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Feb 16, 2008
Feb 16, 2008
TravelSmith - Good merchandise, less than stellar web site
This spring, my husband and I are planning to visit Paris, so I became determined to find the perfect travel clothes for style savvy Europe. You see, I am an anxious traveler. Its a kind of free floating anxiety, part excitement over an upcoming trip, part nerves. And that annoys me. So I always try to find some way to focus that anxiety something concrete to hang it on that I can do something about. This time its obtaining the perfect travel wardrobe, partially from TravelSmith. Thats my rationalization and Im sticking to it.
TravelSmith specializes in .wait for it .travel clothing and accessories! I know, a shocker. Theyve been around in catalogue form for years, but this was my first experience using their website. My first impression of the home page is that it is rather utilitarian. Clean and uncluttered, with links down the left side to take you where you need to go. Before you get to the general categories there are pages for new arrivals, spotlight items for men and women, travel gear, web only items and the swim shop. Then we get to the big categories of general womens and mens clothing and shoes, luggage and travel supplies. Also available are links that will provide items grouped by collection and fabric. Add the usual sales and outlet links and there you have it. The home page graphic is always very simple a promotional ad, a picture of a new collection, a seasonal item. It is most certainly never cluttered. I like it.
TravelSmith has exactly what I was looking for in travel clothing. Lots of solid, neutral colors, easy wear and care fabrics and soft, comfortable styles. This is a company that caters to adults, so the clothing leans heavily toward more classic lines and styles. I was looking for wide leg pants, gauchos and jackets, all of which they have in abundance. You will not find a lot of trendy clothing here and there is no section for juniors. From what I understand this is perfect for traveling in Europe where women are expected to dress appropriately for their age. From that I am assuming that my usual concoctions of pajamas and work-out clothes would probably be frowned upon. Fortunately, TravelSmith is there for me. They also have an impressive and entirely too tempting selection of travel gear including packing items, hats, and other accessories that I almost convinced myself that I absolutely had to own. Fortunately I do have a small bit of willpower or I would now be able to pack for a six month trek around the world. The prices at TravelSmith are what I would characterize as average. The clothing that I ordered averaged about fifty bucks per item more than Target but less than Macys. Since the quality is good, I think the prices are fairly reasonable.
Now here is where TravelSmith starts to unravel a little bit. They suffer from a lack of redundancy. Usually, I would call redundancy a bad thing, but on a web site, I want it. And I want it all over the place. All of the womens clothing items should be in the general section new items, sale items and collection items included, but theyre not. The wrap I wanted could only be found in a special section on traveling to Europe it was nowhere else to be found on the site. I consider this a pretty serious drawback since it makes it necessary to hunt through every section of the site to be sure youve seen all your options. Perhaps its intentional (the more you look, the more you buy), but I see it as sloppy site design and/or maintenance. The fact is that it is easier to find what you want and put together orders from their catalogue than from their website.
The product pictures and descriptions could also be improved. The clothing is not shown on models and multiple views/larger pictures are not available.
The site does have some fun features, though. They have packing guides for various destinations and articles on general travel as well as packing for travel. These are nifty additions that let the company boast its knowledge of various destinations and what you might need when you visit. There is a prominently displayed 24 hour toll free number to call with questions and a quick catalogue order function if you know what you want from the catalogue.
Shipping and Customer Service
Shipping cost is determined by your order total with a minimum of five bucks and a maximum of eighteen. Not too bad, but not free. My order was confirmed via email and shipped within days. One item was on backorder and that arrived within two weeks, having been shipped precisely on the date given at the time of ordering.
One of the reasons I dont often shop for clothing online is because I dont want to hassle with returning things that I cant try on before ordering. I used TravelSmiths sizing guide but do not suggest anyone else ever use it. Ever. The size I measured at was two and a half sizes larger than the size that actually ended up fitting me (which was, of course, my usual size why dont I just go with what I know?). But their completely whacked out sizing guide did give me the opportunity to try out their return policy.
TravelSmith supplies a return shipping label for returns and exchanges, along with a form allowing you (actually, requiring you) to tell them why and what you are returning or exchanging. From the site documents, it appears that you will be charged about seven bucks for all returns or exchanges. Okay, no big deal you pay for postage. Except you dont. The return label is paid in full and they tell you that the seven bucks will come off your credit card. But they dont ask for your number unless youre exchanging for something that costs more. Presumably theyve kept my credit card information on file despite the fact that I did not leave a card number on file when I set up my account. The whole process in cumbersome and weird, but I did get my exchange and have yet to see any additional charge show up on my credit card.
My feeling is that this is a serious drawback to any site selling clothing or shoes. Returns and exchanges are absolutely inevitable (especially when your sizing guide completely sucks) and making this process as easy as possible is certainly in their best interest. Im not sure, despite being very pleased with the quality of the items I purchased and the speed with which they were delivered, that Im willing to plow through their weird exchange or return process again.
TravelSmith carries a large selection of travel clothing and gear, and carries exactly the type of easy wear and care clothes I was looking for. Im very pleased with the quality of my purchases and the speed with which they were delivered and think the prices, while not a bargain, are reasonable for the items offered. However, their site is cumbersome and time consuming to navigate and returns/exchanges are set up in an odd and not user-friendly fashion. Despite all the good things about TravelSmith, I dont think that I will order from them the next time I need to control my trip anxiety with retail therapy.