The most important question that arises after Burberry’s announcement –selling fashion collections in-store and online immediately after the catwalk show- is whether the brand will be able to disrupt the current status quo throughout the luxury- and mid-priced market and urge other brands to follow the same path. If this becomes a reality, the phenomenon will naturally progress with broad-market fashion- and denim brands to join sooner rather than later.
The digital has demonstrated to be a loyal support in terms of boosting brands’ awareness and consumer engagement. But as a counterpart, the digital has also brought immediacy. Consumers don’t want to wait long in order to buy what they see. This is pretty much why Zara, H&M and the like are so successful –you see garments on Instagram or Facebook when they are already hanging on the racks waiting for you. But this doesn’t happen with the catwalk yet. Burberry’s mindset of trying to translate the digital hype of the runway into real cash instead of the ‘like’ currency –nice but worthless for shareholders and investors- is what makes the brand a forerunner.
A trade show appearance is equivalent to a catwalk show for many brands –the event where buyers and retailers get to know their products and decide whether to stock them or not. In a fashion market where collections’ presentations and market availability must be paired, the traditional trade show concept as we know it today is close to an end: why participating in a trade-only fair where end consumers are banned, so they can’t view the collections that will be in-store shortly after? Brands would only pay expensive fair booths as long as their final consumers get access to discover the products at the same time as the trade. Suddenly, Zalando’s move to hold a consumer event might not seem as crazy as it did only a few months ago.
Brands could leverage their participation at trade-meet-consumers gatherings by exploiting them as a thermometer of the likeability of new garments and collections: If a certain product doesn’t reach the expected sales ratio, it just won’t make it into further production. Product sales data collected during consumer-open trade shows could be used as well as a sales tool in front of retailers to better persuade them to stock one product or another.
The disappearance of the gap between trade shows’ presentation and retail availability might be the answer to one of big-box- and independent retailers’ demands: a modification of delivery rhythms to meet the pulse of time we live in –and consumers are getting used to. “We continue to see more retailers and brands moving towards a ‘buy now, wear now’ rhythm as buyers purchase closer to season,” as Sam Ben-Avraham, founder of Liberty Fairs in New York told this magazine for a story in our current print issue. Multibrand retailers need a constant flow of product novelties throughout the seasons as much as Zara does.
On the one hand, trade shows should adapt as soon as possible to this scenario, whether by considering amplifying the classic twice-a-year event schedule or by decidedly investing in digital fair editions open 24/7 during 365 days a year where the trade could acquire new products. On the other hand, brands that want to survive in the future should start offering in-between seasonal collection to keep up the excitement in their retail partners’ stores.
Read more about delivery rhythms in the industry in our current Sex issue (Pages 94-96).