn a thing or two about how garments are sold by private sellers on the 2nd hand market as well. Successful Etsy, eBay, Instagram sellers all have in common: clear bust, waist, hip, and length measurements; clear front and back photos of garment; clear close-up for colour. These assurances take away a lot of the hesitation of online shopping and help fuel impulse buying.

  17. Dana
    June 27, 2017 / 1:03 pm

    I live in a very rural area with no close retail stores and most of my purchases are online. Instagram is almost always my source for selecting my purchases. I love to see what real people buy and how they style their clothes. I shop at JCrew, Ann Taylor, Loft, Talbots, Anthro. Ann Taylor frustrates me with their price adjustment policies and the only way I have received satisfaction is to write customer service (calling does nothing) it's sad that I have to tell them how Anthro & JCrew handle this issue. Ann Taylor also charges too much for shipping, I hate to buy more than I want just to get free shipping. Talbots is also frustrating as they charge $8 for shipping & takes forever for your purchase to arrive. I hate to see these retailers disappear but they need to understand their customers and how they show. By the way, I am 63 and have an Instagram feed @stylediariesbydana

    • chewy
      June 27, 2017 / 1:56 pm

      How did you get price adjustment with Ann Taylor? Right now this is my situation and I am so annoyed I can't get money back for something that has not even been shipped! I can't reorder since my sizes are out of stock, so I'm left with a loss or I could just return everything since so far my experience has not been good. Their customer service irks me.

      • Dana
        June 28, 2017 / 11:17 pm

        I wrote an email to their customer service explained my issue my item had not shipped went on sale & they would not give me a price adjustment when I called. I explained the issue in my email and stated that JCrew or Anthro would give me a price adjustment no problem. I also said that their policies kept me from buying more from them and they needed to rethink how they treat customers especially ones that have Ann Taylor credit cards. I got an email back right away with a price adjustment so frustrating to have to go through but hope this might help you.

  18. Barbara
    June 27, 2017 / 7:21 pm

    I just don't get Anthro! They made such a big commitment to their brick and mortar stores yet they don't stock them! Of COURSE online sales are going to be doing better if they don't have the merchandise in the stores to buy! Is this only obvious to the consumer? I keep trying to support my local Anthro, but most of the items I want never make it in to the stores. It isn't only because people want the convenience of shopping online. It's the only way we can get the stuff. Duh! And they keep pushing these ugly clothes that are not appropriate for their main demographic. I still maintain some brainchild said, Free People is doing well, so let's make Anthro like Free People! Let's show lots of skin, especially bare midriffs! That will appeal to the 40 something with money to afford Anthro prices! Let's completely abandon what made us great in the first place! They're just trying to be all corporate and it has about undone Anthro. If they need to have all these basics and athletic clothes and everything else, then they ought to develop a collection called "Classic Anthro" or similar where they try to offer the kind of clothes that they were known for. I do not mean vintage reproductions like they did awhile back, but rather pieces that replicate the essence of that golden era. It could be like J Crew has J Crew Collection. I think people would like this and be willing to pay the prices if the clothes were made with creativity and quality. Heads really need to roll at Anthro and retail in general and get in some new blood with some creative energy. Like you said, Roxy, drastic measures need to be taken if they are going to survive!

  19. Magnolia
    June 27, 2017 / 9:20 pm

    I love to shop in-store but really I am a size 8 true petite at 4'11, pear with a tummy, and there are very few petites that actually fit me.. Ann taylor petites are almost always long for me and frumpy.. Anthro still has some clothing where petites fit me well. Basically.. I just don't find clothing that fits me and therefore need to experiment a lot and shop things online…take my time to decide and then possess clothing that works. I have few items now that fit my fashion tastes, the main priority is a good and flattering fit.
    I crave a good store experience but its just hard to find, especially frustrating when in-store time is just wasted with stuff that doesn't flatter a big stomach.

  20. Tara
    July 2, 2017 / 7:04 pm

    Great post, Roxy. I think Anthro is stuck in a vicious cycle that it can't break. The consumer is programmed to look for discounts, which leads to lower quality in order to make profits at such discounted prices (less embroidery, cheaper fabrics, fewer adornments, fewer labor intensive extras like zippers), which leads to higher full prices to make the customer believe s/he is getting a deal amidst a constant flow of promotions, which leads to a cheapening status of the brand (caused by both the lower quality and constant discounts), which leads to less foot traffic in the store, fewer purchases of the small ticket impulse items (though the $150 free shipping threshold is helping with that).

    Also, I believe that the increased online shopping has made a huge impact on shapes, which I have found to be problematic. Sizing has shifted to XS, S, M, etc., from the more precise fitted number sizes, and that has coincided with the increase in online sales. Swing dresses and dresses without waistlines are designed to fit a RANGE of sizes, in one size. It makes sense that if a customer is ordering online and guessing size, they have better odds of fitting a loose, flowy stretch material dress sized M (which really fits S, M and L) than a size 8 dress with a waist and a zipper. The retailer saves costs by not having to install time consuming and more labor intensive features like zippers. But overall, I think this tactic is backfiring on the retailers. I think customers want a return to waistlines.

  21. D. Johnson
    July 19, 2017 / 9:19 pm

    Thank you so much for this post. The differences between online and in-store shopping are fascinating to me and the comments were a great source of info and ideas.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *