Online retailer Bonobos, not to be confused with the eponymous simian, wants to be the Amazon of Pants. Men’s pants, specifically.
[I perused the Bonobos website. They indeed have a wide variety of men’s pants. If you live in the West Village. Of if you are built like Adam Scott. The actor or the golfer, take your pick. Best I can tell Bonobos does not sell “husky” sizes to fit generously-proportioned gentlemen like myself. Not a pleat to be found. But that’s o.k., I have a secret weapon: Michael Duru. A good tailor is a must for a man of a certain age.]
Bonobos’ revenue growth was strong, but like many web-based businesses, growth was slowing and the cost of customer acquisition through traditional means (if Google ads and web searches are “traditional”) was high – as much as $20 to $50 per customer according to a recent NPR New Tech City article.
Thinking that brand awareness is brand awareness, Bonobos took the radical step of – get this – opening a physical store. Bonobos choose a high traffic spot in New York’s Soho neighborhood, which appears to be ground zero for the no-pleat crowd. And a place where people might be thinking about shopping.
I suspected that some online retailers would have to go this route eventually. Unlike books and music, clothing and shoes are more personal, and sometimes customers have to touch and try on the items before a purchase. At least before an initial purchase. Do you know the difference between worsted wool and gabardine? I sure as heck don’t.
This makes sense. You can go to a store, be measured by a professional conversant in the styles offered, take a look at the product, and maybe even try on a sample item.
Take it s step further. The store would have minimal inventory, just enough to let customers decide if the look and fit of an item works for them. But then the clerk can then go online with the customer right in the store and help the customer choose the colors and fabrics they prefer. The clerk swipes the customer’s credit card and the items, already properly fitted, show up at the customer’s door the next day.
So don’t lament the passing of brick-and-mortar retail stores, or semi-custom fit clothing just yet. There is a whole new generation of retail about to be born.