Many people have predicted that brick-and-mortar retail will start dying a slow death. Its days are supposedly numbered thanks to the power of online giants like Amazon. But wait. The prophets of doom were predicting the end of brick-and-mortar retail more than a decade ago. Yet here we are. The Stockist rolls on, as do so many other clothing boutiques.
Online retail is absolutely affecting brick-and-mortar sales. Yet retail clothing is surprisingly resilient. It seems less affected by online sales than other parts of the retail world. It turns out there are good reasons for this. Clothing sales are somewhat unique; they rely on the brick-and-mortar model for survival.
Here are three reasons why we believe clothing boutiques will stick around:
1. The Desire to Touch and Handle
People have an innate desire to touch and handle clothing before they buy. Even something as simple as a pair of denim jeans can be purchased with more confidence if you can hold them in your hand first. Perhaps this is because clothing is so personal and intimate. People would rather handle it in person than buy it sight unseen.
This isn’t the same for all industries, of course. Products that are standardized are much easier to buy online. For example, you can order a book on Amazon, and you’ll know what to expect. Clothing is different because there’s such a wide variety of fabrics, textures, colors, and styles.
2. Fitting is a Big Deal
Even more important than seeing and feeling the clothing is trying them on. This is where a brick-and-mortar boutique has an advantage. Buy that new pair of jeans online and you are going to have to trust that the size chart is accurate. What if the jeans don’t fit? Now you have to either return them or eat the loss.
Shopping at a brick-and-mortar boutique eliminates that risk. You try everything before you buy. Walk out the door with jeans in hand and you are assured they will fit when you get home. Size will not change in the car.
At least 30% of online purchases are returned, compared to only 8% of in-store purchases. It’s true that some online retailers make it as easy as possible to return clothes that don’t fit. Some even pay for shipping. But still, discovering that clothes bought online don’t fit is inconvenient. It takes time to deal with returns and order new items. It is time you can save by shopping at a brick-and-mortar store.
3. Shopping is Social
The third reason clothing boutiques like The Stockist continue to thrive is the reality that shopping is a social experience. People go shopping together because they want to spend time pursuing a common interest. When it comes to shopping for clothing, taking someone else along means having an extra set of eyes. It means having a sounding board for your fashion choices.
You simply cannot get that same social experience online. As a result, buying clothing online is purely a functional exercise. It certainly isn’t the same thing as taking a shopping trip with your closest friends.
Online retail has its place. In some cases, it is dominating brick-and-mortar retail. However, that is not the case for clothing. The American clothing boutique is holding its own because shopping for clothing is a unique experience, and The Stockist is here to stay.