Thursday, March 28, 2013

New Trends in Store Retailing

One new trend in store retailing has made worldwide headlines: Charging for services that are typically free for in-store browsers and buyers alike . . . like the ability to try on clothing before you buy. Vera Wang had tried a $500 appointment fee for brides-to-be who wanted to try on wedding gowns in its Shanghai store. Public backlash prompted the company to eliminate the fee, which was intended to prevent Wang's exclusive designs from being stolen and remade into cheap knockoff versions in China.

Good riddance to this trend. Charging to try things on will only send more shoppers to their computers or phones for online shopping, because e-stores like Zappos will pay the postage both ways--no questions asked--if you buy shoes, try them on, and decide to return them. Of course the cost of shipping is included in the price, and for many customers, the convenience is well worth the price.

This photo of Hointer, a clothing store in Seattle, illustrates a second new trend in retailing: Using technology to accommodate customer behavior and preferences. Rather than have customers deal with (sometimes overly attentive) salespeople, Hointer displays apparel with QR codes attached. Employees are available for questions or assistance, but the customer is in control here.

The customer downloads Hointer's app and scans the QR code of each item he or she wants to try on (right). By the time he gets to the fitting room, the pants are there. Ready to buy? There's an app for that. No pressure or hassle, shop at your own pace. "It’s not about fast shopping. It’s about an easier way to shop," explains Hointer's founder.

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