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Brief Published: 30 Jun 2014

Try-Before-You-Buy Retail by GU


Japanese retailer GU – the trend-driven budget clothing chain and sister brand of Uniqlo (both owned by Japanese conglomerate Fast Retailing) – has launched a new service in Tokyo dubbed ‘GU fitting’, which allows customers to test-drive items for the day without any payment. 

The service is available for up to 30 customers per day on a first-come, first-served basis.  They can take a maximum of three items each in exchange for just their names and telephone numbers. Shoppers are permitted to try out items anywhere outside the store, as long as they are returned by closing time.  

Whether the clothes are returned or not, the experiment – which runs until June 30 – has the potential to be a huge loss leader for the brand, as none of the returned items will be resold. According to Daisuke Hase, a spokesman at GU, if the consumer decides not to purchase the items they’ve been trialling, the returns will be displayed on mannequins or tossed into the recycling bin.

However, beyond the obvious marketing hype it’s already generated, the concept may enable the brand to build valuable consumer bonds. On a limited scale, the try-before-you-buy experience certainly taps into the seductive premise of ‘living the brand’ – as previously seen in case studies involving both Japanese homeware brand Muji and Dutch furniture specialist Droog. Read about them in the Product Playgrounds report in our Power of Play Industry Trend.