NEW YORK — Ralph Lauren is giving new meaning to the concept of window shopping.
Beginning today, customers can purchase apparel 24 hours a day, seven days at week, with the touch of their fingers, from the window outside the Ralph Lauren Sport store. Projected on the window at 888 Madison Avenue is a 67-inch image featuring the latest in touch-sensory technology.
A customer walks directly up to the window, touches the glass to view the merchandise (divided into men's, women's and children's wear), makes her selection and inserts her credit card into a special device attached to the window to complete her purchase. The clothing is shipped directly to her home. If she feels uncomfortable about having her credit card scanned on the spot, the store will immediately e-mail her order to her home computer, and she can complete the transaction in the privacy of her own home. The company has installed security cameras and will have a security guard watching the window 24 hours a day.
Orders are fulfilled by polo.com, and returns can be made to either the store or the Web site. Polo.com is projected to generate over $100 million in volume this year, according to industry sources.
The touch screen is powered by a lightweight touch foil applied directly to the glass. A rear projection screen is then used to complete the through-window touch-shopping transaction.
"We're the first company to ever offer this technology," said David Lauren, senior vice president, advertising, marketing and corporate public relations at Polo Ralph Lauren Corp. "We've tied it into the U.S. Open, which is a big initiative for us."
For the launch, the interactive window will offer Lauren's U.S. Open merchandise beginning today through Sept. 10 to coincide with the company's sponsorship of the tennis tournament. Products featured in the window include official Polo Ralph Lauren/USTA ball boy/girl uniforms, linesman jackets and the big pony Polo shirts. Some 50 styles in all are offered. In addition, the windows give customers a chance to read tips from tennis pro Nick Bollettieri and learn about famous feuds in U.S. Open history.
"It's so new," said Paul Zaengle, senior director of interactive technology at Polo Ralph Lauren. "It'll take time for people to get used to, but people slow down [on the street] to see what it is about."Obviously, Lauren pointed out, "If you see someone standing behind you, you'll be cautious" about giving out your address (which is projected on the screen) and taking out your credit card. Once you buy something, you don't have to give your address every time, he said.
Lauren said the company plans an on-site virtual store on the club level of Arthur Ashe Stadium at the U.S. Open. In addition to the 3,500-square-foot store, shoppers can buy U.S. Open fashions at three freestanding kiosks featuring the touch-screen technology.
After the five-week test at the Ralph Lauren Sport store, Lauren said interactive windows would go up at other Polo stores. At the Collection store, for example, the interactive technology will allow Ralph Lauren to talk about his inspiration for the collection, which will be broadcast through speakers on the windows, and models will be shown on-screen trying on the clothes. There will also be information on how to accessorize various gowns shown in the window, and style advice. "You take the old world of Ralph Lauren with this totally modern twist and it shows you they can coexist beautifully," said David Lauren.
"It's the merging of technology, the retail space and dot.com," he continued. "Everyone's trying to find the proper balance."
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