Ahead of the NYRIW site visit, Trunk Club's head of office spoke to PSFK about how the personal styling and wardrobe curation brand helps Nordstrom foster direct relationships with customers with a high-touch, one-on-one service

In an era where department stores can struggle to compete with new DTC or digital-native peers, Nordstrom is taking a new approach. The retailer realized that customers want more personalization and high‑touch services from the store experience, and accordingly acquired Trunk Club, a personal styling and curation service that offers clients one-on-one service in building their perfect wardrobe, helping to foster direct relationships with customers.

Ahead of the site visit to Trunk Club's NYC Clubhouse location, part of New York Retail Innovation Week, PSFK caught up with the company's head of office, Lindsay Cooperman, to learn about how the service and how it marries personalization with convenience.

Could you describe any retail or consumer trends that you've noticed taking place within fashion and apparel retail?

Lindsay Cooperman:  A lot of customers are looking for convenience and the easiest ways to shop where they're getting the most high‑touch service. For a lot of the different department stores—it's not as convenient to shop them anymore, although they're looking for different ways to make their services more convenient by offering things like buy online and pickup in‑store, which is something that Nordstrom is offering.

Nordstrom here in New York is offering 24‑hour purchasing service from its store, things that make it very easy and convenient for the customer to shop. That's always the way that Trunk Club has thought about our business. That's why our customers love to shop with us. We make it easy for them. You don't have to browse through the racks at stores, not know what you're looking for, not know how it's going to fit you, not know how it's going to add into your wardrobe or enhance your wardrobe.

We take that heavy lifting off people's plates and carry a wardrobe that's just for them, listen to their needs, understand who they are, what their lifestyle is like and what they need in their wardrobe day‑to‑day.

That makes it a more high‑touch service for them without being exclusive.

What about the inspiration or the motivation behind starting Trunk Club? Were there certain gaps or opportunities even that you wanted to fill? 

This company first targeted men based on the belief that they want to look good, but often don't know how to do it themselves or don't enjoy shopping. The business was founded to help people enjoy the shopping experience and remove the hassle.

Initially, we worked exclusively through our Trunk business. We connected with our customer online with a style profile and our Trunk service where our male clients got on the phone with us. We learned a little bit about them–got to understand their lifestyle, their wardrobe needs, their fit preferences.

We quickly learned that some people loved the service but were still looking for a high touch, in-person shopping experience. We built out six Clubhouses in Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas, New York, Boston, and Washington D.C. where our customers can meet with their stylist who's their trusted advisor and personal style expert one‑on‑one in an amazing environment.

We have been focused on personalization since day one, and the brick-and-mortar Clubhouse allows for the customer to choose which shopping channel makes the most sense for them.

Following the Nordstrom acquisition, we quickly learned that women were also hungry for this kind of service and launched our women’s business. As a part of the Nordstrom organization, we are always focused on our customers and delivering the highest level of service, which never goes out of style. Today, we are continuously improving the way we connect with our customers and the service we can deliver.

You mentioned your CRM system and how that works to enable hyper-personalized curation. Could you expand on the different types of data that you collect and how that informs the service you provide?

When our customers sign up online, they're asked to fill out a questionnaire about themselves—about their lifestyle, their preferred price ranges, colors they like, patterns they dislike, their age and preferred brands, among others.

Our expertly trained stylists are what set us apart. Our stylists get this data so that they can make the best and most personalized selections for each customer. With a combination of technology tools and training to guide them on how to use the data, they can deliver the best curation for each shopper.

Trunk Club offers a flexible model where if consumers want the personal stylist and in-store experience, they can have that. They can also have a trunk ordered to their home or even have clothes tailor‑made. Could you speak to the importance of having this kind of omnichannel approach, and who prefers what?

Today’s retail environment is ever-evolving. As a customer-centric styling service, it’s our job to provide our customers with different shopping options. We have customers in NYC, who only shop by Trunk. There are others here in the city who only shop using our Trunk service. And there are still others who enjoy a mix. But what matters most to us is making the choice available for the customers to shop where and when they want to with Trunk Club.

NYC Clubhouse Location

Describe the NYC Clubhouse experience. What do customers have the chance to do there? How does this work in tandem with  your online offers?

When our customers (men and women) come to shop with us at the Clubhouse, they check in with our front desk for their appointment and are guided to a seat in our beautiful bar where we offer them a complimentary beverage while they wait for their stylist. We are mostly by appointment, but accept walk-in customers as well.

Once their stylist greets them, they are assigned to one of our many personalized fitting rooms where they can chat with their stylist. If it is a first time appointment, the first few minutes are spent getting to know them so the stylist can understand their lifestyle, wardrobe needs, fit preferences, style and budget.

The stylist will then choose an assortment of clothes curated for the customer in our inventory located right here at the Clubhouse. They will guide the customer into trying on the different head to toe outfits she/he has curated for them and show they the versatility of all the pieces specifically chosen for them. The customer can walk out with their purchases that day. For anything we may have missed in the appointment from our Clubhouse inventory (sizes/styles/specific categories), the stylist can supplement by sending a followup trunk through our online catalog of product with additional styles to try on at home.

Since we can only house a certain selection of clothing here in our store, the online trunk catalog opens the customer up to even more selections. In addition, we also offer a full custom program for men where we take full measurements to create personalized garments created just for the customer—a pattern is made for them with these measurements and the customer can pick the fabrics, linings, buttons, etc. to create their perfect garment which arrives for a fitting in about 6-8 weeks.

Who would you say are your primary consumers? Is it younger consumers, millennials, Gen Z?

We serve a broad range of customers, but largely work with men and women who love to look good, want the help of an expert stylist, or just don’t have the time to shop for themselves. Our consumers love the quality brands we carry and think about their wardrobe as an investment.

She might be a working mom of three kids who is really busy and loves looking good but doesn’t have time to shop for her workwear or yoga pants for the weekend. It’s a guy in his late thirties who just got a promotion and knows he needs to look good for work, but doesn’t know where to start. She’s early in her career and wants to look more professional and feel confident at work.

Ultimately, by enabling a truly personalized service on the customer’s terms, we’re able to reach a broader audience and connect with them more meaningfully.

What do you hope to share during the site visit to Trunk Club's NYC Clubhouse location as part of NYRIW this January?

I'd like to just show people how this is changing the face of retail and what we're doing to shake up the world of retail. It's no longer successful just to have a department store, open your doors and expect that everyone's just going to come in and buy. You have to offer different services. You have to make it special.

People have to feel that personalization and high‑touch service in order to continue the relationship with the store. That's something that we're doing. The technology behind it is what's running it. We want to speak about the technology and what we do with our customers in order to retain them, grow with them and attain new customers.

Trunk Club

To learn more about the Trunk Club's personalized retail service and brand experience from its ambassadors as well as take a private tour of the site, come visit its NYC Clubhouse location as part of New York Retail Innovation Week, tickets available here!

Lead image: Trunk Club