With a late, cool spring this year, I suspect there cannot be many clothing retailers out there who haven’t caught a cold.
Fine weather can see customers out spending on their new season wardrobes as early as February, but the continuing cold in April has meant consumer reluctance to spend is apparent. And so mid-season Sales and spring offers began to clutter the high street and online.
My inbox was full of emails from retailers with offers enticing me to spend. One was from a large department store chain with a major online presence. My interest turned to horror when I realised they had reduced the majority of their spring clothing from two premium fashion labels that we have in common by 30%. How was I supposed to compete with this? Great customer service, smiles and courtesy won’t be enough to persuade customers to pay £550 for a leather jacket that can be bought online for £400. With savings like this to be had, I would try it on in my local boutique and search online too. Who wouldn’t?
Mid-season Sales and discounting are to be expected from high street fashion chains, but when it starts to happen with premium labels this is cause for concern. It undermines the whole brand status. I have always resisted slashing prices partway through the season. It only serves to teach customers to wait for a few weeks for another Sale to start and promotes the idea that you need never pay full-price for anything. Of course, none of us can predict the weather when it comes to buying, but we can hold our nerve. Otherwise consumer behaviour will be changed for ever.
Consider the nonsense that is Black Friday – an event imported from the US designed to get Americans shopping over the Thanksgiving break. Why do we need such an event in November? Fine, maybe, for electrical goods and furniture to be delivered in time for Christmas, but for fashion? Please, no. Online retailing has already changed the way the consumer shops but, when it comes to premium fashion retailing, if we’re not smart the race for the bottom could be the end for us all.