As a child, I loved paging through my mom’s Newport News catalogs, and when the company started its websites, they were the first place I ever bought mail order clothing from. They’ve been around for over thirty years and have established a strong reputation as an excellent supplier of reasonably priced clothes for a variety of ages and fashion sensibilities. Here’s my review of the overall Newport News experience:
Quality of Selection
Newport News offers a huge variety of clothing, ranging from basics like t-shirts and jeans to incredibly unique pieces like vintage-inspired velvet equestrian coats. Both my mom and my grandmother loved shopping at Newport News, and I love them too, which is strong testimony to their broad appeal. Unlike some smaller web startups, Newport News started as a mail order catalogue and has been around for decades, which means they rarely run out of things.
Quality of Clothing
Though I’ve had a few pieces from Newport News fall apart after one wearing, the quality of their clothing is overwhelmingly good. It seems they do better with simple pieces; embroidered and bead embellished pieces seem to fall apart a bit more quickly and I’ve had a few of these items arrive damaged.
Quality of Fit
The clothing at Newport News comes in a variety of sizes, and they stock a good bit of both XL and XS clothes. However, their clothing sizes don’t seem to be standardized. A small in one item might swallow me, while a small in another may be just right. They don’t post measurements for individual items aside from length, which can make finding a good fit challenging. However, when something is not either too big or too small, it seems to fit quite well. In other words, the cut of their clothing is top notch; the real issue is that the meaning of the sizing varies substantially from piece to piece.
Value for Price
In terms of price to value ratio, I have yet to find a site that can match Newport News. Their clothes are generally fairly inexpensive, and at times I’ve bought a cheap item thinking it would be low quality. Almost inevitably, the items exceed my expectations based on the prices. Their website states they have lowered prices recently, possibly as a reaction to the recession, but I’ve continued to get high quality stuff from them despite the lower prices.
Newport News has a basic, standard clothing website without many frills. However, items are neatly organized and it’s generally easy to find what I want. It seems that occasionally things in the catalog are not listed directly on the website, which means you have to click on their “catalog quick order” link in order to get to the item you want to see. Equally frustrating is the fact that sale items are often listed separately from non-sale items which means you can’t, for example, click on a link and see all sale and non-sale dresses. Nevertheless, their site is simple and uncluttered and once you know how it works you can easily find whatever you want.
The one thing that has stopped me from being a more faithful Newport News shopper is their customer service. Perhaps because they’re so used to running a mail order business, they don’t seem to have really come into the 21st century in terms of online customer service. There’s often a significant lag in ship time. I’ve ordered items from Newport News and other sites on the same day; I typically receive the item from the other site before Newport News even bothers to ship my item. They don’t offer overnight shipping either, which can be frustrating if you just have to have something right now.
Newport News is generally good about returns and I’ve never had any questions from them when I needed to return an item. However, their returns processing, just like their shipping, takes substantially longer than other sites. Their customer service representatives are generally nice and polite, but typically pretty unhelpful. If you ever have a problem, be prepared for a long wait and a lackluster response.
Newport News is great if you’re not in a hurry and if you’re prepared to wait for a return. Their legacy as a mail order catalog company may have made them resistant to adjusting to a newer, fast-paced and high service style, but overall I’ve been happy with my Newport News experiences.