Shopping Without Dropping

Edinburgh start-up seeks to change online shopping

Feature by Alex Cole | 30 May 2013
  • Cally Russell

So you want to shop for clothes. Don’t say you don’t, Technology section reader, we already know you do and it’s not our fault you still think cargo khakis are in. Well-intentioned though you may be, the experience of hitting the shops with a posse of friends is never quite duplicated online, where picking out your next fashion option can often be a dry, lonely experience. So why not bring your friends along too?

That’s the core idea behind Mallzee, a new Edinburgh-based start-up working out of Leith, to offer ‘bespoke personal shopping.’ Founded by Cally Russell, Mallzee aims to make online shopping both more efficient, by recommending clothes based on your preferences and selections, as well as more social, by allowing users to put their considered items up for a vote, and including them in the process.

“Most people shop with their friends. You don’t do that online. The way that people shop, and the way that technology interacts with people shopping, has evolved dramatically in the last 5-10 years,” says Cally, “but the way that people actually buy when they shop online really hasn’t. If you give people an experience, give people something special, you get Mallzee.”

The idea came from Cally’s own experience shopping on the high street. “I used to always take my friends when I went shopping, get their opinions. I need them to pull me back from the genuinely bad purchases.” Taking that same kind of social experience and setting it online has made for a proposition that has already garnered a fair amount of attention and bagged over 200 retailers offering their wares on the site. By the summer, they aim for users in the 10s of thousands, and want to push for an international offering.

In doing so, the Mallzee team, now 6 strong and all in their 20s, seek to learn about how that social shopping experience influences what people eventually go for, and why. For start-ups just getting off the ground, Cally advises that they have to be realistic about what they are aiming for, but that they should never be afraid to ask for help. “There’s nothing wrong with it. There’s also nothing wrong with failing.”

Mallzee is free to join, and users can create an account with their Facebook profile to dive into social shopping.