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Bytes and mortar: From Nasty Gal to Nordstrom and the future of how we shop

A shot from Nasty Gal’s 2.3 million follower strong Instagram feed.

On Nov. 9, reports surfaced that Nasty Gal, the Los Angeles-based e-commerce platform known for its trendy, edgy and affordable women's-wear, was filing for bankruptcy protection in the U.S. The industry was surprised to say the least. Wasn't Nasty Gal one of fashion's e-commerce pioneers (a shot from its 2.3 million follower strong Instagram feed is pictured above), led by 32-year-old founder Sophia Amoruso – aka the original #Girlboss – an icon for her generation's plucky work ethic and digital savvy? The news suggests that shopping habits aren't shifting as quickly as many predicted and physical retail spaces have been deemed passé too soon.

In the U.S., e-commerce makes up only 12 percent of total retail sales, which research and advisory firm Forrester Research expects to be $3.4 trillion this year. Farla Efros, president of Toronto-based firm HRC Retail Advisory, says that although foot traffic in stores is down, it's because consumers are using their web browsers to do their window-shopping.

In-store web-influenced sales, where a customer researches a product on a website or social media, are expected to account for about 38 percent of all U.S. retail sales this year. "Going online is an incredible way to get the knowledge and the education about a product versus going in to see an array of things that you don't know about or are unaware of," says Efros.

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Efros points to Toronto's new Nordstrom Eaton Centre location as a good example of a store that's adapting to the evolving relationship between physical and digital retail. Beyond digital must-haves like charging stations, free WiFi and well-lit selfie mirrors, the store boasts a customization station where shoppers can personalize their purchases on the spot. "You will never be able to do that online," says Efros. "You'd have to send it away and all that."

As for Nasty Gal's Amoruso – who stepped down from the role of company CEO in 2015 – she's moving on to another digitally disruptive endeavour. Her autobiographical book, #Girlboss, is about to be made into a Netflix series.


  • Celebrating the launch of the Derek Lam 10 Crosby Resort 2017 collection, Holt Renfrew is hosting the American designer at its Yorkdale Shopping Centre location on Nov. 17. There will be a public fashion presentation including a personal appearance by the designer at 6 pm. Afterwards, guests will be able to shop a limited time selection of the designer’s pieces. For more information, visit
  • West coast boozehounds take note: Canada’s biggest beer and whisky festival is coming to Vancouver’s PNE Forum from Nov. 21 to 27. Hopscotch caters to premium beer, whisky and spirits lovers with tastings, courses and dinners. The opening Glenlivet Pairing Dinner is already sold out, but you can still grab tickets to events like the Johnnie Walker Dinner at Wildebeest and the From Grains to Glass Master Class. For more information, visit
  • For Montreal’s littlest style savants, Marché Nënë is celebrating its fifth anniversary this year with a kid’s market at Mile End’s Soupesoup on Nov. 19 and 20. The annual event showcases the city’s top children-focused artisans, including handmade label Alice et Simone and doll-makers Raplapla. For more information, visit

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