Though the US and to a lesser extent the UK has always seen merchandise associated with events, movies and favourite characters, the focus and importance given to such activities were fleeting and not considered an important contributor to overall sales, but according to Nielsen Shopping Sales Survey in the US, planned shopping is on the downfall, while impulse buying is up and it is estimated that sales generated from impulse buying instigated by ‘occasions’ has seen a 32% increase. In fact, impulse buying in clothing generated per person in the UK was an average £ 329 in 2012, which accounts for around 40% of total buying throughout the year. So, be it a new game, a movie, a book, a sports event, the fashion sense of a raging celebrity, a celebration in the royal house, a hyped election or even the hype of world coming to an end and someone’s sad demise – everything that happens in the world is becoming a reason in fashion to celebrate and generate collections for impulsive buying.
Even as the general sales were overall down for most UK retailers, the London Olympics followed by the Queens’s jubilee and the Paralympics games, saw UK retailers cash in on quick sales as customers wanted to be a part of the celebrations. Quickly to come and quickly to go, even in the most depressed state of the market, these events became a ray of opportunity for the industry which otherwise was expecting a year of lost sales, and since then retailers have not stopped to hunt for more crazy reasons.
The low shopping sentiments in 2012, the downturned economy and the erratic weather conditions, could not bring in higher expected sales and profits. This has compelled the retailers to look for innovative ways to attract footfalls starting from repositioning the conventional brand image, organizing pop-up stores for special occasions and also pre-poning of sales, all to attract higher footfalls. But one strategy that proved to be the most successful of all was finding newer reasons to instigate impulsive buying, making flash collections for ‘occasions’ that are less permanent, momentary and have a shorter shelf life, demanding small quantities and increased speed to market…
British fashion brands, including designers like Alexander McQueen, Burberry, Christopher Kane, Jonathan Saunders, Erdem, Paul Smith, Victoria Beckham and Vivienne Westwood, all created special collections for unique occasions and managed to win hearts of those who could afford them. Sports brands and retailers such as Adidas, Nike, Puma, Sports Direct, JD Sports and Halfords too faired reasonably well during the sports events, banking on their specialized athletic collections, along with many e-tail sites which recorded marked profits resorting to discounting and promotions in order to stimulate the crowd.
The recent US presidential election was also an occasion enough for selling unique pro and against merchandise supporting each candidate with T-shirts and other gear being made available all over the internet on sites like cafepress.com, demstore.com, supportingobama.com, squidoo.com and spreadshirt.com. The craze for such merchandise was such that e-retailer cafepress also released statistics on its weekly T-shirt sales announcing results to excite supporters like ‘Obama T-shirt sales increased last week going from 48% to 57% with Pro-Obama sales increasing five points to 64%, as compared to Romney sales which decreased last week going from 42% to 37%, with 93% Pro-Romney sales compared to 7% Anti-Romney sales’.
Even in a time of no events, brands across the world didn’t give up and were found making an occasion of the hyped myth of the world coming to an end on 31st December 2012, selling collections inspired from the myth and promoting them as the ‘Apocalypse/Doomsday’ merchandise. Apparel influenced from the concept not only featured in the catwalks of John Galliano, Alexander Mcqueen’s and many other designers spread across the globe but also were all over on e-shops like amazon, zazzle and etsy in the form of T-shirts, and with local and boutique retailers situated in the smallest of regions worldwide.
High street retailers for their fashion affluent client also have been taking advantage of popular movie launches giving their customers a chance to imitate their favourite characters and stars. A successful example of the same was the most talked about capsule collection by H&M in collaboration with the movie ‘The girl with a dragon tattoo’. The 30-piece limited-edition range was based on the film’s dark anti-heroine, featuring slouchy vests; slim-fit hoodies and jackets; skinny jeans and leather trousers; and cool battered baseball boots along with punky accessories, which all sold as a hit with the movie’s huge fan following. Also awaited by movie buffs across the globe is also the latest launch of Banana Republic’s ‘Anna Karenina collection’, based on the upcoming film starring Keira Knightley, Jude Law, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Emily Watson.
From a product cycle that was traditionally 6 months long and limited to the two major retail seasons of spring/summer and autumn/winter, the fashion world in the past few years moved on to 22 seasons in a year cycle comprising of global/local occasions, festivals and holidays bringing about new opportunities for fresh collections and increased footfall.
Few retailers also worked around the concept of ‘family collections’ to target customers who are looking for the convenience of shopping for the entire family within a single collection. The growing fascination for the family to dress in similar styles to assert loudly the family bonding inculcating family values in relationships today, when connections are breaking, are a few reasons why the concept turned out to be such a hit in 2012. With H&M introducing its limited autumn collection for men and women with matching “mini-me” versions of the adult clothes designed for children, there was also the UU line by UNIQLO, initiating a new kind of family-oriented clothing under a singular concept.
Even successful games inspired collections and the fascination for ‘Angry Birds’ propelled China to have a fully angry bird themed store of its own. Launched by the parent company Rivio the stores sell a wide variety of Angry Birds gear including plush toys, iPhone cases, shirts, bags and, of course, games. Cheap fakes of the games merchandise is already found selling even most of the mass local markets as well, with everyone from kids to teens to young adults demanding more and more of this rage every time.
Then there is also the star seller novel ‘Fifty shades of grey’, inspiring fashion giants, selling as officially closed licensing deals with selected retailers, by Author E.L. James. While the FREEZE Clothing Company initiated the craze with a line of T-shirts, knit tops and hoodies, followed by HYP Clothing to market hosiery products, retailer Briefly Stated created a line of daywear and sleepwear. Boosting the sales of lingerie products the most, the kinky love story has managed to inspire a cookbook, music album, and eye shadow, theme parties, and jewellery and hotel packages as well.
While the retailers don’t stop looking for business in every situation, the manufacturers in return can’t be sitting relaxed missing on such opportunities. In times as desperate as these, a country like India which is known for its ability to deliver smaller quantities, exporters need to be aware and proactive in offering new ideas and ship limited lines that brings happiness both to the slow market and also to the otherwise low faces of go-crazy fashion client.