BrainTrust Query: Trunk Club’s Full-Price, Full-Service Model

Discussion
May 04, 2012

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.

Business Model

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.

Customer Experience

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.

Feedback

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?

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9 Comments on "BrainTrust Query: Trunk Club’s Full-Price, Full-Service Model"

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Max Goldberg
Guest
5 years 7 months ago

Curated sales have been the rage in ecommerce for the past few years. Consumers appreciate the value of having an expert help them decide what to buy, and in instances like Trunk Club, will pay extra for the privilege.

If Trunk Club consistently delivers quality merchandise that is tailored to customer expectations, and if the clothing makes the man feel good about himself, they could be around for quite a while. They are not targeting a broad market. And they have strong margins.

Paul R. Schottmiller
Guest
Paul R. Schottmiller
5 years 7 months ago

Even though a look at many of the leading retailers today could mislead you, there are people who value service and will pay for it. The question is, how many at what price? Trunk Club appears to have found a niche. Their challenge is to stay laser focused on the customer’s perception of their unique value. High margins at retail can bring hungry competitors like a drop of blood brings hungry sharks in the ocean.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
5 years 7 months ago

Well, it isn’t going to succeed with this man. Maybe others will like it. Personally, I find NOTHING compelling about what they offer. I don’t even want to spend 15 minutes on the phone with someone, let alone pay a premium for doing it.

I get the same service from Zappos, order a bunch of stuff, try them on, and show them to my fashion consultants (wife or son or daughter). Keep what works. Send back what doesn’t. And the prices are good.

Tony Orlando
Guest
5 years 7 months ago

If they are doing a decent business, God Bless them. Most 99.99% of men cannot afford this luxury, but I say why not give it a shot? Nothing wrong with custom fit clothing for the Hampton’s crowd, and Trunk Club will pay some nice taxes to our government on the huge profits they make. Brings tears to your eyes doesn’t it?

W. Frank Dell II
Guest
5 years 7 months ago
Department stores have done great with personal shoppers. Sales associates that know their clients and provide real and useful recommendations are valued by a select group. Most if not all of the high-end apparel sales use this model. Customers use real shopper assistance for two reasons. First, they don’t have time and second they don’t have knowledge or taste. There is no reason this online model should fail unless the sales associate does not always put the client first. Once the trust has been established, transactions almost flow on autopilot. Home delivery of groceries targets this time-starved segment and there… Read more »
Ralph Jacobson
Guest
5 years 7 months ago

I recently bought an $800 suit at a great men’s fashion retailer. The good news is that their promotion allowed me to get TWO more suits AND three $90 shirts for FREE. $2700 worth of stuff for $800. … and I look GOOD! Ha!

I think the vast majority of shoppers want value. Be it online or in-store. However, the value can be in the service levels provided, which may be where this retailer is headed. Best of luck to them! I hope it succeeds.

Kenneth Leung
Guest
5 years 7 months ago

It can work for the target base of men who are looking to dress better, and data is showing menswear and men’s accessories marketing slowly increasing. It will never rival women, but there should be enough for this type of business to succeed in the longer term as long as they don’t over extend and lose their service reputation.

Gordon Arnold
Guest
5 years 7 months ago

I am not so sure this model works for pork chops, flowers, automobiles, and vacations, but it is a good fit for the high-end apparel customer. I know from experience that the internet has a number of sites with this type of retail experience. For the customer that cannot afford a mistake, or the one that must rely on the retailer to succeed, these are the places to shop. While this need represents a small percentage of the market, we are living in a big world with more and more customers arriving every day.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
5 years 7 months ago

Where to start? When was the last time (men only) you bought an “outfit?” That’s Trunk Club’s slogan, “Hand-Selected Outfits Shipped To Your Door.” This service seems to be for metrosexuals who don’t like to shop in stores, which to my understanding is an oxymoron. Except for the thrill of receiving a package on your doorstep — which is what I feel about delivery of a box from Griot’s Garage — I don’t get it.

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