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Going Seamless

The days of “if you build it, they will come” are no longer.

The days of “if you build it, they will come” are no longer. Consumer shopping habits are changing dramatically. Aspects like instant delivery, intuitive commerce and interactive store experiences are just some of the new trends radically altering the retail landscape. The digital and physical worlds continue to blur, a slight of hand that must be as seamless as possible since consumer expectations and demands have never been greater. No matter where, when or how a shopping experience takes place, it better be efficient, easy and entertaining. Fail to deliver and shoppers can and will go elsewhere—often with a few swipes of a smartphone. Welcome to the new retail world order where the consumer calls the shots.

But shop millions of consumers must and will continue to do—every day, in stores and online. It’s not an either/or scenario, despite numerous reports that brick-and-mortar retailing is on the verge of extinction. (Why, exactly, would Amazon shell out $13.7 billion for Whole Foods Market and its 450 storefronts if the world’s largest digital retailer believed brick-and-mortar is doomed?) Amazon knows better than anyone the importance of being seamless, and its lack of face-to-face human interaction has been its Achilles’ heel since day one. In fact, a recent study on consumer shopping and purchasing habits indicates that 80 percent of Generation Z—the next demographic pig in the python on the heels of Millennials—likes to shop in stores, especially those that offer an entertaining component. However, that doesn’t just mean a few in-store trunk shows will generate an immediate boost in traffic and sales. That may draw shoppers in and while some may make a purchase there, others may prefer to buy later online. Either way, it must be a seamless process, or you run the risk of losing their attention and the sale.

Tutu Spoiled, a special occasion boutique in New Jersey and this month’s “What’s Selling” profile (p. 36), understands the importance of being seamless. Owner Jessica Snarski launched the business online in 2009 and opened her store four years later. She has since branched out with a growing custom design business. Customers are literally “tickled pink” shopping amid the 800-square-foot boutique’s rosy décor and tons of tulle, but they can also shop whenever and wherever online, as well as have a special occasion item made-to-order for their little princess. Snarski’s ability to continually adapt and evolve to the wants and needs of her clientele—oftentimes before they even know—is the mark of a great retailer.

Indeed, intuitiveness looks to be the new black when it comes to retail formats. Subscription box services are popping up across the retail landscape like mushrooms—Amazon’s recent test launch of Prime Wardrobe being the latest example. Mall traffic statistics clearly reflect that many consumers just don’t have the time or desire to browse. Yet shopping online can be overwhelming and time-consuming with thousands of sites offering any and all goods. The concept of letting retailers do the shopping for consumers just might just be one way to reinsert their importance and expertise into the equation. It’s also quite possibly represents the ultimate in seamless retailing: “Don’t worry, we know what you need and want as well as when you need it. Leave all the shopping to us…” Be sure to read our Talking Points feature, “Thinking  Inside the Box” (p. 8), for childrenswear-specific subscription box service examples and why this format might have some legs.

Last but surely not least, nothing makes retail as seamless as beautiful garments. (They sell themselves, right?) Our Spring ’18 special occasion story, “Picture Perfect” (p. 22), is no exception. Timeless silhouettes updated with contemporary charm details reflect the modern elegance of today’s special occasion market. Amid a world of revolutionary change, I also find a bit of solace in that some aspects of our industry never change—like special occasion wear is best extra-special.

Such has been the approach of Fran and Julia Arazi, the mother-daughter duo behind Pastourelle and the subject of this month’s Q&A (p.10). The designers continue to produce one-of-a-kind keepsakes season after season for its growing portfolio of dress brands. Their guiding light? “Keep it special,” Julia says. It’s a simple, universal rule of thumb for wholesalers and retailers, alike. You might say it’s seamless, too.

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