Fashion and travel have always been inextricably linked. Think of Braniff’s legendary air hostesses touching down in their fabulous Pucci prints, or Alexander McQueen’s spooky Samsonite Black Label suitcases. More recently, shoe designer John Fluevog drew inspiration from the nifty bellhops at Canada’s Opus Hotels and launched The Porter Shoe so travellers could schlep their bags home in style.
But travel can inspire more than just looks. Consumers in transit have specific and evolving needs, which retailers should meet at every stage of the shopping experience. Yet, with so many brands believing they’ve addressed “mobility” simply by turning their catalogues into an iPhone App, the most dynamic retail trends are being driven by consumers themselves.
Mobility after a fashion (or, How I learned to stop worrying and love globalization)
You know your body type. You know your favourite brands. You’ve done your research, and when you love something, you purchase it again and again.
You are not alone. The world’s most influential trendsetters dress in uniforms – think Tom Ford’s unbuttoned white shirts or Miuccia Prada’s pleated skirts. Brands like Ralph Lauren, Burberry and Hugo Boss define themselves by certain “iconic” products – the polo shirt, the trench coat, the business suit – that offer chic simplicity, ease of availability and the assurance of always being appropriately dressed.
For travellers, having access to these stylish staples can be extraordinarily appealing. Maybe you packed too quickly, or spilled Starbucks on your suit pants. Maybe your sunscreen exploded in your bag, which also happens to be on the wrong continent. Or perhaps your business trip was extended and now includes a formal event or golf tournament. Clients and volcanoes can be so unpredictable.
Knowing that your favourite style and size are readily available gives you a reason to cheer those ubiquitous chain stores.
Free (from) shipping and delivery
Speaking of men in uniform, J. Crew has introduced a Batman-style “Red Phone” in its stores that allows U.S. customers to order out-of-stock items to their home or office for free. With travellers eschewing checked baggage and the spectre of carry-on fees, J. Crew may have inadvertently given flyers a third option: trying on items in-store to ensure a perfect fit, then having them shipped home.
Better yet, have your wardrobe meet you at your destination. Say you’re heading out of town for a business meeting or wedding and are in dire need of a new outfit. After trying on a suit or gown in your home store, why not phone the Brooks Brothers or BCBG at your destination to see if they can deliver the item to your hotel room? With online tracking services and hospitable concierges, you can be sure your parcel arrives before you do, saving you stress and dry-cleaning charges.
While it would be easy to dismiss these ideas as being exclusively viable for local and same-country shipping, the most innovative brands are catering to the international jet set. LAN, the Chilean airline has introduced SkyBOX, which assigns customers a personal “address” in Miami (a type of post office box) so they can ship their favourite brands that only deliver to the continental U.S.
The company takes care of reception, international transportation, customs clearance and delivery to your home or office. Though primarily serving the Latin American market, SkyBOX has recently expanded its services, delivering Abercrombie & Fitch and Victoria’s Secret to over 50 countries around the globe.
The Beauty of Travel
Despite the success of duty-free shopping, Transumers and the beauty industry haven’t always seen eye to eye. Restrictions on liquids have boosted the sales of miniature-sized bottles, like Prada’s single-use portions, but those can be as hard on the wallet as the packaging is on the environment.
A good friend of mine in London has a solution. She travels with a set of small reusable bottles purchased from MUJI, which she fills from her larger-sized originals. This stylish solution allows her to maintain a meticulously organized and highly personalized make-up bag that’s always carry-on ready. It’s no wonder that MUJI-to-GOs have also opened in terminals at JFK and HKIA, among others.
Luxury brands have lagged in embracing online retail, fearing that without experiencing the brand’s carefully crafted rituals face to face, customers would balk at the inflated prices. Recently valued at GBP350 million ($535 million), Net-a-porter.com, the online luxury fashion retailer, sees beyond this.
The website has revolutionized access to cutting-edge labels. Consumers in fashion capitals like London or Manhattan can place an order in the morning to ensure their decadent item arrives before the end of the same business day. Net-a-porter.com still allows customers to access the same fashion advisors, impeccably chic packaging and exclusive partnerships as they would in store, but has identified an even more compelling raison d’être.
Nathalie Massenet, the site’s founder, recently told The Times of London, “I thought, for a luxury brand, what better way to give the best service to clients than actually delivering to the door?”
Savvy travellers just keep pushing the limits of how far those doors might be.