Tuesday 21 November 2017

Paul Galvin: Online shopping -- it's e-tail therapy for culchies

Paul Galvin puts his technological fears aside to embrace online shopping

Paul Galvin

I quite enjoy a spot of shopping. It's relaxing and I love the energy of big cities. I enjoy observing people and their body language, how they dress and carry themselves.

For me, shopping is a very social experience. I like to study window displays. Brown Thomas had an incredible one recently with works of arts, poetry and classic Vionnet and Lanvin pieces.

There is a science to window dressing that I always find interesting. Art and poetry and vintage Vionnet dresses on mannequins that stand with elegance and poise in the window project an image of Brown Thomas that whispers, "We are elegant and classy and enjoy the fine things in life. Come shop with us and be elegant and classy too!".

So, a day walking around Grafton Street or any other big city's thoroughfare is full of these stimulating mental cues for me. Every shop front is trying to whisper or scream its message without speaking. Brand values, brand projection, brand awareness. I like trying to decipher such things.

Topman never fails to nail trends in its window displays. Zara's minimalist, almost austere, black-and -white displays contrast with H&M's young, bright, colourful displays. Different messages for different consumers.

Of course, the in-store experience is equally enjoyable, such as in Urban Outfitters, with its holistic approach to merchandising -- from books on hip-hop culture, boom boxes, street grafitti and surfing to the lounge-y appeal of its stores. Walking around the shop can be very enjoyable and relaxing.

Indigo & Cloth is another store where you can hang out and feel comfortable. Great magazines litter coffee tables, and you can't help but be curious about the collection of old televisions piled high on the shopfloor of Forever 21 in the Jervis Centre.

Then, there are the clothes. I quite enjoy trying on clothes. I know many people don't, especially men, and I can understand why. I know people who don't enjoy shopping either, and that's understandable, too.

External factors such as weather, temperature, kids, crowds, queues and personal issues regarding weight and appearance can make it overwhelming.

Once there are no queues I don't mind. I rarely buy anything without trying it on first -- there's something not quite right about it otherwise. It's like buying a car without test-driving it first.

Which brings me to my point. Online shopping. A by-product of super-fast fashion; instant fashion. No retailer, or very few anyway -- Penneys is a notable exception -- is without a virtual store today. Delivery is executed in a matter of days.

E-tailing is retailing's younger, slimmer, better-looking first cousin, and it's huge business, to the extent that it has, in some cases, replaced the old business models where shops had a physical presence.

When Christopher Bailey -- Burberry's brilliant creative director -- joined from Gucci, he found a company with no energy, bereft of ideas and clinging to an inglorious past. His vision to breathe new life into the business was to target young consumers and "play digital".

One of his online innovations include the 'Art of the Trench', a user- generated gallery dedicated to gabardine -- the fabric invented by Thomas Burberry, the founder of the house, and used extensively in his collections.

'Acoustic' is another online section that showcases emerging musical talent. Burberry shows are now synonymous with cool young music and fresh faces.

The zenith of his decision to embrace the digital age was a store opening and fashion show in Beijing with holographic projections that reached 1.3 billion people.

The internet and social media were central to the resurgence of Burberry. Bailey used it to dispense his checkered vision and create a new brand awareness, subtly positioning it in the mindset of young, hip Britain and beyond.

So it has its place. And online shopping has its benefits. The websites are also a central component to creating brand identity and spreading brand awareness. Ebay, Asos, Net-a-Porter and Mr Porter are all hugely profitable 'shops'.

Mr Porter is worth regular visits, even if you don't buy anything. Almost every designer is available and you can find more affordable ranges, from Pierre Hardy high tops to Havaianas.

Mr Porter's online weekly magazine, 'The Journal', is worth a read too. It's full of handy tips, from how to polish your shoes and how to fell a tree to how to wear camel. Useful stuff, you'll agree.

Some of my friends are regular online shoppers. It's a geographical thing. Distance from the big shhhhmokes makes online retailing very handy for us country folk.

Knowing your size and how high-street sizes can differ is important. The only thing that counters the practicality of online shopping is the impracticality of returning the item in the wrong size, colour or, as happened to someone I know recently, the wrong item entirely!

In another case, I was telling a friend of mine about The Kooples. She had a look online and made a purchase immediately, so it's a case of weighing up the odds.

The other deterrent to online shopping for me is the fact that if you're not at home waiting for your purchase to arrive, you may not get it at all.

Anyway, I've decided it's time to put online shopping to the ultimate test. It's very hard to judge something properly without trying it out. Snap judgments are for people to inflict on other people. I'll not do it to technology!

It's time to put my morbid fear of technology to one side and do what any respectable culchie would do. I plan to lose my online shopping virginity. A pair of blue skinny chinos from Topman. What's the worst that can happen?

Online shopping --it's e-tail therapy for culchies.

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