I had a different post in mind for tonight, but this one is based on some recent events, and is fluffy and borderline trivial, and that just feels right tonight.
So lets talk about online shopping. I've written before that I buy as much as I can online, but that I struggle with online clothes shopping. It takes me ages to find anything to buy, and then more than half of the time, the item arrives and I don't like the fit or something. I do still buy things, but only because the alternative of spending time at the mall annoys me more.
A couple of days ago, Laura Vanderkam posted about a new service she tried, called Stitch Fix. The service is an online shopping service. You fill out a questionnaire and they send you a box of five items to try. You keep what you like and send back what you don't like in a prepaid envelope that- and this is super important, because I hate having to go to the post office to send things back- you can just drop in any blue USPS mailbox.
At first I thought it was an interesting idea, but not for me. But I kept thinking about it and eventually I decided I should give it a try. I'm always saying I need more ways to turn my money into time, and if this service works out it will be brilliant. If it doesn't, I'll be out at most $20 (the fee for the item selection, which can be applied to my purchase). If it does work out, I'll probably spend more dollars per item than I usually do, but I won't have spent anywhere near as much time, and that is a good trade for me right now.
So I'm signed up on their waiting list. I'll let you know how it goes. Based on their questionnaire, I guess my preferred style is called "casual chic," whatever that means.
Then today, I followed a tweet from @codinghorror to an article about stupid things venture capitalists will fund, and the example in the article was True and Co, which has a model very similar to Stitch Fix's, but for bras. And I found that I agreed with the author that this was a bad business model.
How can I like Stitch Fix enough to actually sign up and think the True and Co idea is terrible? I think it comes down to the difference between clothes and bras. I like my clothes wardrobe to be full of various styles. I want my outfits to be relatively unique to me, maybe even interesting (not that you could tell by what I currently own, but it is true- this is one of the reasons I love buying clothes when I travel internationally). I tend to see my clothes as an expression of my personality, and I found myself drawn to the aspect of Stitch Fix that Laura aptly called "informed serendipity." My bras, on the other hand are private. I am what used to be called "well-endowed," so by necessity my first concern in a bra is structural. It is a nice plus if the bra is also attractive, but I've been burned too many times by cute bras that turned out to be so uncomfortable or unsupportive that they rarely left my drawer. I don't want surprises in my bras- I want reliable performance.
Although I will buy multiple colors of the same shirt or pants if I find something I like and would sing Hallelujah if I found a brand of pants that reliably fit and flattered me, I mostly shop for variety in clothes. In contrast, I try to find a few reliable styles of bras and then I just keep buying the same ones. There are exceptions for special occasions- but that hardly seems like a high enough volume thing to build a business around. The other problem is that while I can usually tell on the initial try on whether or not a piece of clothing will work for me, I don't really know if a bra will work until I've worn it a couple of times. So while I can easily envision figuring out which Stitch Fix selections work and sending back the ones that don't, I would worry that the True and Co selections would seem OK, I'd keep them (and pay for them), and then discover they didn't work at all. Of course, this happens with bras I buy in a store, too- but for some reason it bothers me more with the "we send you a box of stuff" method.
It seems to me that True and Co is trying to solve a problem for which there is already a fairly workable solution- I go to a store like Nordstroms and find bras that work for me. Then I go online every 3-6 months and order the same styles again. Stitch Fix, on the other hand, is solving a problem for which I have yet to find a good solution- it just takes too damn long to find clothes that I might like.
It could just be that I'm not the target market for True and Co. Maybe they are aiming at younger, single (or recently married) women, who want more variety in their undergarments. Maybe they are aiming at women who are even more adverse to going to the mall than I am. They are certainly correct that bra shopping is not something most women look forward to, so perhaps their idea will catch on. But not with me.
What about you? Do you prefer to shop online or in a physical store? Are you tempted by either Stitch Fix or True and Co?