Follow-up on my Last Article; the Nau Example

My last article, “Do Retailers Really Need to Carry All That Inventory?”  garnered quite a response. One of those responses was a link to an article about a brand called Nau. Their web site is here. The link to the article is here.   The article was written back in 2007 and the brand is still around and, judging from the list of stores where they are available, successful.

Here’s how the article starts:

“Meet Nau, the ultimate over-the-top, high-concept business. It makes striking, enviro-friendly clothing. It gives away 5% to charity. Can it save the world–and give us the perfect twill capri?”
 
They are distributed through what I’d characterize as high end specialty shops but, according to the article, also had four of their own stores (and sell on line). Here’s a description of those stores from the article:
 
“It starts with a retail concept that combines the efficiencies of the Web with the intimacy of the boutique. Called a "Web front," the Nau store integrates technology in a striking gallery-like setting. The central mechanism is a self-serve kiosk that transfers the online shopping experience to a touch screen and encourages customers to have their purchases sent home, with the incentive of a 10% discount and free shipping.”
 
“The advantage: If customers use the store as a fitting room and push purchases to the Web, Nau can build smaller stores (2,200 to 2,400 square feet compared to the traditional outdoor specialty store’s 4,000-plus square feet), reduce in-store inventory dramatically, and slash operating expenses. Plus, it consumes less energy and materials.”
 
Essentially, this is what I was suggesting in my article. Nau had the advantage of starting from scratch, so they didn’t have to change their store size and redo the whole store which, I acknowledge in my article, has some costs and takes some time. Anyway, the point is that here’s a brand that was trying to do more or less what I suggested with their retail stores. How has that worked out?
 
When I couldn’t find the store addresses on the web site, I called the company and found that all the stores had been closed.
 
A lot has changed in five years. Smaller retailers are going to have to find a more efficient way to integrate on line with brick and mortar. But here’s at least one example where it appears not to have worked out.