Fashion industry veteran David Bush tackles the tricky issue of designer delivery cycles, ahead of the expose to run the the Ragtrader January print edition.
I have walked more department stores around the world than I care to remember and it never ceases to amaze me that all the Christmas decorations, the Santa’s with bobbing heads and faithful old Rudolph are merchandised and ready for sale in October.
Each time I see Santa’s head bobbing up and down I can hear my mother saying “ I swear these decorations are ready for sale earlier and earlier each year”.
The same can be said for many aspects of the retail world.
To what extent is this the case when it comes to Australian fashion? Are we looking at new seasons clothes thinking its madness and it must change or are we just thinking “oh nice jacket”.
It seems the debate around when we launch “The Season” and whether the fashion is climate right has been going on forever.
So why do we launch each season so early? Or Do we?
In spite of the climate change debate, we can all agree there are seasons, how dramatic the change or when the change occurs is the piece of the puzzle we all seem to disagree on.
One thing which all retailers agree, is that to drive revenue and sustain profits they must engage the customer, they must stimulate and excite them, they must find ways of enticing them through the doors and ensure they leave carrying at least one, hopefully many, of the logo’d shopping bags containing new seasons fashion and other stuff.
So my answer to why is simple.
Retailers do it and do it early to engage and start their customers thinking about what’s to come. After all it’s of no use to us if we buy the umbrella after the storm.
We need to be prepared for the season ahead - a new pair of Speedos for the holidays, a new coat before I freeze my ass of on my next trip to Melbourne.
Having said that, I don’t think many local retailers are filing their stores with coats in January, or swimwear in June anymore.
The vast majority has taken the view that during the change of seasons the offer to the customer should be “transeasonal”.
What the heck does “transeasonal” actually mean when it comes to fashion?
To me in many cases it means dull, uninteresting and bland. Short sleeve shift dresses in autumnal tones, lightweight chinos in forest green or deep purple.
As a customer I have two thought trains; I want to wear it now or I am looking ahead to next season.
So I am either shopping for summer weight chinos - in which case show me colours like orange, white, mint, OR I am thinking ahead and I want a pair of dark grey flannel pants - so don’t offer me lightweight charcoal chinos please.
Do ya think I’m stupid!!
At least when retailers where selling coats and other winter clothes in February we weren’t confused about what they believed in, what they saw as the direction for the season. Now it all looks like jumble sale to me.
The difficulty for local retailers today is that in many cases the package has already been unwrapped.
The coat may have been on sale for sometime online, via a global web store.
So the impetus for the customer to get off the couch and race to the store is beginning to decline.
That urgency is not what it was. Or is it that we as consumers don’t know what the hell they should be buying?
Half the store is summer and half is next winter because the stores are scared they’ll miss out on the sale if they don’t all have it for sale at the identical time to their online and global cousins.
The challenge for retailers today is finding the balance, the balance between wear now and fashion for tomorrow. I say, take a point of view, have a direction, stand for something and listen to what your customer is telling you.
Being a retailer for all seasons is not a strategy for success.
David Bush is the owner of David Bush Consulting. http://dbcconsulting.com.au
To hear more from industry heavyweights – Simon Lock, Eva Galambos and Karen Rieschieck – on this issue, pick up a copy of the Ragtrader January print edition.