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The fashion retail forecast for 2020

As the new decade dawns, fashion industry leaders predict the big trends of 2020 and share what their businesses will be doing.


Steven Cook, managing director fashion, home and beauty, Debenhams

Volatility seems to be the new normal

Steven cook 1

It’s no secret that customers are looking for unique experiences, and retailers need to work harder than ever before to entice shoppers into stores. For retailers, volatility seems to be the new normal.

However, talk of the death of the high street is premature. In 2019, consumers spent increasing amounts on well-being and experiences. Their focus on ethical and sustainable retailing is rising.

These trends look set to continue in 2020 and, fortunately, department stores are well placed to cater for them. The retailers that thrive this year will be those that truly understand and anticipate how their customers’ needs are evolving.

At Debenhams, having been through what was undeniably a painful restructuring last year, we are now looking to the future with a mixture of realism and confidence. We are managing costs tightly while looking at all our processes to ensure we are choosing the sustainable option.

Since becoming a member of the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) in 2019, we have sourced the equivalent of nearly 2 million units of BCI cotton product across all our brands.

In 2020, we’ll continue to play to our strengths: making designer fashion accessible, offering a fantastic range of brands and providing great value, which has been at the heart of who we are for the last 200 years.  


holli rogers for web

Holli Rogers, CEO, Browns and chief brand officer, Farfetch

I’m looking forward to continuing to make changes in sustainability

The most important thing for Browns as a business will be the progression of our “Conscious” [sustainable] categories and our endeavours around sustainability. We have seen such growth and change in relation to shopping habits – rental, resale and more – as well as how we think and feel, and what we do around this topic. I’m looking forward to continuing to make changes in this area, alongside the fashion industry as a whole.

As a retailer, we will continue to look at how the physical store acts as a “venue” as well as a simple shopping space, to create a unique 360-degree environment that allows customers to engage with both product and experience.

Additionally, 2020 and the new decade marks a significant milestone for us. Browns turns 50 this year, and we will open our new flagship on Brook Street in London.

As we celebrate and reflect on the last 50 years, we will also be looking at the next 50. We’ll be thinking about what retail will look like in the future, building on experiential and community-led initiatives, and how we continue to bridge the offline and online worlds. 

Nigel Oddy, CEO, New Look

Where there are challenges, there are also opportunities

Nigel oddy

Last year was exceptionally busy for both the retail sector and New Look, and I expect 2020 will be no different. The market will remain challenging and customers’ expectations will understandably continue to rise.

A lot has been made of the difficulties the sector has faced over recent times, and these shouldn’t be underestimated. But where there are challenges, there are also opportunities.

At New Look, we enter 2020 with a degree of optimism.

We remain committed to the high street. The convenient locations of our stores are a key differentiator and we will continue to invest prudently to further enhance our multichannel capabilities. We are delivering record levels of click-and-collect orders and this will remain a focus as customers increasingly expect to shop seamlessly across channels.

We have a broad customer base, and our customers tell us they want stylish product with wide appeal. This means buying into successful trends quickly.

Looking to 2020, we will continue to invest in our people – bringing in more new talent while continuing to get the best out of our great team of colleagues. Here’s to an exciting year ahead.


drapers primark

Paul Marchant, CEO, Primark 

We need to give customers more reasons to come into our stores

The in-store experience will become increasingly important for high street retailers in 2020. We need to give customers more reasons to come into our stores. We will continue to invest, test and trial new concepts, and introduce new experiential opportunities.

Our Birmingham store, which opened last year, has changed the perception of the Primark shopping experience. It is a progressive and innovative retail environment, showcasing an amazing variety of food and beverage, beauty, licensed shop-in-shops and personalisation services, in addition to our full and ever-evolving product range.

We continue to firmly believe in the high street and will grow our footprint this year. We expect to open 19 new stores across nine countries together with several relocations and extensions in the current financial year. We are excited to continue our expansion in central eastern Europe, where we will open our first store in Poland in the spring, followed by our first store in the Czech Republic later in the year.

A key area of focus for 2020 will be the ongoing implementation of our Primark Cares strategy, which will focus on being a responsible retailer, and delivering sustainable and recycled products to our customers. We recently announced an expansion of our cotton programme to train 160,000 farmers in more sustainable farming methods, which will mean more sustainable cotton products for our customers next year. 


andy long

Andy Long, CEO, Pentland Brands

Those that rely on ‘good enough’ will continue to suffer

There will be continued global uncertainty in 2020 that impacts trade and consumer confidence, but there will also be lots of growth opportunities for brands and businesses that focus on getting their market, channel and consumer propositions right. Those that rely on “good enough” will continue to suffer.

Sustainability will continue to become more important as consumers shift their purchasing behaviours towards retailers with clear sustainability credentials.

Consumers want to buy where, when and how they want. Social media continues to be a core pre-shopping destination to drive consumers into both physical and ecommerce retail channels. Embracing this, alongside creating differentiated brand offers for our retailers with great bricks-and-mortar locations, will be essential.

As consumers look for brands that resonate with who they are, our focus will be on our brands being there in more moments that matter. For example, at the Tokyo Olympics this year, athletes wearing Speedo will once again take centre stage in the swimming pool. The brand will use this platform to connect with and inspire more people around the world to love and enjoy being in the water.

Peter ruis

Peter Ruis, managing director of international, Anthropologie

There will be some significant ‘like-for-like’ opportunity

Like the last three years, 2020 is almost impossible to predict. Much of the political and economic uncertainty is unlikely to be completely resolved. The news is likely to be full of deadlines, extensions, referenda and trade deals.

However, the industry will be comparing against a very volatile 2019, so there will be some significant “like-for-like” opportunity. In addition, the sad demise of some key brands, and the closing of physical doors within existing brands, will open up potential market share gain.

I do not see the coming years as being about any one transformative new technology trend, or dramatic change in consumer sentiment and habit. It is never “one size fits all”. As always, we are all beholden to drive innovation across our proposition, using the best of what is around and what we are creating.

As fashion retailers, we must deliver the optimism and escapism needed to drive the consumer forward. Fashion is fun, and we need to create that sense across all our channels.

We’ll be expanding across the UK and internationally in 2020 and, therefore, will have the chance to introduce our brand to many new customers. We will be launching some ground-breaking new clothing collaborations.

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Max Bittner, CEO, Vestiaire Collective

The need for brands to innovate will dominate the landscape

The retail industry is experiencing a time of significant change. The dynamics driving this shift will become stronger in 2020, as the importance of sustainability increases for the customer. The need for brands to innovate will dominate the landscape. There will be disruption as younger, agile brands continue to challenge the way established brands operate. All brands will need to learn to self-disrupt to stay ahead of the game.

Customer experience continues to be a key concern within the growing digital landscape. Millennials and Generation Z are driving the growth of the second-hand market and ecommerce generally. Both are generations that have grown up with technology, so brands will continue to explore ways to innovate in this sphere. Artificial intelligence and blockchain will increase in influence as more brands use AI to develop enhanced customer experiences, and the need for traceability in luxury products increases.

Customers will continue to question and change their approach to consumption. They are becoming more conscious of both sustainability and the impact of consumerism, which will ultimately force brands to rethink their current model.

ali hall julie lavington sosandar

Ali Hall and Julie Lavington, co-founders and joint CEOs, Sosandar

The sector will continue to see challenges that may well prompt further discounting 

Consumers are becoming increasingly discerning and the businesses that are seeing success are the ones that have customers’ needs at the centre of everything they do. In 2020, it will be more important than ever for fashion retailers to invest in great customer service and to ensure they are engaging properly with their customers.

Given increasing concerns around sustainability, we also believe there will be an increase in demand for high-quality, well-made clothes that last but are good value for money, while also being fashion forward.

Shopping via social media has become the norm for women of all generations and this shows no sign of slowing down. Customers expect to be inspired by the great styling of different pieces, as well as seeing how they can be worn for different occasions. Once inspired, they expect to have the ability to quickly and easily purchase any of the items shown.

We are under no illusions: because of the wider macro environment, the sector will continue to see challenges that may well prompt further discounting across the high street. At Sosandar, we focus on full-price product that customers are prepared to pay for by offering newness and a high-quality product range that inspires them. Despite the wider environment, we were delighted to report a record year of trading and we are predicting very strong growth for Sosandar this year.

Steve Cochrane, managing director, Psyche 

Brace for at least another 12 months of Brexit doldrums

Steve cochrane

I’m expecting 2020 to be significantly better than the past two years, but not because of an upswing in the economy. Brands and retailers need to brace themselves for at least another 12 months of Brexit doldrums.

At Psyche specifically, I have spent a lot of time reviewing our costs and systems, and have identified many areas where I can make significant improvements and savings this year.

For example, I have already cut stock levels by 20% in 2019, as we were giving customers too much choice and had a lot of similar products. This focus on product will continue in 2020.

I have also reassessed job roles and staff responsibilities, and Psyche is committed to carrying out much more staff training. The results should come to fruition this year and help to develop our customer service. Another way we will navigate trading conditions is through our new, custom-built accounting software. This will allow us to risk-assess various business scenarios and outcomes.

More generally, ecommerce will continue to grow, and I expect more businesses will fail as they struggle to adapt to the changing retail environment. It won’t be long before 50% of all clothing and footwear spend is online, and retailers need to be prepared. I also expect to see less discounting, as retailers racing to the bottom will have already got there!

However, there’s a lot of great product for spring 20 and if that continues into autumn, and retailers manage to hold their nerve, then 2020 should be a much more positive year.


 Peter Youell, managing director, Skechers

The high street will be as difficult and challenging as ever

peter youell Skechers

There is no doubt that 2020 will bring about a whole new load of challenges and adjustments for the footwear market.

The UK has chosen its new government and it remains to be seen whether it can negotiate [and gain parliamentary approval for] a Brexit deal or not. The outcome will certainly have a material impact on our country and industry – starting immediately this year.

As ever, the new year will reveal which retailers had a good Christmas trading period and who didn’t. This will prove especially interesting. We hope everyone does well over the period: if they do, it might be a sign of market stability, and if trading isn’t so good, then we’ll probably see more casualties, which nobody wants.

All in all, I imagine the high street will be as difficult and challenging as ever this year. Government and landlords need to ease the pressure of rents and business rates, in order to encourage retailers to continue to invest in bricks-and-mortar stores. If these measures don’t balance more favourably, then I fear the high street will suffer even more than it already is.

At Skechers, I expect our ecommerce business will continue to grow. We will watch closely to see how this impacts consumer shopping habits, as this will affect our forward planning. We’re also launching our biggest-ever marketing campaign in 2020, which aims to drive brand awareness, demand and sales.

That said, we’re on an exponential growth curve, so we’ll knuckle down and continue to do what Skechers does best – produce great product that is stylish and comfortable, at an affordable price.


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Michael Kliger, CEO and president, Mytheresa

We will continue to work on our vision to become the best luxury experience platform

It promises to be a very exciting year at Mytheresa. We will launch menswear on the site this month. This new section will be home to 120 brands and have its own distinct look and feel. It will have a clear focus on the product edit, similar to our approach in womenswear.

Our customers are at the core of everything we do, and we will continue to work on our vision to become the best luxury experience platform for our customers. Mytheresa is well established in Europe, and we will continue to grow in these markets while also focusing on our international expansion in the US and China. We will continue to work on being the best partner for all our women’s, men’s and kids’ brands and have a host of exciting campaigns, exclusive capsule collections and pre-launches and global events lined up.


Juls Dawson, owner, Just a Group

There is opportunity in the form of sustainable and vegan brands

Juls Dawson

It was a challenging year in 2019, as reduced consumer confidence, coupled with economic uncertainty, took its toll on the high street and our sales lines. However, we are feeling positive for this year. There is opportunity in the form of sustainable and vegan brands, our focus on the premium sector through our new showroom, Occam – home to brands including include Nigel Cabourn, Good News and RAX by Russell Athletic – and some great new brands that we will be adding soon.

Pricing continues to be a challenge and getting the right mix of full-price and off-price product is key for this year, along with creating new categories for our brands to take advantage of gaps in the market.

It’s not getting any easier out there, but if we can continue to understand the end consumer and sustain strong relationships with brands and retailers alike, then we can continue to grow. 

Christoph Barchewitz and Patrick Schmidt, co-CEOs, Global Fashion Group

The trend will lie with the consumers

global fashion group co ceos Patrick Schmidt and Christoph Barchewitz

global fashion group co ceos Patrick Schmidt and Christoph Barchewitz

It’s an interesting time for the fashion industry. Many of the trends we saw in 2019 will continue in 2020: the biggest being sustainability and more considered consumption.

In 2019, sustainability was a big trend among retailers. We saw more and more retailers introducing sustainable lines – including our Australian etailer, The Iconic – and making bigger sustainability commitments.

In 2020, the trend will lie with the consumers. They will be more focused on shopping according to their personal sustainability values: where have my clothes been made? Who made them? What is the composition? What is the carbon footprint? It won’t be enough for a brand to just have a sustainable line. To see how this will develop, and at what pace, will be interesting.

  • Read The Drapers Interview with Christoph Barchewitz and Patrick Schmidt, co-CEOs, Global Fashion Group here 


 Sandeep Verma, managing director – Europe, Allbirds

In 2020, I hope we’ll see other brands committing to lowering their carbon footprin

sandeep allbirds

Climate change is the problem of our generation, and the fashion industry is finally waking up to the catastrophic impact it’s having on our planet. At Allbirds, we believe that businesses should be part of the solution. A big moment for us last year was when we became 100% carbon neutral through the Allbirds Carbon Fund, which invests in emissions-reduction projects.

In 2020, I hope we’ll see other brands committing to reducing their carbon footprint, too – first by understanding how to measure their emissions, then offsetting them, and finally finding ways to reduce them. The industry will realise that sustainability is not only good for business, but a requirement.

We’ve reached a tipping point where brands can no longer afford to have wholesalers at the heart of their business. Being fully direct to consumer allows us to have a deeper direct relationship with our customers. We have access to invaluable insights from every touchpoint in the customer journey, whether they’re browsing our website or visiting our physical stores.

The focus should be on putting consumers at the heart, rather than investing in expensive technology or trying to guess the next mini trend. For us, this is all about being purpose led, designing to solve problems with great products, and doing it all with an incredible amount of care.


Daniel Rubin, founder and executive chairman of Dune Group

Daniel Rubin, founder and executive chairman, Dune

If we get a final Brexit decision, at least one of the uncertainties will have gone

It is hard to believe that 2020 will be more challenging than 2019, given all the difficulties footwear retailers faced last year. If we get a final Brexit decision, at least one of the uncertainties adversely affecting consumer confidence will have gone.

The casualisation of footwear fashion will continue, although I feel there will be a resurgence in a dressier aesthetic. I mean, how many pairs of white trainers can a person have in their wardrobe? I also predict a long hot summer with booming sandal sales – or perhaps that’s just wishful thinking!

The sustainability agenda will become even more prominent, especially among millennials. The fashion industry will come under more pressure to clean up its supply chain while facing increasing costs – a difficult conundrum to solve.


Helen Brocklebank, CEO, Walpole

This year will be all about a response to climate emergency

Helen Brocklebank Walpole CEO

For luxury fashion brands and retailers, this year will be all about a response to climate emergency. For start-ups and fledgling brands, sustainability is hard-wired into their business models. We’ll see the big, established brands sharing what they’ve learned on plastics, packaging, waste, fabrics, responsible sourcing and so on with the whole eco-system as everyone works together towards a more sustainable future.

Consumers will drive brands towards much greater transparency, and there will be zero-tolerance of “greenwashing”. The most important luxury trend for the coming year is a clean conscience.



Simon Forster, Selfridges multichannel director

Simon Forster, managing director, Selfridges

Customers expect retailers to lead the way on addressing sustainability

This year marks the start of a vital new decade in the race to secure a sustainable future. As a business with sustainability at its heart, Selfridges will be gearing up towards a major new campaign that will set the direction for the next 10 years of our journey. There are increasingly clear signals coming from customers that they expect to see retailers – and in particular the luxury sector – leading the way on addressing this issue.

In our most recent customer research, two-thirds of those we asked said they expect luxury retailers to be more sustainable and responsible than non-luxury retailers. The vast majority of our customers (85%) tell us that they’re more concerned about sustainability and climate change than they were a year ago.



Tom Beahon, co-founder, Castore

Strong brands will find a way to win

I am a born optimist and see huge opportunity in 2020 despite the obvious uncertainties. As in any business environment, strong brands will find a way to win, and weaker brands will find excuses for why they failed.

The continued digitisation of retail will be a key trend this year – brands with a great product offering, strong DNA and agile operating models will capitalise on ever-evolving consumer expectations. This is also making international growth more achievable than ever before. Castore is experiencing rapid growth in countries across Asia, and having a truly global outlook will be crucial for those who want to grow.

Creating exceptional product and strong brand desire will never go out of fashion, and those able to do this will be successful next year. Those who approach 2020 with ambition and a risk-taking mindset will capitalise on the opportunities that will undoubtedly present themselves.

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