What retailers can learn from the Barbour jacket to thrive in the eCommerce sphere 

The global online retail sphere is poised for substantial growth, with analysts forecasting a staggering $8.1 trillion by the end of 2024. In response, retailers face the imperative of keeping pace with the evolving demands of tech-savvy consumers. Now, as 70 percent of shoppers seek a blend of multiple touchpoints between online and in-store experiences when making a purchasing decision, sustaining consumer attention hinges on a commitment to innovation. On top of this, navigating complex logistical challenges becomes essential for retailers striving to stay competitive, achieve scalability, and ensure long-term business viability.  

Enter Barbour, a British love story dating back to 1894. It stands as a testament to a British brand that has withstood the test of time. How did this farmyard companion evolve into a Glastonbury staple, and go on to capture the attention of Gen Z? This prompts intriguing lessons in how traditional retailers can draw from Barbour’s legacy and thrive as they step into the eCommerce sphere.   

Marketplace dynamics: convenience vs. brand

Ed Bradley
Ed Bradley

To broaden your customer base, opting to sell via a digital marketplace such as Ocado or Boohoo may suit the ambitions of retailers looking to showcase goods alongside a spectrum of merchants. Like participating in a traditional market day, vendors set up stalls to sell products and connect with potential visiting customers. In the digital sphere, marketplace platforms serve as intermediaries, hosting multiple vendors and linking them directly with online browsers. If your primary product range is confined or doesn’t encompass specific categories, a marketplace model offers a viable avenue for venturing into eCommerce. 

While a marketplace facilitates the convenience of luring in more buyers open to exploring a diverse product selection, there is a tradeoff: brand identity. In turn, this can chip away at efforts for building a one-to-one relationship between retailer and customer. Especially if your customer base is seeking a unique and curated shopping experience, this can impact brand loyalty. 

Before propelling digital growth via saturated marketplace platforms, retailers must consider areas for compromise. Hosting products within a broader marketplace among the competition will inevitably set in motion a change in retailer-to-customer conversations, storytelling, and, more broadly, storefront identity. 

A strategic alternative to traditional online marketplaces is drop shipping. In this approach, retailers can broaden their product range without the need to physically stock items. Upon receiving an order, the retailer liaises with the supplier, who then ships the product to the customer. By meticulously choosing products that harmonize with your brand identity and central offerings, you can establish a smooth and cohesive shopping experience, foster long-term customer loyalty, and expand your product range – without the additional inventory cost. This concept is similar to a ‘curated marketplace’, where retailers retain control of branding, and place the customer at the heart of their scaling plan by nurturing those all-important customer experiences.  

Nurturing heritage  

Impressively, Barbour stands out as a masterful example of skillfully nurturing its heritage whilst boldly pushing boundaries and fulfilling unique customer experiences. The Barbour jacket has maintained its ilk as a ‘golden oldie’ through a commitment to craftmanship, durability and versatility. From stepping out for a dog walk in the waxy waterproof to having ubiquity among city workers – prompting the creation of its quilted iteration – its evolution is underscored by Barbour’s keen responsiveness to its customer base.  

Family walking a dog in the countrysideIn collaboration with fashion giants like Gucci, and most recently, Ganni – connecting British heritage with the charm of ‘scandi cool’- Barbour has not only broadened its reach but entered a new collective consciousness, captivating the discerning tastes of Gen Z and ensuring its longevity among the next generation. Once more, despite collaborations with fashion designers, at its core, Barbour remains utilitarian – each piece made to last a lifetime. As such, Barbour embodies the dropship curated marketplace model, offering a balanced blend of tradition and innovation.   

Building a digital retail empire 

Similarly to Barbour’s ‘make do and mend’ ethos, the dropship curated marketplace model seamlessly integrates with existing stocked-in ranges, enhancing inventory precision, minimizing storage costs, and aligning stock levels with consumer demands. This precision ensures a stellar digital customer experience. To further enhance adaptability and durability, retailers can leverage specialist Software as a Service (SaaS) for streamlined drop shipping business management. SaaS acts as the snap popper, fastening together brand identity with curated product selections through drop shipping.  

This framework empowers retailers to maintain brand control while expanding their products, offering flexibility through automated order processes, efficient communication with suppliers, and accelerated inventory management. This results in cost-effectiveness and increased profitability, enabling retailers to promptly adapt to market trends and evolving consumer preferences, ensuring a continued provision of high-quality experiences.  

Transforming traditional retail, the integration of drop ship curated marketplace software is vital for empowering retailers to make a strong online debut. It not only facilitates the establishment of their digital storefront but also ensures a distinctiveness akin to the Barbour jacket, keeping the customer wrapped up in the heat of their new eCommerce model and strategy.  

By Ed Bradley 

For a list of the sources used in this article, please contact the editor.  


Ed Bradley is CEO at Virtualstock, Europe’s leading drop shipping and curated marketplace SaaS platform. The cloud-based solution facilitates a one-to-many connection between blue-chip retailers and suppliers, ensuring visibility across the supply chain, stock availability, order status, and delivery updates. It empowers organizations to boost online sales, reduce operational costs, and enhance customer experiences through tailored and customer-centric dropship solutions.