Fashion Retail Survival = Quality Products + Basic Joyful Experiences + Value Making Models
Posted on November 17 2019
Just during the past year, the following fashion retailers and designers either filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy or shut down their operations permanently,
+ Henri Bendel
+ Lord & Taylor
+ Roberto Cavalli U.S.A
+ J. Mendel
+ Zac Posen
+ Sonia Rykiel
+ Forever 21
What’s more is that so many other beloved and legendary titans of fashion design and retail industry are reporting hard times and dropping sales that in turn push them into repeated cycles of bankruptcy, reorganization, and liquidation.
The question is how can we save our other treasured retail landmarks and talented designers who have not only created countless beautiful memories for us and influenced art and society, but also have become part of our identity and our city’s emblem and spirit. Can you imagine a Christmas in New York City without Bergdorf Goodman’s window decorations or Saks Fifth Avenue’s light and music performance?
There is no doubt that the advancement of technology and behavioral changes in how we are influenced and shop have contributed to a revolution within the fashion industry in which old models of design, production, retail, and influence do not work as expected and need to be overhauled; however, over the years, I, as a consumer, have noticed that simpler reasons have contributed to the trend of descent in the fashion industry such as,
Decreased quality and increased prices – Overspending on marketing rather than investing in the product
the avarice of companies and their hype for rapid growth with bigger returns have pushed for lesser quality and bigger margins which in turn have demotivated consumers to spend the asked price on the products; I constantly witness how the qualities of fabrics, prints, and constructions have gone down while the asking prices have gone up. I have witnessed that even some brands on the luxury end of the market are asking for $1500 for a skirt that has the finishing of a $50 skirt – an attempt by some well-established brands to convince the customers of product’s worthiness only with the brand name and marketing rather than quality.
Majority of garments both on the higher and lower end of the spectrum do not match their asking price: they have become too expensive for the value they are offering; on the other hand so many bridge fashion companies that start with quality products and new ideas, decline in both after few seasons because their main focus shifts to creating bigger returns for their investors and precipitously increasing valuation. This is why companies such as Rent the Runway and Stitch Fix have become more appealing for the consumers – retailed garments have become either too expensive to own or too substandard to want.
Underlined by Steve Jobs, overspending on marketing and ignoring quality can have only a short-lived positive outcome with a long-lived negative impact.
Ignoring the importance of food as a powerful, memorable, and influential retail experience
Food is life and love. Food is connection and togetherness. Enjoyable food with an appealing presentation and hospitable service is one of the most enticing pleasures in life – one that is regularly used by strategic marketers who want to influence us. Food is one of the main reasons that tourism in Europe is so strong. In every city and village in Europe, streets are filled with pastry shops, ice-cream shops, pubs, and restaurants, creating memorable experiences for visitors and shoppers; prominent retailers such as Harrods and Selfridges in London have dedicated noticeable space and quality to their restaurants and coffee shops. However, unfortunately, North American retailers do not pay as much attention to this powerful weapon of influence. The existing restaurants in retailers such as Saks and Bergdorf Goodman have overpriced and outdated menus, unappealing ambiance, and poor quality and presentation in the food they serve.
I remember when I first visited Ralph Lauren on Bond Street London, I was so excited to see that they have a coffee shop inside the boutique and thought to myself what a brilliant idea! I will definitely have a coffee shop inside my future fashion retail shop. The smell of coffee and pastries is so strong that the retail destination instantly becomes a memorable and desirable experience. While using advanced technologies, AI and robots are buzzworthy additions to retails shops, we have a much simpler and more effective way of experiencing a brand and that is through associating tasteful and well-presented food with fashion products.
Forceful behavior and insincere compliments of sales associates that create a stressful experience and deter future visits of customers
High pressure on commission based sales associates to meet their monthly quota turn into their forceful behavior and ingenuine recommendations that in turn create a tense and stressful experience for the customers; entering a retail store, a customers is immediately targeted and owned by a sales associate and “the finders keepers” approach creates chaos among the sales team and severe disappointment if the sale falls through. Customers knowing this fact, either avoid visits to the retail shops opting for buying the products online or commit to an unwanted purchase that they return later.
Traditional brick and mortar retailers and fashion designers do not invest enough in their online and mobile retail channels
Most traditional fashion design houses have a weak online store presence, missing the great opportunity to sell direct and create a memorable and personal experience for the customers through gifting, loyalty programs, personal notes, and packaging; more notably, these fashion houses miss out on the indispensable data that their online retail channel can provide for them. By weak online store, I mean that their websites do not have
- easy checkouts
- clear and well-styled pictures of products
- appealing shipping methods that include speedy delivery and free returns
- product and size locating capability
The same applies to the traditional brick and mortar retail stores that have substandard online retail channels with poor payment processing and inadequate logistic models.
Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Fleiss, founders of Rent The Runway, have created a revolution within the fashion retail industry – a change that not only has brought tremendous value for consumers but also for the much-needed sustainability in the fashion industry. To cater to the market’s need for change and variety, mass-market fashion companies over-produced low quality, copied, and low priced merchandise, production of which harmed our planet and violated human rights. Today, with Rent The Runway model, consumers of the fashion industry can have variety with better quality products. With the modified shopping behaviors and assessment of true value, traditional fashion retailers can benefit from adopting the rental model instead of providing unrestricted refund and exchange policies for items that are in practice rented and returned for free by a noticeable number of customers. Furthermore, the rental model provides retailers with invaluable data that they can further share with their partner designers to improve on products’ fit, quality, and design.
Most importantly, traditional brick and mortar retail stores must provide price incentives for customers such as,
- Offering a small percentage discount, such as 5%, on the online listed price or covering the value-added tax for the customers
- Price matching policies that would help them compete with online retailers
- offering tax returns to tourists at the store the way Harrods does
What other solutions come to your mind? Share them with us in the comments below.
For this shoot, we went to Dubai Design District for the Design Week Event. Pictures in this article are styled by Anoosheh and photographed by Banafsheh.
The look is,
+ Tweed Skirt is by Balmain
+ Knit Cardigan is by Balmain
+ White Shirt is by Miu Miu
+ Black Belt is by Christian Dior
+ Bag is Lady Dior by Christian Dior
+ Baby Pink Shoe is Iriza by Christian Louboutin
Color Story: Black, White, Red, and Silver