Sorry Antonio— this image is too good, I had to borrow it. The irony is incredible– “Live Beyond Your Means” on the window of a store that went under. Says a lot about the retail climate we’re experiencing.
There’s a lot of reactionary “strategy” in motion right now by apparel retailers & wholesalers who are desperately trying to stop the bleeding. Slash prices, cut inventory levels, homogenize the product, reduce the workforce, cut expenses, close stores– but what’s the long term answer? The industry is facing unprecedented times– but this didn’t happen overnight, and we only have ourselves to blame. The industry is finally paying the price for years of over-saturating the retail landscape with too many stores, an excess of irrelevant “me too” brands & products, and in many cases– undeservedly fat markups.
“The consumer is so well-informed today, they don’t want to be told how to buy and they feel conned and manipulated by big flagship stores, and by the disproportionate margins the brands are making,” Inacio Ribeiro said. “However, the consumer will welcome suggestions, and that is the way forward.”
Fashion’s reliance on ever-lower prices failed last fall, as sale signs shouting 60, 70 and 80 percent off attested. Value is making a comeback across the price spectrum. –WWD
In short– we got fat, lazy & greedy, as the consumer became more sophisticated and savvy. Now they are deciding with lethal force who will survive and who will die– and quite honestly, a lot of us deserve to die.
But where there is a market in turmoil, there is also great opportunity. It’s crucial now more than ever to aggressively engage the consumer with compelling brand stories that offer relevant, quality products with an honest, attractive price/value relationship. Oh, and great service too. We seem to have somehow forgotten about that altogether. Someone somewhere decided that the customer wasn’t going to pay us for service and we all bought into it. Service is a huge component of customer experience that is harder to repair than it is to establish from day one and maintain. It’s a culture– not a moment or a motto. I get better service at the Chik-Fil-A drive thru than I do at just about any clothing store that I’ve shopped in lately. Obviously it’s not hard, it just has to be a priority– get it on your radar.
So just to recap–
The consumer values compelling brands (great story/point of view/or personality they resonate with) that offer relevant, quality products with a strong price/value relationship, delivered with great, personalized service. This isn’t a new story here, a lot of us just took our eye of the ball.
“Shoppers who for years have subsidized mediocre collections and chains via credit-fueled purchases are reasserting themselves and forcing brands to produce goods that meet the demands of their lifestyles. Simply selling the same old, same old for 20 percent less will not be enough.” –WWD
I’ve recently been introduced to J. Hilburn, a Dallas-based custom clothier that lives-out these principles better than anyone out there. From the very first time I spoke to partners Hil Davis and Veeral Rathod, it was obvious that these guys are both passionate and extremely thoughtful in creating an incredibly attractive template for the new retail paradigm. They started out by offering custom made-to-measure dress shirts starting at $79-$149 (made from fine Monti fabrics, professionally measured by personal appointment when and where it best serves you) and they are currently expanding the product range to include knits, sweaters, trousers, furnishings, etc.
I was so impressed, that I had to be a part of it. As J. Hilburn continues to grow, we are singularly focused on being the leader in menswear style, quality & value– delivered every step of the way with unrivaled personal service.
“The consumer is responding to great product, but it has to represent good intrinsic value,” said Tom Murry of Calvin Klein. –WWD
Not to be a broken record– in times like these, there are huge opportunities for a focused, honest brand to succeed by consistently delivering on the fundamentals– deliver great products in a way that consistently exceeds all the customer’s expectations, while anticipating and creating their future needs and desires.
“We have to get back to creating innovative product, concepts and merchandising ideas to stimulate and energize the customer,” said Andrew Rosen, president and co-founder of Theory. “You just can’t get away with making clothes and expecting them to sell. You have to be good at what you do. Clothing is not just a status symbol anymore. There has to be a sense of relevancy to it.” –WWD
Truer words have not been spoken. It’s a different world we live in now– with a whole new set of rules, values and expectations. Trying to manage through this and seeing it as a temporary setback or hiccup would be a huge mistake. Someone has not just moved the cheese– they’ve eaten it.