New Zealand clothing label Kowtow is a winner. Its minimalist aesthetic combined with impeccable social and environmental credentials fuelled a 224.42 percent growth rate last year, propelling it into the 2014 Deloitte Fast 50.
The tight control Kowtow maintains over its supply chain ensures its certified organic fair trade cotton and its garment factory in Kolkata continue to meet the high standards that have become central to the brand, but they also allow the designers to do exciting things, such as creating gorgeous limited-edition prints.
So, when I missed out on buying a particular pair of printed trousers from Kowtow’s online store, I wasn’t ready to give up. A quick Google search led me to an independent boutique based in Auckland, which stocked a pair in my size – or so it appeared.
Within a day or two of placing my order, I received an email from the boutique’s owner. She said it turned out that her store didn’t stock the trousers in my size after all, but would I try the next size up? Knowing the bigger trousers wouldn’t fit, but unwilling to accept that my white whale was out of reach, I let the boutique owner send me the pair she had. They were definitely too big.
I was riled up enough to send the bigger pair straight back the same day I tried them on. And then there was silence. Several weeks later, a few emails confirmed the boutique hadn’t received my trousers. New Zealand Post got involved, only to tell me that they couldn’t issue compensation for items that had been missing longer than two weeks.
Neither I nor the boutique owner was happy with the end result: I was out of pocket, and she had lost a customer. She might have refunded me if I’d chased her for it, but by the time I’d swapped a few dozen emails with her and the postal service, I was sick of thinking about those missing trousers.
The whole mess could have been avoided if the boutique had been on top of its stock management. There’s no need for a customer to pursue a product to the ends of the earth if the retailer’s systems support them. Case in point: I’m back on Kowtow’s website right now.