The Hamilton Spectator - - GO - CLAIRE COGH­LAN

When I was a child, I would watch my grand­mother try on dresses and coats she had brought home on “ap­pro” (or ap­pro­ba­tion) from Mrs. Downey’s bou­tique in Dun­gar­van, Ire­land: de­cid­ing, at her leisure, what to buy and what to re­turn.

Who knew that, decades later, “ap­pro” — a.k.a. “try on,” would be­come the way to shop?

And not just at Ama­zon, which re­cently an­nounced such a ser­vice for its Prime mem­bers, who are not charged while they mull up to 15 items for a week.

In De­cem­ber, Deb­ora LaBudde started Memo, which lets on­line shop­pers try fine jew­elry by es­tab­lished and emerg­ing de­sign­ers for a three-day pe­riod.

“The prac­tice of al­low­ing a client to take mer­chan­dise home prior to mak­ing a pur­chase has long been a tra­di­tion in the jew­elry in­dus­try, but it’s most of­ten re­served for VIP clien­tele,” LaBudde said. But she said she be­lieved “ev­ery client should en­joy the same lux­ury ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Prices range from $350 to $15,000, and in­sured re­turn ship­ping is in­cluded with de­liv­ery.

Colleen McKin­nie helped found Lyon & Post (tag line: “Say farewell to fit­ting rooms”), which sells ca­sual cloth­ing, in­clud­ing ac­tive wear and swimwear.

“There’s no check­out process,” McKin­nie said.

Mem­bers add items to Net­flix-style queues by click­ing “Try It On.”

Within a day, the top four items are shipped. Af­ter a week, mem­bers can re­turn what­ever they don’t want in a pre­paid re­turn bag, at which point they are charged only for what they keep.

“Our av­er­age re­tail price is $140, with the over­all range sit­ting be­tween $50 and $500,” said McKin­nie, who plans to add ac­ces­sories, shoes and hand­bags to the stock.

Af­ter fill­ing out a style pro­file at Bun­ga­low Cloth­ing, which Rob Wright founded in 2013, cus­tomers are paired with stylists.

“From there, they in­ter­act via text, phone or email,” said Wright, whose partners in­clude the mu­si­cian John Leg­end.

Af­ter pre­view­ing items in a “Dress­ing Room” and mak­ing any de­sired ad­just­ments, shop­pers get six to 15 items shipped to them for a five-day try-on pe­riod.

“Our core de­mo­graphic is a 35- to 45-yearold mom, of which 80 per cent work,” said Wright, adding that his av­er­age cus­tomer spends about $400 in one go. “They’ve got money; they just don’t have time.”

Nina Lowe and An­drea Camp­bell, who met while train­ing for a marathon, de­cided to take the per­sonal styling ser­vice one step fur­ther when they started Front Door Fash­ion in 2013.

“For them, the prob­lem was that they had clos­ets filled with clothes, but noth­ing to wear,” said Britt Ecker, the site’s di­rec­tor of marketing. Their so­lu­tion: a per­sonal stylist who can send com­plete looks — cloth­ing, jew­elry and ac­ces­sories — for oc­ca­sions like date night, events or work.

“A stylist pulls up to 20 items from our ware­house,” Ecker said, “and metic­u­lously styles them in four to six com­plete outfits, mix­ing and match­ing pieces to get the most out of each.”

De­tailed notes ex­plain how to wear each look. The av­er­age amount is $500 a box, she said. The trial pe­riod is five days; a $100 de­posit is ap­plied to or­ders or re­funded in full if every­thing is re­turned.

The idea for the year-old Rock­ets of Awe­some was born when Rachel Blu­men­thal be­came a mother.

“I was ex­cited to shop for my son but quickly found it a chore to find stylish clothes that didn’t cost a for­tune,” said Blu­men­thal, whose hus­band, Neil Blu­men­thal, is a founder of Warby Parker, a pi­o­neer of “try­ing be­fore buy­ing.”

Her goal was to sim­plify the lives of par­ents by de­liv­er­ing a box of stylish, high-qual­ity, mod­er­ately priced chil­dren’s clothes pro­duced by an in-house de­sign team each sea­son. The com­pany an­a­lyzes both be­havioural pat­terns (what shop­pers are buy­ing) and chil­dren’s pref­er­ences (based on the pro­file par­ents cre­ate) to cre­ate a per­son­al­ized box of 12 items, each rang­ing from $10 to $36; cus­tomers have 10 days to de­cide; and for those who care about such things, Gwyneth Pal­trow is an in­vestor.


Ama­zon’s new ser­vice that does not charge for a week while shop­pers de­cide whether or not to keep up to 15 items is part of a trend tak­ing var­i­ous forms with on­line re­tail­ers.

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