Men aren’t supposed to be into shopping, are they? So I must be
something of a freak because I love it - as long as it’s not for
groceries, which really is tedious.
This makes me far from the ideal target for Internet-based
Their whole strategy is designed to appeal to people who intrinsically
do not enjoy the shopping experience. The virtual mall provides the
shopaphobe with a technological escape clause: no more traipsing around
until your feet hurt only to realise that the first pair of trousers you
tried on three miles back was the one you should have bought. No more
rapid changes in temperature as you pass from the icy winter air outside
into the overheated department store, tucking your heavy overcoat under
your arm as you go. No more smarmy/pushy/rude shop assistants. No more
crowds. No more stress. (Ha! If you believe that, you’ve never used the
For me, this is all part of the fun. So put your supermarket online and
I’ll be first in the virtual queue, but if it’s clothes or even books or
records you’re selling via the Net, then don’t rely on the likes of me
because I’ll soon put you out of business. There are enough
stereotypical males out there, however, to convince the Gap that there’s
money to be made out of selling its clothes online. After launching an
online store last November, it has announced plans to expand beyond its
US home to the UK, France, Germany and Japan. The move is fortuitously
timed: it coincides with a report from Deloitte & Touche which predicts
a 300 per cent growth in electronic commerce in this country within the
next two years.
So will I be breaking the habit of a lifetime to join this growing band
of virtual vendees? Actually, a quick visit to the Gap site has left me
sorely tempted. It’s got this brilliant ’Get Dressed Interactive’ area
where you can drag all sorts of different clothes on to a model in lieu
of trying them on yourself. You can even alter the guy’s hairstyle, skin
tone and colour to make him resemble you as closely as possible.
Unfortunately, you can’t make him shorter or fatter, but you can give
him a goatee. As if I’d be that cruel.
Once you’ve decided what you want, you click through to an online
catalogue which carries actual photos of the items and enables you to
order them there and then.
The great thing about this is that it replicates (sort of) the shopping
experience in a way that involves you and makes the whole thing fun.
But, of course, it’s to avoid what I call ’fun’ that most online
shoppers use the Internet.
So where does that leave the Gap? In a no-man’s land, sadly, between
real and virtual shopping that does little to lend hope to its
expansionist plans. But at least it finally allows us to make sense of