He is a mammoth and endangered: Zeitzeichen in Würzburg is one of the few multi-label stores that still exist in Germany as well as internationally. That he defies the pass of time -and that pretty successfully- is due to the fact that he adapts to the ongoing shift in the market and offers what the customer is searching for. Since the beginning the owners Heiko Gesella and Roland Heim have been following the motto: “Who wants to set time signals, has to recognize the signals of time and interpret them.” This means specifically: always keep on moving, always defining new trends, always minding the interest of the customer and sell fashion that represents the current time. Since 1997, Zeitzeichen, in the heart of Würzburg, offers a selected range of products consisting of fashion and denim, shoes and accessories and since March 2015 also through their own online shop. Here, Roland Heim talks about the challenges in retail, the loss of desire in brands and the chances of short term merchandise.
You’ve just returned from Italy. What were you up to there?
The customers changed. The desire of brands has increased immensely. Therefore, we bet on short-term areas more and more. Every four weeks we are in Paris or Italy and acquire new products. This, together with our brand suppliers, ensures a coherent and exciting retail space.
Is this your biggest challenge at the moment?
The biggest challenge is to always have the right range ready. That means to always find needs- and weather-oriented merchandise all year round. We make this possible by showing short-term merchandise next to the brands. The market changed. You always have to create an excitement in the store. And you don’t exclusively achieve that with brands anymore, because they still do things the original way: 6 months pre-order, then the delivery follows, spread over three months. Bestsellers are mostly not to be reordered and the exchange of goods is also offered only by a few brands.
What do you expect from the brands?
More partnership and a closer cooperation with us. Furthermore, it would be good, if the distribution would adapt to the circumstances. Who needs a down jacket in July? Customers buy close to their needs. There is a lot that could change.
You said that you are betting on short-term merchandise. How important are trade shows for you?
Trade shows are still important to us. We are everywhere and drive to Pitti, to Copenhagen, to Berlin and to Paris. But what’s missing for us is a leading trade show for our area. You don’t really see denim at trade shows anymore. A lot of brands have jeans in their program, but the majority of the real jeansers, the big brands, stay away from trade shows. That’s neither fish nor fowl! End of January we visited the shows in Berlin and didn’t meet 60-70% of our distributors. That leads to us being on the road for 6 weeks for the procurement.
Last year you started with e-commerce. Why?
We have an online shop to offer our customers extended opening hours and availability. Moreover, it’s an important tool of communication for us. We do not offer our full range of products, but rather sell a selected range that comes together through the idea of an outfit. Right now shoes are our bestsellers, here we have our full range in store.
What does the revenue ratio online in comparison to stationary look like?
All in all we’re well on the way with our shop, but we are a long way from being profitable.
What are your bestsellers?
The demands are changing constantly. But we do still sell: blouses, dresses, knit and especially bomber jackets. Those are absolute bestsellers right now, by brands like Bombers Original and also as short-term products.
How are the new silhouettes in womenswear received?
Culottes, shortened flares, bell bottoms and Marlene pants aren’t easily comprehensible for the customer. There still needs to be a lot of mediation work done, because these new forms have to be shown as outfits and in combination with shirts and shoes.
How about menswear?
I think that hyperflex denims will further pick up. Shortened pants also work well right now. In addition, sneaker by Adidas, ARKK, New Balance and Native perform very well, as well as accessories.
How important are accessories for the product range and which share of turnover do they account for?
Accessories have always played an important role for us and have always accounted for a great share. 15-20 percent of the space are occupied by accessories, and the share of the sales is the same percentage. For a few years now we have had an intense partnership with Pieces by Bestseller and our newest addition is Liebeskind.
Which product categories perform well and which ones struggle?
The business with scarfs weakened overall, here our revenues suffered. The scarf went from a trend product to a commodity again. Watches by brands such as Kapton & Sons, Komono and Cluse are going well with retail prices up to 159 euros. Jewelry works well, too. We’re starting off with bracelets for 9,95 euros and go up to 70 euros for statement necklaces.
Is there anything you would do differently?
I own the store since 1977 and I have been in this industry for 40 years. Always adapted to the Zeitgeist, I would do little differently.