As we all know, it’s sale season, so perhaps you’ve ventured outside of your retail comfort zone recently to order an item you’ve been pining after from a retailer that you’ve never shopped before. After all, what’s a better reason to try new things that the promise of a steep discount? When you do that, you learn all sorts of interesting things about new stores: which places offer free shipping, which places take forever to process your orders and perhaps most interesting, which places have the best packaging. We’re ready to crown a new champion.

In theory, packing shouldn’t matter all that much, as long as an item is packed well enough to arrive to your doorstep intact. In reality, though, the experience of buying luxury goods is among the things that make them worth the extra cash, and when it comes to the impersonal realm of online shopping, packaging is one of the best ways for a retailer to wow a customer and attract his or her future business. Most fashion has a standardized price for the vast majority of the year, so the little things are what can make one retailer shine over another when deciding where to buy a particular piece – the price will be equal, but what will be different?

During this sale season, I ordered items from three different retailers – Barneys, Net-a-Porter and Matches. Barneys is, of course, a New York-based retail chain with a basis in brick-and-mortar stores, and Net-a-Porter and Matches are both British companies – Net-a-Porter with a strictly online presence, Matches with several stores in London and a more robust presence online. All three purchases were shoes, so I got a chance to compare apples to apples, and Matches was the clear winner when it came to distilling the in-person luxury experience down to a courier delivery.

Net-a-Porter is known for beautiful packaging and its famous black boxes, but when you order shoes from the retailer, they simply come in the designer’s shoe box, tied with a black NAP bow, nestled inside the shipping box with black tissue. It’s a nice presentation, for sure, and it gets extra points for not being wasteful of materials while still providing a little extra oomph. Barneys, perhaps because the company is more focused on in-store experiences than online ones, simply placed the shoe box inside the shipping box – all the luxury was provided by the designer, and even the shipping information was stuffed into a clear plastic pouch on the outside of the box. Perfectly functional, but also perfectly average.

Matches, though, absolutely blew me away. My shoe box was placed inside a gorgeous, heavy, marble-printed, tissue-lined box made by British company Irving & Co., with prints commissioned from artist Annie Muir, complete with magnetic closure. My receipt and return information were tucked inside of a card stock envelope with an interior lining that matched the marble box, and the whole package was then slipped into a perfectly sized DHL shipping pack. Opening it at the office drew onlookers from neighboring desks and felt about as close to going into a high-end department store as online shopping ever gets.

The only downside of my Matches purchase was that delivery from the UK for a package of that size cost $20, whereas Barneys and Net-a-Porter both shipped gratis from New Jersey. For the money, though, my package, ordered on a Friday afternoon, arrived Monday morning all the way from across the pond. Between that impressive shipping time and the impressive presentation, the $20 didn’t even sting.

Of the online shopping destinations you’ve ordered from, which provided your favorite box-opening experience?

Matches Bags

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