Although all of these services more closely replicate the interpersonal aspect of shopping, they don’t get around the tactility question. So much of shopping is also about suspended expectation, and the gap between what something looks like on a hanger and how it feels when worn. This can be as thrilling as it is frustrating: some items immediately cast off again when an oddly sitting hem or strangely unflattering silhouette renders them a let down, others fitting like an unexpectedly well-tailored glove. Online shopping can get around this through providing easy returns policies, but sometimes it can be rather tedious to have to order something in three sizes or end up queuing for ages at the post office whenever a new dress or pair of shoes isn’t quite right.
Higher up the luxury end of the clothing scale, various businesses have popped up to offer something a little more streamlined. Delivery services like Toshi and Harper Concierge have been pioneering the try-before-you-buy model: delivering things directly to you, depending on your postcode, and letting you try them on before any payment is taken from your account. “When stores aren’t open, we see more engagement from customers wishing to try items on,” Harper Concierge CEO Liam Young says. “During lockdowns we notice customers seem to appreciate the personal service we provide even more.”
In the case of Harper Concierge, they allow customers to choose items to try on, give them an appointment time, and hand deliver the items to their door. Customers then have forty minutes to try on their clothes and decide what they wish to keep. Pre-lockdown, they could also make use of a through-the-door service where the clothes came accompanied by a Style Concierge who could offer recommendations, advice, and alterations.
All of these measures may feel like stopgaps while we await a return to a landscape of enticing clothes racks and changing room mirrors, but they certainly make the shopping experience more enjoyable in the meanwhile. And as some form of restrictions seem likely to stay in place for a while, the chance to get a proper shopping experience without having to leave the house will likely become ever more appreciated.
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