Walkby Helps Chicago Clothing Boutiques Stay in Business

April 22, 2013

3:00 pm

Imagine you own a clothing shop, and you get a beautiful shipment of summer dresses. Floral patterns, bright reds and yellows, everything just screams to be bought. But if a dress appears on the rack and no one’s there to see it, does it make any money?

Launching publicly today, Walkby is an iPhone app that wants to bridge that gap between shops with new merchandise and customers who might buy it, if they knew it existed. Users tell it what they want – a “red dress size 4” or “black leather shoes” – and stores can respond to these requests. When you see something you want, you can buy it immediately or reserve it to try on. The app currently houses fashion from over 180 businesses in Chicago.

Walkby screenshot

“I believe we are all connected to small businesses as they represent the cornerstone of our community. They provide us with goods, services, and jobs,” says Hernandez, who founded the company with Derek Morris, Nic Roth, and Matt Gilk through Lightbank’s Founder-in-Residence program.

CEO Josh Hernandez spent some time at Lighbank, where he saw entrepreneurs creating too-complicated solutions for small businesses – when all they wanted were more customers and more sales. And boutiques should get both with Walkby. The app even shows trends among all buyers’ desires, like a preference for snakeskin or pink dress shirts – so stores can make buying decisions accordingly.

Walkby limits the number of requests that stores see, so they don’t get overwhelmed. But if fulfilling requests becomes too much work, Hernandez sees that as a great problem – after all, hiring another employee who will help bring in more sales makes sense, he says.

Independent clothing stores and boutiques are known for their human touch, like a favorite salesgirl who always knows which pair of shoes you’ll love. And Walkby doesn’t want to eliminate that, just take it mobile. “Walkby . . . lets merchants focus on providing the customer service their community knows them for,” says Hernandez.

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact kira@tech.co.

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