Showrooming little threat to US clothiers in ho-hum holidays

Fri Dec 21, 2012 10:09am EST
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By Nivedita Bhattacharjee

Chicago Dec 21 (Reuters) - In retail, showrooming has not hit shirts yet.

Showrooming, the retail term for shoppers who try a product, then buy it cheaper on or other websites, has driven retailers to the point of hiding barcodes, improving their own websites and coming up with methods to get people to complete their purchase in the store.

But brand-name clothing retailers have an advantage over companies that sell items you can buy anywhere, like televisions and home goods.

"Specialty apparel retailers are some of the least affected by showrooming since the more exclusive the product is, the harder it is to showroom," said Joel Bines, managing director of the retail practice at advisory firm AlixPartners.

That, in turn, has helped retailers like Gap Inc and Lululemon Athletica Inc find favor with investors.

A survey of 2,010 adults conducted by AlixPartners showed consumers who shop for apparel were among the least likely (35 percent) to go to other websites after they liked an item at a store, compared with 42 percent of electronics shoppers and 41 percent of those looking for accessories like watches and jewelry.

"If you look at some of the most successful (clothes) companies in the past few years, they are those that have that moat around them," said hedge fund manager Shawn Kravetz, who runs Esplanade Capital in Boston.

He cites yogawear maker Lululemon and Gap as good examples of how it can help to have clothes that are not sold elsewhere.   Continued...