Is inventory-less shopping becoming the norm?
Nordstrom, where are all the clothes disappearing to?
It takes a special kind of patience to sort through clearance racks at Kohl’s, or pretty much any rack at department stores like Filene’s Basement or T.J. Maxx. While some consumers are invested enough to sort through racks of clothes in varying sizes, colors and designs in no particular order, others just can’t be bothered. And retail stores such as Nordstrom Local are taking notice, with their new inventory-less stores and personalized services.
Window-less shopping is gaining in popularity
In today’s retail world, window shopping is becoming a lost art. Minus clothing, consumers are more likely to purchase their favorite products from the comfort of their homes. IKEA has gone as far as removing parking lots altogether and delivering all purchases to customers’ homes later.
Occasionally though, consumers do want to go inside brick and mortar stores and leave with their products. Not having virtual fitting rooms to depend on certainly makes clothing tougher to shop for online. And RFID technology in fitting rooms makes it that much cooler to imagine the places they’ll wear their clothing.
Still though, both customers and retailers have developed a get-it-and-go attitude when it comes to shopping. It’s apparent when strolling through a Toys ‘R’ Us b8ta store and seeing toy displays instead of tripping over mountains of toys in the aisles. It’s even showing up in the form of stores selling “wedding experiences” instead of stocking up on a boatload of appliances and shelves full of “Mr./Mrs.” gifts.
Nowadays, stores just look different. And Nordstrom Local is one of the latest companies to prove why. CNBC reports that the retail chain is figuring out techniques to cut down on cardboard waste and improving speedy deliveries. When customers step inside of the Los Angeles location, they’re not picking up and sorting through merchandise to take it home immediately. This inventory-less store just allows them to try clothing on. Then, similar to IKEA, it’ll be shipped to them later that same day once it’s sorted out in the stock room. Online customers can choose to pick their items up via curbside pickup, too.
Of course, if customers just want to hang out, they can pay for other services. But Nordstrom wants to see the results of letting distribution facilities keep track, sort and mail all in-person and online orders. Ideally their same-day delivery service will be in:
- Cedar Rapids, Iowa
- Dubuque, Iowa
- Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania
- Gainesville, Florida
- Newark, California
- Ontario, California
- Portland, Oregon
- San Bernardino, California
- Upper Marlboro, Maryland
Depending on the success of one facility will be a determination about how the other eight will operate.
Can inventory-less stores save expenses?
It is no surprise at this point that department stores, as well as grocery chains, are using technology more often now than ever before. While Target’s growing mini-stores consistently have self-checkout stations and Walmart is increasingly investing in robot workers, department stores like Nordstrom have come to realize the perks of robotic supply chain companies.
This is why Nordstrom is working with two tech companies, Attabotics and Tompkins Robotics, at its Newark location. Stocking, sorting and processing orders has become more organized and costs less than employing humans. And that means being less at risk of human error and longer manual labor expenses. While customers may want to support fellow human workers, the larger business priority is getting items correctly and quickly. And retailers know this.
Where did all the people go?
For some consumers, getting their items fast and quick is a good thing. For others who enjoy the shopping experience — long lines, crying babies, impatient customers, digging around for the right sizes, haggling online rates, scoping out parking spots included — inventory-less stores may be sucking all the fun out of shopping.
But while there may be less customers to squeeze by while shopping or standing in line, Nordstrom Local has added a bit more personalization to make what sounds like a warehouse into more of a boutique. Customers can use clothing, beauty and wedding stylists to help with their shopping experience, and get fitted for alterations and tailoring once their final outfits are chosen. Manicures, pedicures and stroller cleaning are all available services. And if customers are up to it, they can get a shoeshine, too. Trunk Club Nordstrom stylists will even show up to customers’ homes for in-person expertise while Havenly will assist in interior design needs.
So while Nordstrom stores may have removed people from certain areas of their stores, the company is also hiring professionals to work inside from a different angle. So should other department stores follow this tech-centric, personalized trend? Only time will tell. In the meantime though, Nordstrom certainly is trying to stand by the goal on their shopping site to “continually maintain a strong and lasting relationship with you.”
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