The fast fashion age is over, John Lewis fashion buying director Christine Kasoulis has asserted.
Kasoulis told Drapers that as a sign of the economic times, customers are focusing on “buy less and buy well”, rather than the more “disposable” buy-now, wear-now approach.
She explained: “It might sound quite contradictory for a retailer to say, because we’re here to sell to people, but we think customers have appreciated the fact we can offer higher quality products with a longer life than just one season. People are thinking, ’how can I get as much wear out of this product as I possibly can?’ This is a trend that is building and will continue.
“Because the economy is quite uncertain and people are unsure about their personal finances, you might say that people are [leaning towards] buying lower-quality products but we’re not seeing that at all. We’re seeing customers [decide to] invest in more quality through considered purchases.”
The trend for quality was addressed in the latest John Lewis retail report, which found customers are less prepared to invest in items that they “will only wear a few times”.
The retailer cited a jump in sales for statement pieces in the period between August 2016 and September 2017, with womenswear seeing yellow and gold items soar by 44% and 47% respectively, while menswear saw a 74% jump in pink T-shirts and sales of brightly-coloured shirts were up by 54%.
However, John Lewis emphasised that the trend is now centred on making a statement “about the wearer, rather than feeling like a fashion fad”.
The department store group also highlighted an increase in awareness concerning product origins and manufacturing. It pointed to a 57% rise in sales of Toms, a brand that donates footwear to needy children, as well as a 39% increase in sales for its own-label men’s swim shorts, which are made from recycled plastic bottles.
Barbour coats proved to be the bestselling womenswear item for the year. John Lewis said khaki jackets were also particularly popular, attracting the most online searches in June.
The most popular brand searches by region at 3am during the period were Chanel in London; Joules in Birmingham; Kipling in Dublin; Barbour in Liverpool; Ted Baker in Bristol and Yves Saint Laurent in Southampton.
The findings also showed that online sales for dresses at the retailer tended to peak at 21:39pm.
Clothing that has lost popularity this year include push-up bras and office suits for women, with the latter seeing a 10% decline in matching suit-jacket and skirt sales.
Kasoulis said that in coming seasons, both men’s and women’s collections will increasingly “break the suit” since more shoppers are turning to smart-casualwear.
The retailer also said demand for cummerbunds has dropped by 21% over the past five years, but bow tie sales have remained “strong”.
The report provided an update on its in-store try-before-you-buy apartment initiative “The Residence”.
The experience attracted 17,000 customers within the first fortnight of its launch in September, with 3,000 applicants for its sleepover and dine-in options.
Estate agents Savills gave the apartment a £2m price tag.
John Lewis said it has seen a 34% increase in overall products stocked to 1 million in the four years to 2017, while the proportion of smartphone and tablet users rose to 64%, from 42%.
Customer orders made through click and collect also grew to 53%, compared with 40% in 2013.
Meanwhile Black Friday in 2016 was the most profitable day for John Lewis, compared with 2012 when it was Cyber Sunday.
Blush shade “millennial pink” dominated sales across clothing and home. Sales of women’s pink jackets increased by 55% compared to last year, while men’s pink shirts were up 39%.