Inspired by a recent Webinar by industry insider and Lectra’s director of fashion and apparel marketing Anastasia Charbin, this post covers some of the most pertinent trends, influences and factors impacting our industry.
What is 1.1 sq/ft in Italy but 28 sq/ft in the US? These figures indicate the average store space per person in the two regions, a very real indicator of the importance and tradition of retail and the in-store experience in the US.
Does the new consumer need to be catered to in this way? This new consumer is connected to a vast array of social media platforms and online sales. They are informed and led by an over-saturated industry and they put enormous pressure on the industry with their irrational expectations, which the industry itself created.“There are too many retailers. There are too many brands. There are too many designers. There are too many discount stores, and the predator online companies are selling discount like crazy.”
Mickey Drexler, CEO of J.Crew.
The most infamous retailer, Amazon, is gaining momentum in their apparel offer and poses a real threat to the industry, by commoditizing clothing. In other words, clothing is bought purely on the basis of price and considered by the consumer simply as units to be acquired at the best price—a dangerous prospect in terms of the industry’s economics. Charbin takes the example of milk: in the US it costs more to produce than what it is sold for, yet for clothing this is not only fatal from an economic point of view but also dangerous because of the potential loss of the creative aspect of our industry.
While fashion hasn’t reached the point of a cost commodity yet—thanks in large part to the creative traditions surrounding it, both stemming from and boosted by luxury fashion houses—the digitalization of fashion has had an influence, and a decidedly negative one from a creative point of view: sameness.
“Since fashion went digital, everyone has access to the same information at the same time. And a lot is still very influenced by what goes on at the large luxury houses. Most shopping centers and main shopping streets have the same stores, many of them owned by multinational corporations who all have the same goal: to make money and expand. In order to do so, they have to look at what trends can be adapted for the mass market, which means the products are pretty much the same everywhere.”
Jörgen Andersson , Uniqlo CEO.
This “sameness”, is also the result of an industry playing it safe. In the shadow of the 2008 international economic crisis, companies are more risk–averse, choosing to buy only what sold well in previous seasons. This means less and less differentiation in the market place offer, and represents a big threat to aesthetic creativity.
Yet the digital age presents a new array of challenges, with potential to positively impact the industry, such as a new emphasis on fit. With online representing a significant and ever-increasing percentage of garment sales, right-first-time fit is often a deciding factor in brand loyalty. According to fitsme.com, online garment sales have on average a 13% return rate, of which 77% are due to bad fit. This represents a massive potential impact on immediate sales as well as long term brand loyalty.
A new era in fashion has dawned and the changes it brings are both hard to foresee and hard to define. While some evolutions, such as a new consumer who is more informed, or fitting norms which must be more consistent and stringent can be considered as positive, many are of questionable impact. As internet sales ramp up and the world gets a little smaller, the demands and pace of fashion seemingly leave little room for the historical creativity which once defined it.