Bad weather is the number one excuse for brands and retailers when it comes to explaining poor performances (and there have been a few of those lately) but according to new research from Verdict Retail, it’s simply a case of having the wrong product in store at the wrong time. In other words the customer wants to see now, buy now and wear now.
According to the research firm’s June clothing survey 85.6% of shoppers say they like to buy clothing they can wear straightaway in the current weather and 51.4% do not like buying clothing in advance of the season “such as buying summer clothing in March/April when retailers launch their new SS collections,” Verdict said.
According to Verdict the current fashion cycle of dropping next season’s product early is now obsolete (in part due to that weather problem) but there are other factors in play. “While unpredictable weather patterns have rendered seasonal drops obsolete, social media has shortened fashion cycles, and created a see now, buy now, wear now mentality while generating constant desire for new products,” the company said.
Those brands and retailers that offer more transitional product are winning out while those with more structured seasons have been struggling to improve like-for-like sales increases, Verdict said. Streetwear brand Superdry and global fast fashion expert Zara are cited as two models to follow.
“[They] have ensured product and merchandising strategies are more aligned to consumer shopping habits. Superdry’s core offer is made up of predominantly transeasonal ranges, ensuring it is not aligned or over exposed to any particular weather, while Zara uses its vertically integrated supply chain to be weather responsive via flexible phasing, reactive product drops and frequent visual merchandising updates – where stylish layering is central to its instore display strategy,” Verdict commented.
But the problem isn’t just about the right product and the right time, but also the right messaging. In fact, according o the report, 75.6% of consumers feel there is enough transitional product in-store but they are put off by out-of-kilter marketing. “The problem of weak sales is not down to limited choice but is more to do with retailers’ marketing and merchandising strategies which have traditionally been aligned towards peak seasons. A quick glance at retailers’ current store propositions, which are showcasing new autumn/winter coats, fur and jumpers while the weather remains relatively warm, highlights why this system is counterintuitive,” Verdict said.
Some brands, however, are getting this right and Burberry is one of them, according the report. The British luxury brand recently unveiled its first ad campaign, shot by Mario Testino, to co-incide with its first see now, buy now collection to be shown at London Fashion Week next month (Burberry was the first luxury brand to break rank and say it was using Fashion Week to show its current collection, sparking a chain reaction from several others, such as Tom Ford and Vetements). Etailers Asos and Boohoo are also good examples of brands who tailor their messaging to current trends and events (be that bomber jackets or back to school), rather than traditional seasons and, as such, do well.
Verdict admits that there is little brands and retailers can do to influence the weather but in the long term they will need to overhaul their production and buying cycles to offer more flexibility and in the short-term adjusting their approach to marketing and visual merchandising should yield positive results.