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Interview by Mariel Cruz; Illustration by Amy Chen
E-commerce may not be a new paradigm for the ladies or laddish accessories, but now the Complex cool-guy consumer can cop complete, head-to-toe, limited-edition looks without worry or hassle. With exemplary customer service, wholly original business models, and cannily curated offerings, these companies are spoiling us for choice and slick product porn. Our expert panel of national and international retailers chops it up about what's changed, why it's better, and what to expect in the future.
NAME: Jason Griffiths
FOUNDED: 1978 (website 2004, U.S. flagship 2009)
BRANDS: TOPMAN Design, Fred Perry, Material Boy, capsule collections
MODEL: U.K. franchise, topman.com, NYC flagship
NAME: Chris Gibbs
BRANDS: Neighborhood, Visvim, OriginalFake, Union
MODEL: Brick-and-mortar, unionlosangeles.com, cult-followed lifestyle branding
Complex: What's unique about your store?
Chris Gibbs: We're the only ones carrying most of our brands in the whole country.
Jason Ross: The photography, models, and styling are kept in line with how the brand portrays itself. We essentially have two customers: the consumer and the brand.
Sky Gellatly: We're consignment: 80% goes to the seller, 20% to the store. Our staff has to be knowledgeable. They set prices based on demand and market value. There are new variables every day.
Greg Selkoe: The fact that a lot of celebrities shop on our site and are supportive. We've worked with Kanye and Kid Cudi, who have had a huge influence.
Jason Griffiths: We impact new fits and styles. We were the first to deliver short, cropped, fitted blazers. And we're now leading with carrot-legged trousers.
Complex: How new are your online offerings on any day?
Ross: We sell new product and brands every day. It lasts 48-72 hours and it's gone.
Gibbs: Offering shit online is sometimes not an option, 'cause we may not have stock outside of what we sell in the store—but that is changing.
Griffiths: We run on a three-week cycle both off and online.
Gellatly: It changes. The traditional retail model is reaction: "Here's what the brands make and here's the season." We're not tethered to any of that.
Complex: What are some pros of an online model?
Selkoe: We have multiple avenues to let brands' personality and style shine through as much as possible.
Gellatly: Even if brick-and-mortar sales suffer, we're hedged because our online reach expands every year. We always find kids and cities who are into sneakers for the first time.
Griffiths: It's a great way for us to adapt and experiment with our brand, tweaking it but not veering away from what we stand for.
Ross: The numbers don't lie. You can look at every one of your decisions and cross-check them with the numbers and you know if they were a success or not.
Complex: What's the attitude to online shopping in your market?
Gibbs: The no-brainer stuff sells best online, which is great for numbers, but not for forward-leaning styles. Our store has always been ahead of the curve and has a high percentage of "innovative" shit, which makes it hard for us to be online.
Griffiths: Over the last three years, we've noticed an increase in online participation. Customers engage with us on the site to find out what the latest trends are, but there's still some resistance to online purchasing.
Selkoe: Positive. And we're super-intense on making sure the customers are happy. If anyone calls customer service and says, "Yo, I wanna talk to Greg," I will get back to them.
Ross: We try to make up for not having a salesperson in a store. The site is custom-developed: you can zoom in to see the fabric and the details, and what size the model is wearing. Our return rate is shockingly low compared to industry standards.
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