Rather than write another column on the credit crunch, I want to focus on what is positive out there. And one of the big positives of retail right now is, of course, the internet.
As sales on the high street fall, so etail sales rise – it’s the old story of one man’s loss is another’s gain. A favourite example is Asos, which can’t stop reminding us of its rising profits.
As our virtual life becomes just as rich as our real life, so we spend more and more time on the internet. The sheer scale and size of social networking, with websites such as MySpace and Facebook, was unimagined and it is still growing.
But I am always surprised at the amount of ignorance within the fashion industry about the opportunities presented by the internet as a serious tool for retail, research and communication.
Web diaries, or blogs, highlight this. They offer free market research, uninfluenced voices and true freedom of speech. Bloggers can make or break a product, an event, a shop or an experience. Sales can boom or bust around someone’s opinion. But too many companies misunderstand how they work. If you know how, you can manipulate blogs but you can’t control them. They are about creating authentic communities.
Look at Net-a-Porter – it is a magazine and a shop. The same goes for Asos – it is so visually exciting, which is one of the keys to its success. So to bring shoppers back again and again to your website, nurture your online community. Think about this virtual life, harness it, become part of it. It is time to take the internet seriously. Stop considering it as a game – it is one of the greatest tools of our century.
Mickey Shariff is editor-in-chief of online style consultancy www.whatwhenandnow.com