Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Genius or idiocy? The Smithfield Case

Just over a week ago I wrote about the Smithfield Box, this idea of ordering clothes from someone who'd choose them for you based on a few sizes and hints on your taste. Was it a good idea or plain crazy? Here's the blog entry and here's the service. As promised I tried it, and here's what I found.

I opted for smart casual clothes, set a budget, put my sizes and a few colour preferences in but deliberately left out the photo. Let's see what they send, I thought.

Signing up was painless. It took them a couple of days to get back to me but then they had to choose the clothes. There were, to be fair, a couple of stinkers - a Boss jacket that was too young on me as well as being too small (they'll replace mis-sized items of course; given that size varies from brand to brand it's no surprise that they allow a bit of leeway and occasionally send something that's large rather than XL as I asked, or XXL just in case). Loads of detailing on the pockets, not my taste at all. A Paul Smith floral shirt was marked XL but also had that appalling slogan "slim fit", and a pair of Paul Smith plimsols - I don't call those trainers - just didn't do anything for me.

Most of the clothes, though, were pretty damned good. I've kept a Polo Ralph Lauren cotton ribbed V-neck and would happily have helped myself to a zip top one as well if I hadn't found it cheaper on the House of Fraser website (Smithfield claims to be convenient, not the cheapest); a pair of brown chinos were not my usual colour but my wife assured me they looked great so they've gone into the wardrobe rather than the returns box, and a paid of Pied a Terre tan Chelsea boots were excellent - no way were they going back, until the tag on the back snapped. Smithfield is of course happy to replace them.

I'm sending a couple of Polo Ralph Lauren shirts back because they were in L rather than XL - it was worth checking - but also because I'm not short of shirts. Had I been in that market then the pink/red stripe shirt and the blue linen they sent would have done very well.

So on balance I'd have to quantify this as a resounding success. Friendly staff - I have a personal shopper called Beatrice on hand anytime I want to order again - no obligation and above all convenience. They delivered free on Saturday morning and collected yesterday evening at no extra charge - they'll simply debit my card with the value of the items I've kept.

I'm going on holiday in a few months' time and depending on what I find needs replacing in my summer wardrobe I'll certainly be in touch with these guys again. Aside from not getting the same discount I found elsewhere - which is absolutely not something they claim to offer - I can't think of a single drawback.

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