French Connection’s Plan To Boost Sales With Le Tote

The retailer has partnered with the clothing subscription service with the goal of leveraging its customer data to improve in-store offerings. Is it an ideal marriage between 'e-tail' and retail?

In a bid to combat lagging sales, U.K.-based retailer French Connection has teamed up with fashion subscription service Le Tote — a move that sees the clothier engaged as one of the startups suppliers in exchange for access to Le Tote’s vast stores of data about shoppers’ preferences, measurements, and more.

It’s an interesting idea for a marriage between the worlds of retail and “e-tail.” Clothing rental/subscription services like Rent The Runway and Le Tote, which have flourished in the era of on-demand commerce, have data about what items fit a customer, which styles he or she liked, and more — but what they don’t typically have is physical stores. (Rent The Runway has opened several, but the physical footprint is minimal.)

On the other hand, traditional retailers like French Connection have physical spaces that can host immersive shopping experiences — but they need the right data and connectivity to cater to what today’s consumers actually want out of an offline (or online) shopping experience.

At Le Tote, where subscribers receive a monthy box of apparel and accessories that can either be purchased or returned after a few wears, “we’re building a recommendation engine around clothing,”  Charlie Bowman, the company’s vice president for engineering, told Bloomberg. The question is how French Connection will leverage that data in order to change items in stock or the design of in-store experiences — and if it will work.

New Uses For Data

French Connection has already made some minor tweaks in response to Le Tote’s insights. The retailer will reportedly eliminate numeric sizing on certain dress designs, switching instead to “small, medium, and large” distinctions that shoppers seem to prefer. “If this information is helping us provide better product and better fit, that’s going to help our customer,” Carolyn Glynos, VP for U.S. sales and merchandising at French Connection, told Bloomberg.

It’s a fact that retail hasn’t changed much in the past 100 years — and now brick-and-mortar stores are struggling to play catch up. But 82 percent of Millennials still think it’s important for brands to have storefronts; it’s just that the makeup of those stores will have to evolve.

For example, pioneers of the “clicks to bricks” movement — like Warby Parker and Blue Nile — have succeeded with the idea of building a small number of attractively-designed physical stores to function as a shopping destination/showroom hybrid. Additionally, these companies are bolstered by all of the data they possess as a result of their e-commerce roots.

Partnerships such as the one between French Connection and Le Tote are aimed at supplying that data from a different angle. Essentially, the idea is that customer data shouldn’t just be used for targeting ads; it should be used to influence product, make recommendations while a customer is in-store, and customize every aspect of the shopping experience. And if French Connection’s revamp is successful, expect to see other retailers following suit.

About The Author
Lauryn Chamberlain Lauryn Chamberlain @laurynchamberla

Lauryn Chamberlain is the Associate Editor of A New York City based journalist, she specializes in stories related to retail, dining, hospitality, and travel.