It’s hard to stay whether Suitsupply stood me up, or if I stood up Suitsupply.
While shopping for a suit right now feels about as necessary as booking a flight or making reservations at a fancy restaurant, I was intrigued to learn about the New York-based tailoring brand’s recent efforts to create retail experiences that would fit in with our new need for physical distancing.
Once it’s possible to visit one of its locations, for example, Suitsupply said men would be able to get measured via Safe Shopping Screens—free-standing partitions allowing for up-close interaction.
Basically, a tailor reaches through holes to pin your suit as if you were a statue behind glass in a wax museum.
If you’d rather not go through that, Suitsupply said it could offer virtual pre-shopping via “co-browsing” sessions with live experts. Essentially this means you have an associate walk you through its online collection through an online chat.
“While pandemics are a hefty force that impose radical changes in consumer behavior, they also ignite strategic thinking and opportunity to implement innovation,” the company said.
“Shopping, for most people, falls under two categories: an enjoyable exploration leading to discovery, or an errand that fulfills a need. Suitsupply aims to facilitate both in a safe, satisfying and convenient way, in this new world.”Suitsupply
For me, that “enjoyable exploration leading to discovery” is something I prefer to do on my own. I dismiss offers of in-store associates to help me find something so reflectively I have to remind myself not to be rude about it. I wondered, however, if this was truly the future. I tried it.
When you land on the Suitsupply site, you don’t necessarily see the co-browsing option right away. There’s a chat box in the lower-right corner but it warns you that no one replies right away.
After I found the live video co-browsing page I had to enter my name and e-mail. (This immediately felt worse than shopping in person. When I send an associate away, I’m still anonymous. Now I’m on Suitsupply’s e-mail list, and I’m just waiting for the spam to start rolling in.)
The good thing is you can choose to co-browse using audio only. Given this was a Saturday morning and I looked like Hell, I kept my camera off. Once you click connect, you see a reassuring green button that says, ‘You are in control.’ Of what, I wasn’t entirely sure.
This is what the screen looks like:
As I sat there, I found myself . . . giggling. I was kind of nervous! I knew what I was thinking of asking for, but who would show up to help me? What kind of advice would they have? Would they be pushy? If I said I wanted to think about it, how awkward would it be to log off?
I had more time to think about this than I expected. I waited about 10 minutes. Then I gave up.
Although 10 minutes isn’t a long time, it feels like forever. This is true whether you’re waiting for an associate to help you in a store or sitting in the comfort of your own home.
I was told I could keep browsing in another tab, which is great, but that’s kind of like telling me I can play with my phone while I’m waiting in a physical store.
The real problem with virtual pre-shopping and co-browsing, I realized, is that I was giving far more thought to the Suitsupply staff — who are they having to wake up and run to their laptop to help me? — than the suits it could sell me.
If this was about “running an errand that fulfills a need,” I could see how co-browsing and pre-shopping might be useful. It would probably also appeal to guys who don’t know a lot about what they want and are intimidated to walk into a store full of suits wearing shorts and flip-flops.\
Whatever the reason to virtually select a suit, everything about it will have to be super-fast to stat and incredibly easy to exit. You’ll want to feel like a VIP, where the ‘P’ stands for “person” rather than “prey.” Even after COVID-19, I suspect it will be the last resort for most of us.
I truly like Suitsupply’s clothes. This just isn’t the way I want them to supply them to me.