May 11, 2005, 12:00 AM’s new search feature lets shoppers reserve online at stores

The new feature tells online shoppers if an item is in the local Talbots store and puts it on hold there, or offers the option of buying on It’s a build on the store search feature already used by associates at the point of sale.


A cross-channel shopping feature piloted on last year and quietly launched in February got its first promotion in an introductory e-mail that went to Talbots customers this week. The new Style Search feature allows online shoppers to reserve an item they see on at a local Talbots store, where if available, it will be pulled out of inventory or off the floor and held for them for up to seven days.

To use the feature, online shoppers click the Style Search option on an item’s product page. That opens a window asking shoppers to select a size and color for the item to be reserved, as well as to supply their city or ZIP Code. If the selected item is available at a Talbots store within 50 miles, that information is provided and the shopper can then click a button to reserve the item at that store. Inventory at local stores is updated at least daily, with the time of the most recent update provided on that page.

When shoppers put an item on reserve, within 24 hours they receive an e-mail and a phone call from a store associate confirming that the item is in-store. If the selected item is not available at a local store, shoppers are given that information online at the time they attempt to reserve the item, and they’re offered the option of buying it on

The Style Search feature builds on a store search feature already available in Talbots retail locations. That feature lets in-store shoppers who want a different size or color of an item than what’s on hand in the store do a company-wide inventory search for the item and arrange to have it shipped to their home, office, or a local Talbots store. The store search is conducted for the customer by the store associate at a computer terminal at the point of sale.

“This takes that great store service and puts the power into the hands of the customers,” says a spokeswoman for the company. “We know many of our customers use the web site to browse first and then go to a store to buy. This gives them an option for making sure the merchandise they want is there.” is the multi-channel retailer’s fastest growing channel, the spokeswoman adds, and it’s experienced double-digit growth each year since going live in 1999. In addition to the e-mails introducing the new online feature to Talbots customers, the company plans to support the feature in its catalog as well.


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