Dec 102011

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As more business ventures establish themselves in cyberspace, a proliferation of online fashion clearing houses are gaining momentum in world of e-commerce. Traditional retail websites like eBay and Amazon exist as places for come-one, come-all retailing and reselling. These new ‘Flash Fashion’ sites are more geared toward the design conscious consumer who wants quality goods hand picked to reduce time spent shopping around at drastically reduced prices. These sites provide a consistent retail experience for luxury goods shoppers looking for a steal.

Feifei Sun of TIME reports on the major players in the game of  ‘Flash Fashion’ retailers: Gilt, MyHabit, Rue La La, Haute Look and Idelli. These sites take excess merchandise from upscale retailers and provide quick turnaround by selling items at a significantly reduced cost. Every day at noon, sites like Gilt and MyHabit offer up to 80% off retail prices on luxury items from well known brands. While the sites typically offer a view of the sales a few hours ahead of time, shoppers can only begin adding things to their cart at noon. Most sites allow the shopper to collect items in order to pay for shipping only once. The sites also have mobile apps to allow for around the clock shopping for those times when a desktop isn’t within reach.

While in the past, these kind of deals were available to only the ultra fashion conscious urbanite – the availability offered by the Internet allows for an extension of the market to anyone with a smart phone. As these somewhat revolutionary sites become more established, it will be easier for brands to get their product out in the market. Retailers benefit from e-commerce because of the lower cost of entry, exposure to a practically world-wide market and increased sustainability. There is significant research in the areas around how shopping behavior varies between shopping online against in person. The ability for a consumer to easily shop out deals makes these types of sites more appealing to the price conscious consumer. The ease at which people can both read reviews of and purchase goods online provides a strong reassurance in knowing they have found a competitive price. This decrease in buyers remorse can only increase the strength of online retail, especially at the way women’s apparel is growing, in the future.

One of the challenging bits around retail shopping online is the inability to experience the product first hand before purchase. While those with model bodies may not have an issue, the rest of us may find inconvenience in not knowing the fit of a garment. This is where I think an opportunity may come for technology to step in to provide a remedy. I want a body scanning tool (I’m thinking something that creates a 3D model of our body via video?) that will help consumers to visually understand how the garment will fit (or maybe even provide suggestions based on body type). Even better – sewing machines that personalize garments to fit no matter the consumers body type. Over the years I’ve found brands that I know fit my body type and I tend to restrict my shopping to those stores due to the decreased amount of effort (and dismay) required to find pieces I’ll actually purchase. While many women do enjoy the hunt, there are stores I stay away from because I know nothing will fit. It seems a tool like this would have the potential to help retailers better understand their market in addition to helping consumers find pieces they will both buy and wear.

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