BrainTrust Query: Trunk Club’s Full-Price, Full-Service Model
Trunk Club has received a fair amount of attention lately for bringing men’s personal shopping to the internet. It’s marketed as a service for men who want to look great without having to go shopping in stores or online.
Trunk Club offers items at unapologetic retail prices, all year round. No sales, no specials, no overstock — when you’re getting clothes at Trunk Club, you’re paying full price, which, in some cases, can be up to eight times the wholesale value of the apparel.
That’s a big margin to play with. Trunk Club uses that margin to provide free shipping with a pre-paid return label, one-on-one time with a style expert and a low-pressure sales model. You never have an obligation to buy nor do you prepay for anything. In fact, style experts may actually reject something you are considering and advise you not to buy what you’ve picked out. Comments from shoppers on review websites, such as Yelp, show that this heavy investment and willingness to prevent the customer from a bizarre impulse buy builds trust and loyalty.
A typical "trunk" from Trunk Club contains nine articles of clothing arranged into three different outfits, from social to work casual.
Using a gradual refinement model like that of Pandora or Amazon, Trunk Club’s style experts will modify their selection over time to perfect the alignment between what they offer and what you desire. The effort expended by their style experts to create familiarity with customers is minimal, however — only about 15 – 30 minutes on the phone and about an hour putting the wardrobe together per trunk — and the return can be as great as $1250 – $2500, depending on how many items the customer chooses to keep.
Reviews on sites such as Yelp, seem quite positive, even grateful. People rave about the style experts’ commitment to getting the right look. This gratitude points to a relationship that is built quickly but soundly between retailer and customer.
Trunk Club’s most impressive achievement as a business is the white space they’ve found in the clothing and personal shopping market. Their approach is low pressure — they don’t send you stuff until you ask for it.
[Editor’s Note: In a 2009 RetailWire poll, 47 percent of respondents rated the market opportunity for Trunk Club as "small," while 32 percent said it was "moderate" and 16 percent said it was "very big."]
Discussion Questions: Do you see the Trunk Club succeeding over the long-term? Will it be able to maintain the service edge necessary to justify the pricing? Do you see the Trunk Club model as extending to other product categories in or outside of fashion?