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If everyone has one thing in common, it’s clothing. No matter where you are in the world, you are most likely wearing clothing, which explains why the industry that makes them had global sales of over $ 1.9 trillion in 2019.

It’s safe to say that with tens of thousands of inpatient facilities in the US alone, the market is also more diverse than ever. And there are tons of brands online that are profiting without the overhead associated with having a physical storefront. It has become easier for small businesses and independent designers to bring their own products to market online.

But despite the simplicity and accessibility of online shopping, the in-store experience still trumps e-commerce: According to Statista, U.S. citizens personally spent $ 268.7 billion in 2019, up from $ 110.6 billion Dollars online.

This may come as a surprise, given the decline of shopping malls and the apocalyptic photography of abandoned malls with captions like “Elizabeth Taylor allegedly shopped here”. Browsing clothes shelves may seem like a long-gone activity, but entrepreneurs Elisa Yip of SSKEIN and Patricia Markevitch of Alicia Peru – two Bellevue-based retailers of high-end fashion – said shoppers still have strong cravings for clothes have personally.

Elisa Yip, founder of SSKEIN. Photo by Saieliza.

Markevitch owns Alicia Peru with her mother Alicia Rodriguez, who launched a remake of the fashion brand in the 1990s. After Rodriguez retired from modeling, she began importing alpaca wool and selling bespoke designs at trade shows, as well as advising clients in their homes to create bespoke knitwear.

Rodriguez and Markevitch officially launched Alicia Peru as a knitwear label in 2008, selling fashion and housewares wholesale and at trade shows for several years before opening a storefront on Bellevue’s main street in 2018. namely coats, capes, sweaters, cardigans, throws and scarves – and 30 percent are other like-minded clothing and house brands.

According to Markevitch, the vast majority of their sales come from personal purchases. Before COVID-19, she estimates 1 percent of her sales were made online, and now it’s about 15 percent. Those numbers could be because most of their customers are women in their 40s and over, she said – an age group who are more likely to buy clothes in person.

Markevitch prefers it that way. She says she likes to be in face-to-face contact with her customers, and there are some she’ll call in person to tell about new products.

Alicia Rodriguez (above) and Patricia Markevitch, co-owners of Alicia Peru. Courtesy Alicia Peru.

Even though Markevitch doesn’t spend a lot of time maintaining it online through Instagram – a platform considered key to fashion marketing – she still thinks it’s a must-have for businesses.

“What I like about social media and the website is that it gives the customer a snapshot,” said Markevitch. “In 2014-15 you had to have a website. Now it’s social media. … It’s a discipline. (Instagram) is all about a color scheme and all of those videos. Now you have to talk to the screen and talk about yourself, but at the end of the day it’s the sale. It’s easier to do that personally. “

Yip, on the other hand, launched its luxury knitwear brand online in June 2020 with a strong social media and online presence. The website has a magazine-like feel – almost based on experience. Full-screen photos of beautiful women in jumpsuits, bodysuits and sweaters from SSKEIN dominate the site, but they don’t just pose in front of a backdrop. You are traveling the world wearing SSKEIN designs.

Yip also has a behind the scenes page with blogs about why she uses the highly sustainable alpaca wool to make SSKEIN clothing. Yip’s background as a fashion influencer and designer at Nordstrom won’t surprise you after clicking through her website’s pages. SSKEIN’s online presence feels like a mixture of the personable “influencer” model – which is heavily based on a balance between personal authenticity and curated beauty – and an online shop.

Patricia Markevitch, co-owner of Alicia Peru. Photo by Elisa Markevitch.

She said 90 percent of SSKEIN’s sales are online, which is supplemented by wholesale to online and brick-and-mortar boutiques and in-person suitcase shows.

“In everything we do, from product design to marketing campaigns, we think of social media as it is one of our main communication sources for our audience,” said Yip. “We create story stories to take our audience into the world and lifestyle of our brand, from our products to photo shoots and video content. Social media not only allows us to share with our audience, it also helps us convert sales seamlessly. ”

Jaeil Lee, Professor and Chair in the Department of Apparel Design and Merchandising at Seattle Pacific University, agrees that having an online presence is a critical part of running a fashion business today. The frequency of online shopping and who is buying what may vary somewhat, Lee said, but everyone checks a computer. Everyone uses Amazon.

“I never thought people would buy underwear or shoes online,” she said. “Do you know the Zappos company? When they started their business, a lot of people laughed at them. Shoes are complex. You want to try it on before you buy it, but it works great. Consumers are well trained and informed about what they can get online. If you’ve tried buying shoes online, this website will ask for your shoe size and compare it with other brands so they can offer the perfect fit. This is really a different era. “

A model with SSKEIN clothes. Photo by Elsa Markevitch.

The SPU’s fashion program used to be more focused on being successful with a brick and mortar store, but as part of the curriculum, students now need to create online markets and social media platforms to support them.

Lee said online and store purchases are not mutually exclusive. Most fashion companies and clothing stores are a mix of e-commerce and face-to-face contact, so the whole experience needs to feel connected.

In a way, customers expect more from the brands and companies they shop from. You expect a seamless and beautiful experience online and in person. When asked if SSKEIN would have been so successful if it had been exclusively online, Yip said, “No”.

“It wouldn’t, especially for a new brand,” she said. “We have to slowly build trust in the brand and the product with our customers.”

Fashion is so tactile, said Yip. People have to touch it. “I used to shop more often in stores because I like to touch and feel the materials,” she said of her own shopping before COVID. “I love the experience of getting excited about a product that I can touch – an emotion that can only be experienced in person and not online.”

All three women seemed to agree – the personal shopping experience will remain.

Nordstrom introduces new in-store concept on the east coast

In their most recent in-depth report, Business of Fashion and McKinsey & Co. interviewed Nordstrom Co-President Pete Nordstrom about his latest omnichannel adaptation.

The 120-year-old department store opened its flagship seven-story Manhattan location in 2019 and is rolling out Nordstrom Local outlets across the city to support online collections, returns, changes and personal styling. Nordstrom tested this model a few years earlier in Los Angeles and found that it helps “enhance the omnichannel experience.”

“Physical stores make for a better online experience instead of having to send things back in the mail,” Nordstrom said in the 2020 report, “(and it) creates trips to a physical store so you have the opportunity to sell (customers) . something else if you give it back or change it. “

Nordstrom, known for its customer experience, wanted to make it easier for visitors to visit a store, but also wanted to create a more seamless connection between the digital and physical store world. And eventually people started spending more money.

Whether this model will expand to the Pacific Northwest is unclear, but Nordstrom appears to be keeping an eye on its performance in New York.

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