Scott and Laura Jordan headquartered SCOTTeVEST, their pocket-sized outdoor clothing line, in Ketchum, Idaho because they love hiking with their three poodles in the Wood River Valley. The elegant glass and concrete building includes the retail store and showroom on the first floor, an e-commerce office on the second floor, and a climbing wall in the stairwell between. They live upstairs, from where they enjoy the view of the Sun Valley ski area.
When Scott, the brand’s CEO and co-founder, wanted to take the puppies for a hike last summer, he didn’t have an employee to man the store. So he bought a few hundred dollars worth of electronics, including a Ring doorbell, motion sensors, an Alexa Echo speaker, and security cameras. He put a sign on the door explaining the concept of “honor shopping”. When customers ring the doorbell during business hours, his phone alerts him, he shows up on speakerphone, and he remotely opens the door so they can shop solo. He encourages them to ask questions about product features, colors or sizes through the store’s microphone, which is always on, or to call his cell phone. When they’re ready to buy, he’ll come back if he’s nearby, or they can pay through PayPal and he can keep walking. “I’m a social animal and like to build relationships,” Scott says, “so I work to manage expectations so the experience isn’t weird.”
“Honor shopping” actually works
The company, which reportedly generates seven figures in annual revenue and currently employs no other staff, considers the honor buys a success. The Jordans don’t have to run an empty store and, according to Scott, customers appreciate being able to try things on their own.
“Trust breeds trust,” says Carla Smith, a Calgary retiree who shopped at SCOTTeVEST while vacationing in the area. “If you’re willing to take the first step and show that you trust people, it will be mutual.” Indeed, Laura claims that customers are more likely to return to the website for repeat online purchases after honor purchases.
That said, there are downsides to the concept. Customers who appreciate hands-on assessment of boot fit or paddle size may find the lack of in-person assistance off-putting. Additionally, accessibility issues – for example, for items stored on high shelves – or purchase returns mean shoppers should schedule a visit during office hours.
Still, the idea is likely to catch on, says Dallas-based global distribution and supply chain consultant Brittain Ladd: “A lot of people think it’s about labor shortages, but it is above all a matter of convenience. It gives the consumer the ability to shop whenever they want, cost-effectively [for the store].”
In most of the honor shopping programs that Ladd has in place, repeat customers register in advance, so their credit cards are saved – a different approach to the SCOTTeVEST model which invites new ones to to take a walk. For smaller outdoor retailers, Ladd envisions a true showroom setup, with paddles and fishing rods on the floor, and no on-site salespersons, so customers can enjoy the hands-on experience that comes their way. lack with online shopping. When they were ready to buy, they received the item in a staffed window or by delivery within 24 hours.
For customers like Smith, the pressure-free shopping environment is perhaps the most appealing of all. And the Jordans understand that. “I hate it when someone follows me around asking me if I need help, except when I need help,” Scott says. With his new system, he points out, the best of both worlds is possible.
This story first appeared in the Winter 2022 issue of our print magazine. Read the full issue here.