The clothing retail business is always trying to keep pace with ever-changing fashion trends of the time. The industry is comprised of a fierce competitive market, which is composed of large chains (ex. the Gap), small independent retailers (ex. Pink boutique in Carytown), and of the emerging dot.com e-tailers..such as delias.com. With “Generation Y” now entering as a consumer segment, the fashion trends span across a very broad spectrum. With many technology savvy consumers in the present, retailers are scrambling to find new ways to meet their demands. Consumers are presented with numerous options as to what styles of clothing are available, and where to buy them. Due to the large presence of competitors in this market, consumers therefore have more discretion over which business they patronize, making customer satisfaction critical to the survival of a business.
In order to achieve this customer satisfaction, many retailers have turned to the internet for support. In fact, most big retailers, such as the Gap, Neiman Marcus, and the Limited, have branched out their business in the form of a website. In addition, many virtual companies (a.k.a. Dot.com’s) without a brick-and-mortar foundation have sprung up within the last three years, thus becoming known as e-tailors.
Traditional brick-and-mortar retailers that have launched into cyberspace as well are also providing customers with specific fashion direction (Gallanis 4). Even more notable are the Dot.com’s , who are making their presence known. To understand the Dot.Com’s ability to attract consumer attention, you should be aware of the services they offer. They provide service value because they provide descriptions of the clothing on hand, and give other helpful information such as size charts. The websites have addresses where consumers can mail questions too, or in some cases have live representatives that can directly chat with the customer. Most legitimate e-tailers also have a return policy, so the customer can return their purchase if they aren’t satisfied. As Jonathan Morris, executive vice-president of Bluefly.com states, “The internet offers an advantage over traditional brick-and-mortar retailers. On the internet, merchants have the opportunity to collapse the purchase decision at the point of purchase” (qtd. in Clark 76).
Consumers have new opportunities as well with Dot.Com’s. Another feature of Dot.Com’s that is gaining popularity and helping the internet gain a foothold in the market, is that Dot.Com’s offer convenience value. The only effort a customer has to make to reach the merchandise is directing their web browser to the website! Some sites, in fact, such as delias.com, hardly advertise at all.
Delia’s is a teen fashion company that started out of a garage in Brooklyn, N.Y, and turned into a successful catalog-order company. Three years ago, the company decided to focus its business on the internet. Stephen Kahn, CEO of brand apparel at Delia’s states “Online offers us a completely new opportunity: to bring kids together in one space.” (Kahn and Ebenkamp 32) His statement is clearly reinforced by Delia’s sales figures. Miller and Kahn report that with virtually no advertising, the storefronts have attracted over 100,000 buyers and more than 5,000 catalog requests each day. They go on to state that 85% of Delia’s revenue now comes from e-tailing (p32).
What then, is the future of e-tailing? I believe that as far as the fashion market is concerned, the fashion Dot.Com’s will continue to flourish. Delia’s draws the majority of its profit from its website, which indicates to me that its customers would prefer shopping online then through their catalog. I have purchased clothing from delias.com, it was quick and very convenient. As a customer myself, I would have to say that as long as the website is easy to navigate, that business stands an excellent chance of growing into a recognizable establishment in the fashion world.
As our society becomes even more technology conscious, large retailers will have well-established websites to compete in the virtual clothing market. As e-business becomes more prevalent in our culture, I believe that there will be an overall increase in the Dot.Com sector of the fashion market. The only consumers with whom the Dot.Com’s will likely never make a sale to are the technophobes, or people who fear or dislike technology. This group will not consist of very high numbers and its lack of business will not harm e-tailing. The bottom line, what I predict the industry will look like in five years is this: It will continue to flourish, only then we’ll have a solid, established alternative of going to the store..e-shopping!
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