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As more and more brands and retailers adopt own-product repairs and alterations services, TheIndustry.fashion speaks to said brands as well as sustainability experts to find out why the introduction of these services are not only in the best interests of consumer and planet, but the brands themselves.

Gone are the restrictions of the ability and capacity of your local tailor, as news of brands and retailers introducing repairs and alterations services are increasingly common. Earlier this month, Arc’teryx opened its new store on London’s King Street, with its own ReBird™ station to repair customers’ damaged own-brand pieces.

Arc'teryx

The Arc’teryx ReBird™ repair station in Covent Garden

And the Canadian outerwear brand is just one in a long line of brands choosing to employ such services, be that via a physical, in-store presence or online. For “door-to-door” repairs and alterations service, SOJO, their list of brand and retailer partnerships is ever growing (the latest being Selfridges in January this year), and founder Josephine Philips tells TheIndustry.fashion that these services benefit brands in three key ways.

“Offering alterations empowers retail assistants to go above and beyond for customers and sell pieces that otherwise would remain on the shelf,” she explains. “A simple length shortening on a pair of trousers is the difference between a delighted customer versus a lost sale due to fit.” SOJO currently partners with five brands via a bricks-and-mortar presence (including Selfridges, Stine Goya and Rejina Pyo) and Philips says that in the last few months these brands have seen tens of thousands of pounds in sales directly linked to tailoring as an add-on to a purchase.

Josephine Philips Sojo

Josephine Philips, SOJO

Philips explains that in-store services drive sales via footfall. “It serves as an extra touchpoint for a customer to connect positively with a brand, as well as the potential to spend more money when they come in-store for their service,” she says. “We’ve driven hundreds of customers in store to book in for repair services and the brands are using it as a perfect opportunity to give that loyal customer a chance to look at their new collections on offer.”

Finally, if customers bring items into the store which have sustained damage within their warranty, Philips says that customers start out “disappointed, even angry, and are fearful that their item may no longer be available”. However, by offering a repair, the customer can get their item back with minimal cost to the brand. “Retail staff have shared that by offering this service they can turn this experience into something really positive,” she concludes.

Virginia Seymour ALIGNE

Virginia Seymour, ALIGNE

And the proof is in the pudding, both in store and online. Online British womenswear label ALIGNE launched its partnership with SOJO in August last year, and managing director Ginny Seymour tells TheIndustry.fashion that not only have its most loyal customers used the service more than once, but have said that “they are more likely to shop ALIGNE as they know they can achieve the perfect fit, so we have seen it correlate to engagement and frequency of purchase”.

Like Arc’Teryx, contemporary womenswear label Rixo launched these services in their Kings Road flagship, which opened in April last year, headed by repairs and alterations specialist Liudmyla Kirk. Co-founder and director Henrietta Rix explains how Kirk’s work has allowed the brand to better understand customers’ needs and reduce returns.

“Having the internal alteration and repairs service gives Rixo an accurate and first-hand insight on constructive customer feedback,” she says. “These insights contribute to reducing returns by addressing feedback and improving overall product quality of fit. We benefit from integrating our in-store learnings into future designs and production processes to enhance customer satisfaction and minimise returns.”

RIXO

RIXO offers repairs at its King’s Road flasghip

ALIGNE learnt via its SOJO service that certain customers needed trousers lengthening rather than shortening, leading to increased returns from taller buyers.

“We assumed that leg lengths would always be taken up, not down,” she explains. “That drove us to create a consistency in our inseam so we can communicate with our community and build loyalty with our taller customers.”

So what are the key considerations for brands when introducing repairs and alteration services? Heloise Kleinwort, freelance fashion sustainability and marketing consultant (ex Browns and Positive Luxury) tells TheIndustry.fashion that brands must “carefully think through the operational side while balancing the customer service – especially if going down the in-house route”.

“If it’s a luxury brand, the customer will be expecting a top service, which usually means the most efficient and hassle free for them,” she continues. “But equally, the margins cannot be too high as the easiest option still is for someone to buy a new product [instead of repairing or altering the existing one] which defeats the point of trying to bring in a circular initiative in the first place.” Kleinwort concludes that third-party partnerships (like those offered by SOJO) work most effectively as pre-existing repairs and alterations companies will already have the necessary infrastructure in place.

One key consideration is price point. Lucy, 23, had the trousers of a MaxMara suit taken in for £30. She made the purchase then collected her item a week later. “They did a really good job,” she says. “I think when investing in quality pieces I’m willing to pay a bit extra, so it’s perfect. But I wouldn’t pay £30 to tailor a pair of Zara jeans because they probably cost less than that.”

Kleinwort agrees. “With luxury products, one of the fundamental buy-ins is that because the product quality is better it can last longer,” she says. “So being able to facilitate this makes that brand and their customer service stronger.”

Footballer Lucy Bronze photographed in ALIGNE SS24

And with the rise of online-only stores like ALIGNE, many brands do not have physical store presences and therefore are exempt from in-store tailoring services. However, while one might assume that repairs and alterations demand that both customer and tailor are in the same room, ALIGNE’s Seymour is certain this is not the case.

“What SOJO has done is digitise the experience to make it simple, quick and seamless so that it goes hand in hand with customers’ shopping patterns. If they are shopping digital, they should be able to complete the alterations digitally,” she says. “I do not think being an online only brand should be an obstacle in offering the service. It is [about] meeting your customer where they are.”

Offering both online and in-store services, Philips is certain of the efficacy of both, but in terms of first-time interaction, she says in-store suits customers better. “The benefit of our in-store service is the ‘white glove’ experience brands are able to give customers and the way they’re able to support the customer through with the booking itself – as well as answer any questions.” However, she adds that in-store success stories like this lead to increased confidence in online services and palpably increase customers’ likelihood of pivoting toward digital repairs and alterations.

“Online, [alterations] can mean the difference between a customer returning an item or keeping it. With online return rates for brands often being around 30% of sales, with fit being one of the leading drivers, this is a big economic issue for brands that alterations can mitigate against,” she concludes.

So are brands happy overall with their decision to introduce repairs and alterations services? Rixo’s Rix certainly is, noting that community feedback has been very positive.

RIXO // Rixo's Henrietta Rix (and Orlagh McCloskey) on its LFW AW23 show

Henrietta Rix of RIXO

“The demand for alteration appointments is constantly growing, so much so that we have had to hire a new garment alterations specialist to fit in as many customers as possible,” she says. “Rather than the service being a commercial driver for us, it offers that little extra that you’d expect from a flagship.” She adds that high demand for alterations within Rixo’s bridal range was a welcome surprise.

“There is a real demand for [these services] now with the rise of conscious consumers,” says Kleinwort. “And we can only hope that this consciousness around mass-consumerism keeps infiltrating as we change habits to buy less, buy better and make our wardrobe go further.”

Main image: Alamy



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