Matthew Rosenberger donned the 3-D goggles and looked as if he was heading to a galaxy far, far away.
Seated inside the showroom of the luxury Coach store at the King of Prussia Mall on Thursday, Rosenberger was taking the five-minute Coach Virtual Reality tour, transporting him to what looked like a front-row seat at New York Fashion Week, which was Feb. 9 to 16.
To his left was Vogue editor Anna Wintour, and beside her was the singer and actress Selena Gomez — all in 3-D splendor.
“This is really neat. It looks so real,” said Rosenberger, who said he has been a loyal Coach customer for years. He turned his head from side to side, spanning the Fashion Week audience.
Then came the runway models, strutting on a prairie-like setting, with grass and tumbleweeds, and decked out in Coach’s fall 2017 collection.
Welcome to the intersection of fashion and technology. The links between the worlds are growing more common and sophisticated as brick-and-mortar retailers focus on “experiential retailing” to help offset e-commerce’s growing dominance and sell some clothes in stores.
"There is no question retailers will, and must, embrace technology and figure out how to maximize its benefit,” said Simeon Siegel, retail analyst for Nomura Securities International in New York. “This is particularly important because technology has been such a negative force in retail, pressuring profit margins and eliminating pricing power. So it falls to the companies to figure out how to use the everchanging technology to their benefit as well.”
Charles O’Shea, lead retail analyst for Moody’s, noted that virtual reality tours have been around for a while. Walmart passed out VR glasses at its October 2015 analyst meeting in New York City so analysts could view the inside of its stores.
Coach is the only store at King of Prussia offering the VR tour. It is part of an exclusive partnership involving mall owner Simon Group, Coach, talent management firm IMG, and Facebook.
The VR experience is also available at other Coach stores in Simon malls nationwide, from Fashion Valley in San Diego to the Westchester near New York City.
“We are creating cutting-edge content that will elevate the shopping experience at Simon malls,” said Chidi Achara, global creative director for Simon.
KOP’s Coach store manager, Mark Burke, said the 3-D VR tour had been “received extremely well” since it started on Feb. 23. It concludes Monday.
It was helpful “just being able to regain some clients that we’ve had for a while, and for them to see the transformation that we’ve been talking about,” he said.
“Obviously, everyone can shop online," Burke added. "Taking them to New York for Fashion Week ... is a way to keep them coming in.”
It's another feature of Coach’s repertoire for its most loyal customers — like free monogramming and cleaning on all handbags and other Coach products. Those services, from leather specialist Justin Kirkland, are offered in the Craftsmanship Bar that was introduced in May.
“I thought it was very cool,” said Rosenberger, an estate-planning attorney from Conshohocken, as he removed the 3-D glasses and handed them to his daughter, Carly. “This is a very good match for Coach.”
Carly, 13, focused on the person who sets fashion trends for young women and teens.
"Oh, wow, there’s Selena,” she said, giggling.