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Tonight's Outfit Delivered on Your Lunch Break

Rachel Ward | June 13, 2013 | Lifestyle Style & Beauty Story Style Fashion Shopping

Fashion start-up Boutiika launched DASH, a day-of shipping service for apparel from local boutiques, in San Francisco this month. The near instant delivery of quotidian goods by Google, Amazon, and eBay are reportedly on the brink of widespread reality, but in the meantime, SoMa-based Boutiika markets their new service to the woman desperate for the perfect sheath for a last-minute opera invite or in need of a locally designed statement necklace for a forgotten birthday gift.

For DASH-qualified merchandise, customers pay a flat $10 rate (conveniently calculated into the online order total) to have goods from independent merchants scattered around the city—from Chestnut to Valencia—delivered by courier during a specified time window. So far the wait time has averaged an impressive one hour. The concept hasn’t been a hard sell for brick and mortar shops like Chloe Rose and BeGood Clothing eager to gain any competitive edge in the face of looming e-commerce empires, and Boutiika plans to expand DASH to more cities this summer.

The initial success of DASH has pointed to an unexpected trend: About half of the orders have been for menswear, from a list of stores that includes Daniel Sudar and The Brooklyn Circus. And some of the most popular items have been D-Structure screen-printed tees, likely not the urgent special occasion attire the company had in mind. It makes sense, in light of the new instant-gratification standard set by rockstar apps like Seamless, Uber, and even Tinder, that now consumers of both genders would expect tonight’s outfit on demand.

British expat and Accenture alum Ruchika Kumar came up with the idea for Boutiika, which now works with more than 100 San Francisco stores, after hearing her friends say that they wanted to explore and support local businesses but ended up resorting to the ease of e-commerce. She moved to the Bay from the Big Apple in 2012 to found the site with Mohith Julapalli, who holds both law and computer science degrees from Stanford. Their platform allows shoppers to discover new stores in the area, check out what a favorite shop has in stock, or search for a coveted handbag available at a local retailer.

Boutiika stands out in a crowded market of Bay Area shopping start-ups, including Threads (an ultra-personalized shopping feed that uses sophisticated search parameters to scour the web for sales) and the TheFind (a mega-search engine with a pulse on national retailers and discounts), in that it posts live inventory from independent merchants, and DASH shipping excluded, aims to move customers from behind the screen to inside the stores.

We try DASH:

7 a.m. Stuff chinos, oversized sweater, and lunch into gym bag and bike to a morning workout.
8:30 a.m. Arrive to the office, slightly wrinkled.
10 a.m. Think about the two events on tonight’s agenda, a launch party at Alexis Bittar and a hotel grand opening on Market. Dread showing up in this morning’s hastily put together outfit.
11 a.m. Check out the Boutiika site and search for DASH-eligible dresses in my size. Decide on a green frock from Saffron Rare Threads priced at below three digits. Request 1–4 p.m. delivery.
1:15 p.m. Maroon shopping bag appears at the front desk. Inside is the dress on a hanger in protective plastic, tags attached. Receipt outlines 14-day, in-store return policy.
5 p.m. Sneak to the bathroom for a quick wardrobe change, thinking that this is the ultimate in impulse purchases. Relieved to find that I have an extra pair of heels at my desk.
6 p.m. Show up to event number one and immediately receive a compliment on the new dress. Proceed to detail how I got it just today, without ever leaving my cube (for better or worse).

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