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Who Runs the Least Shoppable Stores? Probably Not the Brands You’re Thinking of

Digital natives are killing it online—but their brick-and-mortar experience leaves much to be desired.

A new report released Tuesday by CB4, an AI-powered tech firm that helps brands like Levi’s execute store operations, reveals the good, the bad and ugly side of fashion’s physical-world footprint.

Specialty sizing apparel store chains like plus-size giant Lane Bryant might be having trouble on the financial front but the 1,500 shoppers polled for CB4’s report, “State of the Industry 2019: Apparel Store Customer Experience Survey” applies the “most shoppable” moniker to players in this apparel subvertical. And these stores seem to foster loyalty, as about 42 percent of shoppers will purchase online with the brand if brick-and-mortar product is out of stock.

Consumers in the survey pool, who shop at more than 90 of the top clothing chains, slammed stores run by digitally native, direct-to-consumer brands as the least shoppable—though these startups got high-marks for their in-store experience.

“It seems shoppers are still getting the lay of the land when patronizing the physical spaces of these emerging brands, as most report being neutral about the ease of experience and the overall quality of the experience,” the report said. “Nonetheless, these stores have a relatively low incidence of shoppers having left without purchasing what they came for. More promising, when shoppers can’t find what they’re looking for, they tend to remain loyal anyway.”

When they need to add something new to their wardrobes, more than half (59.6 percent) of Americans turn to big-box mass stores such as Kohl’s and Ross, the report said. Less than 10 percent regularly patronize the Nordstroms and Zaras of the world, which could point to dwindling consumer spending power.

Big boxes like Target and Costco attract consumers with their value proposition, according to the majority (73 percent) of consumers. But when customers walk out empty-handed, it’s because the product they were looking was out of stock, said 46 percent of survey takers.

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Certain product categories are easier to shop than others. Consumers cited footwear as the category posing the most trouble in the store setting, followed by pants, and T-shirts or polo shirts.

It should come as no surprise to anyone who runs an apparel store but 82 percent of consumers have left with buying anything, and more than 23 percent then turn to a competitor while overall, just 15 percent bother ordering from the retail online.

“Traditional apparel is in flux, as long-standing verticals like department stores are upended by big box stores and fast fashion brands,” Matthew McAlister, director of marketing at CB4, said. “Apparel retailers can use this survey to understand what’s most important to shoppers and whether their stores are providing what shoppers want.”