More than 85 percent of the world’s online population has used the Internet to make a purchase, according to the latest Nielsen Global Online Survey on Internet shopping habits which was released earlier this year.
According to Nielsen, clothes and shoes are the fastest growing Internet buys.
Six years ago, Cape Town designer Jenny le Roux had the prescience to establish a cyber outlet www.habits.co.za for her shop Habits in Claremont.
She says the Habits site was the first online fashion shop in South Africa.
With a database of over 12 000 clients, Le Roux realised that the Internet was the logical place to open up shop.
Six years later, with around 250 000 hits a month she is once again blazing another trail with what she says is South Africa’s first Virtual Fashion Week which will be launched in the store on September 8.
The launch will feature Habits Summer 2008/9 collection and also herald the revamp of the Habits website.
For the week of September 8-13, when making a purchase online, visitors will receive a 10 percent discount and will receive a gift with their purchase.
During this period, they won’t have to pay the R110 delivery charge.
Virtual Fashion Week is not just about showcasing the summer collection but is also an opportunity for Le Roux and her team to educate consumers about the joys of Internet shopping.
We should not be afraid.
Indeed, a browse through local fashion sites reveals there is much work to be done. Many of the sites have attractive visuals.
But when I tried to buy something, or at least create a profile or user name to allow me to browse, it was another story.
Images download at a snail’s pace. Screens freeze. Get past the process of registering and creating a profile and you invariably have to battle to find out about return policies and delivery charges. There are exceptions. Couturier Errol Arendez has an effective site.
But back to Le Roux, who says she is on a mission to educate people. Online shopping she says, can be a breeze.
On her website which she says is “easy and safe” with secure payment facilities she is doing everything she can to make it a worthwhile visit.
Habits has over 100 garments available at any given time and online shopping support at the end of the phone line or email if needed.
This means that of you get stuck and are trying to fill out a form, then you can call the shop (021 671 7330) and ask them to walk you through the process.
Best of all, they are very clear about delivery charges and return policies.
It costs R110 for a delivery.
The delivery fee is per delivery, not per item.
So, if you buy a pair of pants and top ND jacket, you don’t pay R110 for each, but a flat rate for the whole parcel.
If you don’t like the garment, or it doesn’t fit, you can return it within seven days provided it has all the tags it came with and is still in good nick and has not been worn.
There is no delivery charge to send it back. This is a good deal. As we all know, there is nothing worse than if the shoe doesn’t fit.
I could not find any other fashion South African e-tailers who will take back goods and bear the delivery charges.
Virtual Fashion Week kicks off with an in-store party on September 8 where guests will be able to see the summer range and view the show on the new website.
Habits did not take part in the recent Cape Town Fashion Week, so this will be the first opportunity for buyers to see what the new season holds for the designer.
The collection features several themes which include trends like Americano stars and stripes red, blue and white which is very much in vogue on catwalks abroad as well signature Habits classics.
The latter includes layered Irish linen in white and stone. The fabric is being spun in local mills.
Le Roux has a factory in Woodstock and where possible, she sources local fabric and trimmings.
During the fashion week, there instore plasma screens will be displaying models wearing the range.
The display features a fashion ramp shoot Le Roux undertook with models. The shoot was a proper fashion show, minus the audience.
The footage provides a sense of how the clothes move and gives shape to the Virtual Fashion Week. From an organising point of view, Le Roux’s assistant Dianne Theron quipped that it removed the effort of having to organise a front row at bricks and mortar fashion week show.
Inevitably, competition of who sits where is fierce in the fashion industry. Everyone wants the coveted front row sets with goodie bags on chairs – as long as they are not sitting next to their fashion rival.
It is frequently gets fierce and bitchy and one can just imagine what it must be like to be doing the seating plan. With a virtual fashion gig, the front row conundrum falls away.
This doesn’t mean that the gloss and glam will not make an appearance.
At Habits Virtual Fashion Week, even though there won’t be any front row seats, visitors at the opening will still receive goodie bags.
Best of all, though for the average wannabe fashionista, it is the opportunity to come into the store and receive assistance on how to go on to the site, how to draw up a profile and how to shop.
When you do buy, pay with a credit card and take your purchase and go home. Once you have created a profile, you will be entered into a draw to win prizes.
As to how many people are actually buying fashion online in South Africa, no-one could come up with audited figures.
The consensus is that traffic to fashion sites is picking up.
However, people are looking but not necessarily buying.
In effect many people are using sites as catalogues, as a means of window shopping, to check out what is available, before they physically visit the bricks and mortar stores.
Still Roux estimates that online sales accounts for about 20 percent of the her turnover. “Hits don’t necessarily translate into online sales, but they do bring feet into the store”.
Frankie Fleck who runs the South African fashion portal Adam and Eve at www.adamandeve.co.za, says his site, which sells branded clothes and accessories, receives about 2 500 hits a month.
“Just from personal experience it seems that South Africans are still quite reluctant to buy fashion online.
“We have a lot of window shoppers who use the site to see what is available but would prefer to then go in to the shops and fit the items before they buy them.
“I think issues with not physically being able to touch the items they are buying, not being sure the items will fit, as well as the issue of online credit card security and our postal system all have a part to play.
“As we become more comfortable with spending money online, there is no reason South Africa won’t go the same way as the UK and the US where online fashion shopping is a part of everyday life.”
Online fashion shopping in South Africa: