Luxury retail has recently added an innovative and decidedly exclusive layer to both brick-and-mortar and online shopping, thanks to Sojin Lee’s latest venture. A founding member and the former chief buyer of Net-a-Porter, the London-based Lee is the visionary behind TOSHI, a B2B platform that was originally conceived to close a gap she was witnessing in the e-commerce space, while also recognizing how it could be applied as an in-store retail amenity.
“I was inspired by the concept of what on-demand retail could mean, as well as a true revisitation of customer service,” she says. “What seemed to be missing was the core concept of personal touch. Living here in London, I could get glam squads and manicurists to come to my location when I needed them, and it occurred to me that the fashion industry was 100-percent ripe for this type of delivery mechanism.”
Lee created TOSHI, currently available in New York City and London, with that in mind. Working with upscale brands and retailers like Roland Mouret in London and The Webster in New York, TOSHI is inserted in both the in-store and online retail experiences. For the latter, as the consumer chooses his or her preferred shipping method during checkout, hand delivery is also presented as an option, often as early as the same day or next day. If the consumer clicks on that option, he or she then is then is guided to 30- or 60-minute delivery windows that can be selected according to convenience of schedule. From there, additional amenities are offered, from an alteration service during delivery to a range of sizes also arriving to ensure a perfect fit.
For in-store purchases, it’s the retail specialist who both suggests and activates the service and selects the consumer’s desired options during the checkout experience. While TOSHI was ramping up as a brick-and-mortar service prior to the pandemic, store closures actually accelerated its success in 2020. “We’ve seen our numbers triple, month on month,” Lee notes. “When stores closed to the public, they were sending in skeleton crews and shifting to remote and socially distanced selling, making hand delivery an increasingly necessary option. Ultimately the platform is designed to enhance and bring the core concept of personal touch to every channel of retail.”
Choices when receiving a TOSHI delivery also aren’t exclusive to clothing: a female consumer who wears a size-8 shoe may request that both smaller and larger sizes also arrive, for example. Savvy retailers, meanwhile, are sending additional accessories, allowing the delivery specialist to style a head-to-toe look, depending on the client’s interest. “It’s about expanding the idea of what a dressing room can feel like in your own home,” Lee explains. “This allows you to activate someone coming to your location with the product, with the additional benefit of a basic pinning or styling, extra sizes, or even accessories that work with what you’ve purchased. We have the technology to make an in-home experience feel like an in-store experience.”
The resulting flexibility of choice isn’t only increasing ticket sales, it’s also cutting down on returns. Lee reports that brands and retailers working with TOSHI have experienced a 30 percent increase in revenues and a 40 percent increase in average ticket sales, while returns are reduced by 30 percent. When a TOSHI delivery specialist brings multiple sizes to a customer, the pieces not chosen are, on average, back in the store within a two-hour window. “That has a tremendous impact on turning that inventory and an amazing positive reduction in a retailer’s returns,” she adds. TOSHI earns its revenue via a commission on every item a consumer keeps.
Democratizing the luxury retail experience also was the goal. “Think about it: If you walk into CHANEL or Louis Vuitton to buy a lipstick, you still will be treated the same as a VIP client,” Lee says. “But online purchases have never come with that feeling of special service. Here we are giving you the ability to enjoy that luxury purchase with layered benefits, and today that’s more important than ever. Customer service has to be a fundamental way to engage every consumer, and we’re offering the technology to make that happen.”
TOSHI recruits its team of hand-delivery specialists from retail salespeople, freelance stylists, and others experienced in the luxury sector, all carefully vetted to ensure the level of service that’s required. “Most come with skillsets in fashion, but we also have a training program we run in the background to ensure everyone is bringing the right level of confidence and emotional intelligence to their work,” Lee says.
Delivery specialists wear a uniform of simple all-black attire, with no branding, for good reason: TOSHI is the service, but not the name listed on the service, with each label allowed to select their own moniker to create or support their own unique branding. Roland Mouret’s website and London Mayfair boutique, for example, calls the service “On Demand By Hand.” As pandemic restrictions remain in place in 2021, each delivery specialist also wears a mask and employs social distancing.
Expansion plans are in the works to offer TOSHI in other cities, with Los Angeles slated for the second half of 2021, while Dallas, Chicago, and South Florida have been targeted for 2022. “We’re also looking at the cities in Europe and Asia where this makes sense,” Lee says. “We have a pretty aggressive rollout plan, and a lot of interest from partners and brands, as well as other categories like fragrance and beauty and jewelry, as well as, as well as the luxury alcohol and technology brands. One of the truisms of retail is that if you give excellent customer service, they will come back. Everyone talks about the loss of customers, but not about solving the problem. We’re adding a layer that’s filling the gap and solving the problem, and as we continue to earn trust and build on that, our brand partners have been very happy.”