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The Business of Fashion

February 7, 2011

This evening, I had the pleasure of hearing designer Norma Kamali, Wall Street Journal Fashion Writer Teri Agins, Robert Verdi (celeb stylist), Alexandra Maybank (CEO and Co-Founder of Gilt Groupe) and Stephanie Solomon (Fashion Director at Bloomingdale’s) speak  about “The Business of Fashion” and its direction as consumers navigate both brick and mortar and e-commerce options.  This esteemed group of panelists debated everything from the evolution of retail (what is the future of department store shopping?) to the merits of fashion and beauty bloggers as they influence customer behavior.  But at the center of each conversation was “bricks vs. clicks.”

Certainly, I left the forum with many questions, the primary one being how can retailers redefine the social experience (that we enjoy online) and engage customers in store? It’s a tough question with several answers, I imagine.  I actually think retailers who provide meaningful in-store experiences must find a way to translate that to online shopping.  For example, Bloomingdale’s invested millions of dollars transforming most of the first floor of its 59th Street flagship to one of most innovative, awe-inspiring beauty destinations in the country.  And they did absolutely nothing to enhance the online beauty experience.  In fact, I find shopping on Bloomingdales.com one of the most frustrating online shopping experiences (largely because the merchandising and inventory selection are terrible and so different from what’s in-store).

I appreciate the inherent challenge of engaging new customers outside your primary area of domain.  I imagine Gilt Groupe launched JetSetter and Gilt City not just with intent of expanding its portfolio to include luxury travel and local deals, but to attach more tangible, memory-driven experiences to the Gilt brand.  Sure, you love the YSL pumps you scored during an online flash sale, but the trip you planned with your best friend to Napa that was made possible through JetSetter is probably  (hopefully) more valuable.

As traditional retailers fumble to create an online destination worth visiting during your cyber commute, I hope they take the first step to bridging the gap and making it a more seamless and holistic experience.

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One Comment leave one →
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