With Brexit looming, consumer confidence dwindling and retailers seeking new ways to offer the best experience for shoppers, Drapers speaks to fashion leaders across the industry to see what they predict for the year ahead.
Simon Coble, trading director, John Lewis
Customers are more discerning than ever. What they buy, how they buy and where they buy is becoming more important. They are taking a more thoughtful, considered view of fashion and shopping, and investing in fewer, better pieces that stand for quality and longevity. Our own-brand collections such as Modern Rarity, and our new John Lewis & Partners womenswear collection are both designed with this in mind, and have proven popular.
In 2019, retailers will need to do more to attract customers into shops, and use space as an experiential showroom to showcase unique and exclusive products alongside exceptional service. Our Style Studio concept is a dedicated space for fashion, service and experience – designed as a centre point for customers to receive one-on-one advice and inspiration. They can choose from a range of personal styling appointments that have been tailored to an occasion or they can simply book an hour for anything they wish to explore.
Clienteling is also an increasingly important focus for us. We empower our partners with technology to deliver even more meaningful customer interactions.
Jo Jenkins, CEO, White Stuff
This year will no doubt be another of unpredictable trade patterns fuelled by ongoing economic uncertainty. If businesses were not rethinking their organisational design to deliver a customer-centric multichannel strategy last year, they will need to catch up quickly or risk being left behind.
This year brings an even greater need to lead our businesses through the eyes of the customer, and to ensure we deliver a brand experience that is differentiated, enjoyable and seamlessly efficient. Being effective outside of our comfort zones and taking more risks feels like the mantra for the year ahead.
Of course, as we develop new and innovative ways to sell our product, we must not forget the need to generate demand for them in the first place. So, as always, fantastic product design will remain at the heart of brand success.
Jason Hargreaves, CEO, Matalan
It is a big year ahead for retail, holding uncertainty for the UK and, ultimately, consumers. In challenging markets, it becomes even more important for customers to feel assured that they are getting great value. Trust is everything: gimmicky discounts are not going to cut it, with consumers wanting genuine value for money – including quality and choice.
In the year ahead, we plan to stick to what we do well at Matalan – what’s been proving a success and what we know our customers love: great ranges, outstanding value, and continued investment in the online and in-store customer experience.
In challenging markets, it becomes even more important for customers to feel assured that they are getting great value
Ultimately, we continually challenge ourselves to offer our customers more for less, and this focus will be even more important over the next 12 months. It’s no secret that tough times are ahead for the whole market but I believe that with this challenge comes a great opportunity to be more efficient and to focus on offering a seamless customer experience and a convenient way to shop both channels.
Colin Temple, managing director, Schuh
2019 will be challenging. Uncertainty on the Brexit front will inhibit spending especially for retailers in sectors where the consumer does not need to buy but buys for pleasure. Also, rising costs against an increasingly discount driven market place will demand that retailers be efficient in every aspect of their operations to remain profitable.
The great thing about fashion is that it is unpredictable, current trends could swing swiftly and make material changes to the fortunes of retailers. Generally, as fashion is more about “want” purchases rather than “need” purchases, means the fashion consumer will be more discerning and will not compromise.
Last year was horrid for retailing and there is a chance many people will be nervous of a career in the industry
Managing rising costs and keeping employees engaged in retail is going to be challenging in 2019. Last year was horrid for retailing and there is a chance many people will be nervous of a career in the industry, which will cause real recruitment issues within the sector. However, well-managed businesses will weather the current retail storm, especially if they can seamlessly operate both off and on-line in a way that pleases the consumer.
A hot topic in 2019 will be brands selling directly to consumers – it will be interesting to see how that continues to develop.
Andy Long, CEO, Pentland Brands
The uncertainty caused by Brexit and political chaos will continue to cast a shadow over consumer confidence, reducing what consumers are willing to spend over and above covering the basics. The changes in how we are all shopping will continue to differentiate rapidly between those who can respond to a new landscape and those who cannot.
Given all this, it is more important than ever to talk to our prospective consumers about what we can offer that is different. We’ve made a conscious shift to talk more about experience in our marketing – the Berghaus “Time to get out” campaign, for example, is about offering an alternative to what is getting you down by getting outdoors into natural beauty with confidence, whatever the British weather throws at you.
We are an international business, so there are lots of opportunities: we’re seeing strong growth in China, working in new ways with their very different digital landscape, and SeaVees and Ellesse are doing exciting things in the US.
Marie-Claire Daveu, chief sustainability officer and head of international institutional affairs, Kering
In the last year saw an increase in sustainability commitments and leadership from the fashion industry – whether as individual brands or as collective efforts like the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action. Our industry is now starting to tackle the consequences that climate change is already having on the environment and on biodiversity, which, in turn, also impacts fashion’s global supply chains and the continued success of our businesses.
Consequently, the industry is stepping up to become more accountable for the environmental degradation that fashion causes and this momentum will accelerate in 2019.
The industry is stepping up to become more accountable for the environmental degradation that fashion causes
Undoubtedly, the influence of social media and its networks on business decisions will help drive this momentum and continue to increase in 2019.
I think we will also see a number of inventive solutions and new technologies come to market that will offer alternatives to many of the unsustainable practices still embedded throughout fashion’s supply chains in the next year. There is a huge untapped opportunity to create new business models that will enable fashion to become regenerative and circular.
Marie-Claire Daveu is speaking at Drapers Sustainable Fashion on 14 March 2019. Book your place now
Dani Reiss, CEO, Canada Goose
I am an optimist – I always have been – so I think there are good things to come. There are some great things happening in retail with innovative new store concepts and with digital technologies and experiences which I expect to see more of next year.
I also think there will be a continued movement towards re-shoring – bringing operations closer to home. We have just opened our seventh factory at home in Canada, and we are proud to be recognised as a leader on this front.
Haroun Saleemi, head of ecommerce, Quiz
Last year was challenging for the industry, but in 2019 we see the winners being those who have a true omnichannel business model and are able to offer an experiential, seamless and personalised shopping experience, both on- and offline.
We continue to see an increase in consumers shopping across multiple channels and devices that resonate with their busy lifestyles. This presents either a challenge or an opportunity for retailers.
Looking ahead, we will continue to invest in our online and offline offer to ensure our customers, despite the channel they chose to shop with us on, enjoy a more seamless, personalised and memorable shopping experience. Our stores continue to play a big role in our customer journey and we’re always looking at ways to upgrade and use our store portfolio to enhance our customers’ experience.
We believe by having our customers at the heart of our business, we’re able to respond and cater to their needs. We are upgrading our in-store and online functionalities and have plans in places to introduce quicker payment methods and speedier delivery processes both in store and online, and one area set to grow is our use of artificial intelligence to better streamline efficiency for a more effective overall customer experience.
Peter Youell, managing director, Skechers
Skechers has grown into a big brand and a very strong company. We will continue to develop our mix of producing great product and great advertising to create incredible demand for Skechers, adding in the comfort factors, then we should continue to grow and reach more new consumers.
The footwear market continues to grow, so let’s be thankful for that. Yes, it’s going to be another hard year, so we all need to keep adding value, design and new ideas to continue to wow the consumers to want to buy. We’re selling more varied divisions and trends across the year. The weather seems to open up more opportunity if you think about it: the boot and sandal seasons stretch to almost nine months, or all year even. It’s about how we approach these changing habits.
There will be challenges and difficult trading during 2019. But, for me, if we all really up our game and build and present great product, at affordable pricing, then you have a good chance of appealing. We’ll see the 1990s revival impact on trends, loose fitting, big branding, high colour, really ”out there” for the masses.
Let’s see how we all get through the Christmas trading. Then, we move on to Brexit, and who knows what. We’ll have to deal with whatever comes our way and manage accordingly. Enough has been said about increased taxes for online selling, and retail rent reviews and business rates reviews, but we don’t seem to be getting anything positive for the sector from the government. Maybe they’ve been too wrapped up with Brexit, but it all needs a serious review if the UK expects retail to continue to grow.
Erica Vilkauls, CEO, LK Bennett
Customer loyalty has been a challenge for the industry this year. The customer should be at the centre of every business decision – from the products you design to how and when you communicate, and the level of service you offer. However, 2018 is proof we increasingly need to do much more.
Offering a highly personalised experience – using customer insights and data – will help keep customers engaged, excited by the brand, and ultimately, remain loyal.
At LK Bennett we’re striving to deliver a positive emotional experience through a true understanding of our customers. We can’t assume they all want the same products and shop in the same way. We don’t just want to show our customers everything, we want to show them what they really love, at the right time and on the right channel.
In 2019, we are adopting a more strategic customer centric approach and are making steps towards offering a bespoke service, based on their behaviour and needs. It is imperative that this service is mirrored both digitally and in store to ensure a seamless experience.
Daniela Rinaldi (left) and Manju Malhotra, co-COOs, Harvey Nichols
With the ongoing uncertainty surrounding Brexit, this will of course have an impact on consumer confidence in the UK. Our approach is the ongoing focus to improve both our product offer and personalised service levels. We plan to continue to invest in both our physical and digital channels, and to further enhance our service proposition, which will be visible across a number of areas.
Daniel Rubin, founder and executive chairman, Dune
We have a very exciting 2019 planned, with lots of new international stores, a redesigned website and a radical new marketing campaign.
The shift to a more casual and comfort fashion aesthetic will continue apace. Customers will continue to visit stores offering a real point of difference, a pleasurable shopping experience with knowledgeable and friendly customer service, but the inexorable shift to online shopping will continue.
The temptation to curtail investment because of the uncertainty of Brexit and falling consumer confidence should be resisted. The best retailers have demonstrated that if you offer a well curated, fashionable range that is good value and well-presented, then customers will continue to beat a path to your door. The same topics as 2018 will be key – Brexit, store closures, new technology – these will continue to dominate the headlines.
However, sustainability will become an increasingly important factor that cannot be ignored by the industry.
Hil Davis, CEO, Digital Brands Group
With the tough retail climate set to continue and Brexit looming, 2019 will be the year for brands that can clearly differentiate themselves from the crowd and embrace changing consumer behaviour in real time.
We have plans to expand into the UK next year, as it represents a significant opportunity for v-commerce brands. We strongly believe in the growth of the direct-to-consumer market. At Digital Brands Group, we play an active role in it by selling and offering digital native brands a home to drive revenue growth, and reduce operating expenses by leveraging shared resources that support and market their products.
Consumers are moving away from a traditional retail shopping experience and more towards ecommerce and direct-to-consumer retail brands, who can offer a seamless online shopping experience that meets their need for speed, convenience, transparency and personalisation, supported by a strong offline proposition, whether it is via retail stores, concessions or pop-ups.
An ethical supply chain will continue to be a priority in 2019, and customers will continue to demand better ethics across the board from the fabrics used, to the manufacturing, labour practices and working conditions.
We believe strongly in our direct to consumer proposition and so do our customers, so much so, we offer our customers the chance to become investors and join us in our growth story.
Sam Perkins, retail director, Shop Direct
Despite a highly competitive market, and political and economic headwinds, we believe 2019 will be a big year for us. With an even clearer focus through data on who our customer is and what they value, our brands and credit offer differentiate us, and give us confidence for the year ahead.
V by Very continues to capture our customers’ imagination and we will throw even more weight behind it in 2019. We also see opportunities in continuing to expand our menswear and childrenswear ranges. It will be important to identify and back the emerging brands that will resonate with our customers and by working even more closely with key partners, we intend to continue to strengthen in athleisure. It’s been a huge growth area for us in recent years and we’re now the largest online seller of sportswear in the UK.
The successful migration of Very Exclusive to Very will complete in early 2019, giving our Very customers access to a new range of premium brands. In 2019 we want to become an even more customer-centric organisation. Part of getting closer to customers means creating a two-way dialogue and offering them a seamless user experience. We’re continuing to develop our artificial intelligence-powered chatbot for customer service, investing in personalisation that brings brands and credit together, and we’ll have an even stronger focus on CRM [customer relationship management] in 2019. Through data and careful targeting, we believe we can attract even more of the customers who most value what we offer.
Henrietta Rix, co-founder and creative director, Rixo London
We’ve seen a genuine demand from our customers for the ability to shop the full looks from our ready-to-wear collection ecommerce imagery. We want to provide them with the tools to do this, so styling and the development of new product categories will be key for us in 2019.
Following the expansion of our new swimwear category in December 2018, we’ll be launching a new accessories line in January 2019, featuring bags, belts, jewellery, hair accessories and scarves. We’ll also be exploring a launch into other categories next year.
February will mark our second year on the schedule at London Fashion Week, after our debut show for spring 19.
Connecting with our customers is really important, whether that’s on social media, on our website or offline. We’ll be looking to open more international pop-up stores – giving our customer a unique and immersive Rixo experience in store. We’ll also continue to grow and improve our ecommerce to create a seamless customer journey online.
I’m interested to see what the sector does in the next year around discounting. As a brand we have a more long-term goal rather than a money-making strategy for a quick win. That’s why our pricing is so affordable for the quality of the pieces and materials they are created with – most of our items are 100% silk. We have no outside investment in the company, so we don’t have hard margins to hit or investors to please. As a result, we can give our end customer true value for money with the actual retail price, so we don’t tend to go into markdown on our ecommerce site.
Claire Miles, buying director of The Shop at Bluebird
This coming year, I believe the strong growth of online will continue in the luxury market. The Shop at Bluebird continues to see significant growth with its online partner Farfetch. We are seeing growth from new markets globally allowing us to reach more customers and extend the awareness of our curated offering of brands.
London based we are championing independent boutiques, and encouraging footfall by offering customers an experience and level of warm service that stands us apart from department stores. From a product perspective, we saw the increase of mindful buying in 2018, with the growth of sustainable brands launching into the market.
From a product perspective, we saw the increase of mindful buying in 2018
I believe that 2019 will bring more of this, with customers being more aware of their purchases and educating themselves on the environmental impact of fashion. I think conscious spending will be an ongoing theme for next year with the growth of contemporary brands getting stronger, brands such as Ganni, Stine Goya and Nanushka.