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Evolution of the Retail Model

Today almost 30% of all clothes are bought online. Consumers appreciate the wide choice and availability of products on the Internet. However, the online purchase has a big disadvantage: The clothes can not be tried on. TORLAND is therefore developing an innovative business model that will make buying trousers easier for the customer.

One year ago, in June 2018, we started marketing the TORLAND products. The positive feedback showed us that the cuts and quality are right and that innovative ideas such as our smart pockets are well received.

“I bought two jeans from you and have been wearing almost nothing else since then. I am thrilled with the two extra pockets that I no longer want to do without. The quality and durability convince me.” (Lukas H. from Linz)

We started to build TORLAND as a classic fashion label. In the Internet age, this means that the products are sold both through wholesale (distribution through retailers) and directly via the Internet. This gave us insight into the problems the fashion industry is struggling with today.

Structural change in fashion distribution

The buying behavior of consumers has changed as a result of the use of the Internet. They have become accustomed to researching online and buying offline, or vice versa, to try the goods in the store and then buy online. This forces retailers to look for ways to better link the online business with traditional store business. Omnichannel distribution has become a buzzword.

Although more and more clothes are being bought online, a majority of consumers still prefer to try them on the shop floor. They do not want to have to deal with the return of the packages. The pure online retailers have realized that these customers can only be reached if they are also present offline. The latest trend in the US is for online retailers to open their own flagship stores. Zalando has also opened its own shops in Germany.

Other vendors like Pompeo in Asia are trying to simplify shopping for the customer through drop-off locations: The customer orders the goods to one of the addresses offered, where he can first try them on and then buy them. If they do not fit, he does not have to deal with the return.

The challenges when buying pants

Trousers are another phenomenon: many customers are reluctant to buy trousers. That’s because finding the perfect pair of trousers is difficult and time consuming. There are two reasons:

  1. In addition to the right cut, the right combination of waist size and length must be found.
  2. The brick-and-mortar retailer is trying to optimize his sales area by adding only the most popular sizes to his range.

To better understand the buying challenges, we made test purchases in various stores. They showed that buying trousers is time-consuming, even in large stores, and that the customer does not always find the product he is looking for.

Example of a test purchase (Manor, Zurich, March 8, 2019):

I get to the floor with the men’s trousers and stand in front of a wall full of jeans. I am looking for a black or dark blue jeans, which can also be worn in the business. Unfortunately, the Wrangler models that are on the shelf are not sorted by size. I have to search the whole shelf. I notice that two of the dark Wrangler models are not available in my size W29. I keep looking and find another Wrangler model in slim fit, which I try on. These jeans feel a bit tight on the thigh. In the meantime, a seller has come. He asks me to wait a moment. He’ll come back with some Levi’s models he has to get elsewhere. After a bit of waiting, he comes back with a single model and apologizes that it is the only model left available in W29. The Levi’s 511 fits well and feels good. However, the seams are a bit too much eye catching, which is why I cancel the purchase. I ask the seller if he can order the same cut in black for me. The seller hesitates a bit and then says that he can inquire in other stores and order the pants here. Apparently, this option is not part of the standard sales process.

Development of an innovative business model

Based on this experience, we have set ourselves the goal of making shopping for trousers much easier for the customer. For this we have formulated the following vision: “98% of all customers will find the perfect fitting trousers at normal prices in 10 minutes”. Is that possible?

This vision is certainly not achievable through traditional online sales, as the high returns rates show that online shopping is characterized by considerable uncertainty. To reduce these uncertainties, providers such as selfnation.ch have developed an online offer for tailor-made trousers. However, such trousers must be produced locally to allow short delivery times. That’s why these trousers are significantly more expensive than regular ones.

We believe that our vision can only be achieved through brick-and-mortar retail where the trousers can be tried on before purchase. The range must perfectly match to the various body shapes, and the opportunities of the Internet must be used to help customers find the right cut faster.

Pilot from autumn 2019

In April 2019, we launched a project in which, supported by experts, we are developing an innovative business model that will bring us closer to our vision. Among other things, we analyze body data of several thousand people and model the necessary trousers cuts. For tactical reasons we do not announce any details yet.

From autumn 2019 we will be piloting the new form of distribution in cooperation with a retailer. Should it prove successful, we will roll out the business model with the support of investors. If you would like to know more about the project, you can directly contact Sascha Hümbeli: sascha@torland-fashion.com.

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