If anyone was under any illusions as to the ferocious nature of the fashion market, this week has served up a clutch of timely reminders.
Competing in arguably the most turbulent retail sector in the UK at the moment, clothing stalwarts including the likes of Marks & Spencer, Next and New Look have all found the going increasingly tough.
And overseas invaders confident of cracking the market, such as US duo American Eagle and Gap-owned Banana Republic, have flown their British nests with tails firmly between their legs, having failed to capture the hearts and wallets of UK consumers.
But even those businesses that have emerged as winners over the past few years are having to up their game like never before in order to remain competitive.
“Whispers abound that Topshop’s trading performance has slowed over the past year and new boss Paul Price’s bold refresh could provide a welcome shot in the arm at the perfect time”
As we revealed last week, the chain is undergoing a ‘reset’ programme to refresh merchandising across the majority of its stores, with some entire departments being axed and excess discounted stock being binned to make room for newer product.
Whispers abound that Topshop’s trading performance has slowed over the past year and new boss Paul Price’s bold refresh could provide a welcome shot in the arm at the perfect time.
React and invest
Temporarily shutting almost the entire estate in two swathes may not be a necessary step for all, but fashion businesses cannot be afraid to act equally swiftly, decisively or indeed drastically in the current climate.
Zara – a retailer that certainly cannot be accused of standing still – illustrated that point perfectly this week.
The fast-fashion giant’s UK division registered a 13% jump in sales to £602.7m during the year to January 31, but pre-tax profits plunged by a third due to investment.
Parent company Inditex said Zara ploughed cash into its British bricks-and-mortar estate to “keep the stores’ layout and atmosphere in line with the Zara brand image” – something all retailers should prioritise to keep shoppers coming back for more.
There was even a cautionary tale to be told from high-flying online rival Asos’ preliminary results this week.
“Topshop, Zara and Asos will not be alone in recognising the impact a solid festive trading performance can have”
The etailer has blazed a fast-fashion trail via its unique and ever-changing product proposition, its content creation strategy and use of customer data.
But even though Asos still registered a level of growth that many of its rivals could only dream of in the current macroeconomic climate, its 16% increase in UK sales represented a marked slowdown from the 27% spike it enjoyed the previous year.
Fashion’s winners and losers this Christmas – and indeed beyond – will be those that respond and invest quickly in adopting the latest trends, improving the shopping experience and sustaining a brand that resonates with their core customer.
Topshop, Zara and Asos will not be alone in recognising the impact a solid festive trading performance can have.
If their respective strategies can fashion a merry Christmas, it could set the tone for a happy and prosperous New Year.