As Retailers Fumble & Falter, One Survivor is Poised to Thrive
The New York Times recently (October 24, 2017) ran a piece entitled You’ll Wear What They Tell You to Wear, e.g. the rise of personal shopper (or their doppelganger algorithms) for brands and retailers. I was struck by how well this evolution of anti-shopping illustrates the demise of shopping as an enjoyable experience. We are just exhausted by the pursuit of stuff we think we might need, whether on-line or in-store. Ergo: The Infantilized Shopper. Mommy, find me something to wear.
I contrasted the reporters’ shopping/buying experiences with various sites to one my daughter and I had recently had in Nordstrom in San Francisco, when we were out there visiting potential colleges. It was a revelation. We arrived in the store, quickly found the section she wanted and whoosh! before we could stumble aimlessly too far afield she’d found two pairs of jeans and double whoosh! there was a young sales associate asking if it would be helpful to go ahead and put the jeans in a dressing room for her? What a great question! No “May I Help You” script here. Those jeans safely nestled in the cubical, we found six more pairs worthy of her consideration, and two by two they were escorted to the dressing room to await my daughter's arrival. This is a well-oiled service machine.
No harm. No foul. She didn’t like the jeans and we moved on to another section, where she was met with equivalent enthusiasm, knowledgeable information on the winter coats on offer, a second luxy private dressing room without the usual blatant markers of suspicion that we were really there to shoplift. Also made obvious by their absence: No flop sweat induced SALE! signs pin-dotting the floor; no sales people mindlessly shuffling along glued to their Twitter feed. When it was time to pay, the young woman noticed the zip code for my credit card and asked if it might be helpful for her to ship the coat, shoes and pants, rather than our having to schlep them around San Francisco, back to our hotel and ultimately as homeward bound carry-on luggage.
I read the piece in The Times and mourned a bit since Nordstrom is really the last store standing to offer such well-timed, tuned and trained service. But, not to worry. It turns out one of the personal shopping sites is from Nordstrom: TrunkClubWoman. How savvy is that? Meeting the customer exactly where she is. My prediction: In this world of moribund retail, decimated malls and undifferentiated brands on constant promotion, Nordstom is my bet for survival on a Darwinian scale.