NEW YORK — Consumers say L.L. Bean and Lands’ End are way ahead of the crowd of retailers selling women’s and men’s apparel online.
That’s just one conclusion of an exclusive research project commissioned by Fairchild Publications for its upcoming Apparel CEO Summit, May 31 to June 3.
The study, on consumer apparel shopping and purchasing online, was conducted jointly by The NPD Group/Media Metrix Inc. and Fairchild’s Strategic Information Services. Research on business-to-business e-commerce was conducted by Kurt Salmon Associates for the upcoming summit, “E-pparel — Winning in the Online Marketplace.” The joint research finds that 73 percent of adult men and women rate their overall satisfaction with the L.L. Bean Web site as “excellent” or “very good.” The Lands’ End site follows closely with 71 percent. The other 18 sites visited and evaluated fell short, with between 31 and 59 percent rating them “excellent” or “very good.”
And when it comes to those attributes consumers rate most highly when shopping online, the research finds that they believe L.L. Bean and Lands’ End are delivering better than the competition. These attributes include:
Merchandise that’s easy to find;
Breadth of sizes;
Well-organized, up-to-date information;
Pages that load quickly;
Useful product information;
An easy-to-use return policy.
Consumers say it’s critically important to see online how apparel looks and fits. “It’s hard to tell anything from the mannequins,” said one in her evaluation of Bluefly.com. Another said of boo.com: “I was very disappointed when it said ‘try on.’ It was the same model for everyone. Not everyone looks like that model.”
“I loved the interactive model,” said one consumer evaluating Lands’ End. “[It] let me know what outfits looked dumpy without having to physically try them on.”
The NPD/Media Metrix-Fairchild SIS research also finds apparel Web sites are missing a big opportunity — special sizes.
In fact, only 52 percent of respondents rated L.L. Bean and Lands’ End “excellent” or “very good” on having their size available. The other sites consumers visited and evaluated don’t fare even that well.
“What is this discrimination against overweight people?” said one evaluation of Abercrombie and Fitch. “I couldn’t even buy a belt if I wanted to. The sizes only go up to 40 inches.” Another said of Victoria’s Secret: “They don’t carry plus sizes. Why not? Get a clue…”
The findings of the joint research will be presented during two workshops at the Apparel CEO Summit at The Ritz-Carlton in Laguna Niguel, Calif. Dan Nordstrom, chief executive of Nordstrom.com, will lead one workshop, “Consumer InSite: What’s Working and Why,” which will look at popular expectations of the online shopping experience and what retailers can do to meet them. Nicholas Graham, founder of Joe Boxer Corp., will lead the other workshop, “Consumer InSite: The Future is Now,” which will identify who is shopping for apparel online and what they’re buying.
Retailers, manufacturers and marketers attending the summit, co-hosted by WWD and DNR, will receive complimentary copies of two reports on the joint NPD/Media Metrix-Fairchild SIS research. One report summarizes the findings of 6,000 people who, in April, visited and evaluated 20 different apparel Web sites. The other report highlights the attitudes and experiences of 2,250 consumers who last month were asked about shopping for apparel online.
Attendees also will be given a summary of KSA’s in-depth study of soft goods retailers, manufacturers and suppliers. For the study, KSA surveyed retailers with combined total sales of $90 billion and manufacturers/suppliers with combined total sales of $20 billion to determine their expectations for business-to-business e-commerce.
KSA’s research finds companies in the soft goods industry have high expectations for business-to-business e-commerce. More than half the industry anticipates measurable results such as improved sell-through and margins and reduced stock-outs. In fact, 75 percent of company executives surveyed expect to see better sell-through at retail. Executives also believe the industry will experience radical change as business-to-business technologies gain further acceptance. According to KSA’s research, 90 percent believe real-time auctions for irregular/off-price inventory will transform the industry within two years.
During two workshops, KSA will report on industry expectations for additional changes, such as direct home delivery of out-of-stocks, decreased reliance on trade shows and market weeks, and transformed roles for retail buyers and agents. Skip Chustz, senior vice president of ShopKo Stores, will lead one workshop, “B2B: The Unstoppable Revolution,” which will examine the opportunities and challenges presented by business-to-business e-commerce. Tom Cole, chairman and chief executive of Federated Logistics & Operations, will lead the other, “B2B: Let’s Get Real,” which will focus on the impact and implications of business-to-business e-commerce for the soft goods industry. This year’s summit will be highlighted by keynote addresses from five apparel industry luminaries: Calvin Klein, vice chairman of Calvin Klein Inc.; Vanessa Castagna, executive vice president and chief operating officer of JC Penney stores, merchandising and catalog; Terry J. Lundgren, president and chief merchandising officer of Federated Department Stores Inc.; Mackey J. McDonald, chairman, president and chief executive of VF Corp, and Philip A. Marineau, president and chief executive of Levi Strauss & Company Inc.
Fairchild’s Apparel CEO Summit, limited to 250 retailing, manufacturing and marketing leaders, is nearly sold out, with fewer than 20 places remaining. To register, call Mary Ann Bacher at (212) 630-4779.
The summit is sponsored by America Online, CloseOutNow.com, Competitive Knowledge, Cotton Incorporated, i2 Technologies, Kirk Palmer & Associates, Kurt Salmon Associates, The NPD Group and Sensormatic Electronics.