Having been in the Merchandising field for longer than I care to mention I have seen many Retailing trends come and go. Some have stayed some disappeared quickly without trace into the black hole of buying and merchandising lost forever. There is one though that has made a massive impact and it has to be said is the reason may businesses face turmoil over the coming months.
The principle of bringing in new collections every six weeks to sell out and bring in the next -or as I lovingly call it STOCK PHASING. The view that the consumer continually needs newness and freshness to engage them and give them that call to action to buy. It makes the assumption that the Consumer is like Pac Man needing continual power pellets to keep them fed and energised otherwise they disintegrate to nothingness. You definitely need a neon yellow boob tube, then a hot pink one, then a spotty one then a.. (you get my drift!). This was made even more challenging in the sector I come from, which was very slow moving high, multi-sku product. Planning those stock packages in and out was a continual battle in getting the availability right whilst trying (desperately! trying to sell out) which invariably never happened.
So has the consumer ever really shopped like this? Even prior to the Global pandemic the amount of stock building up and heading to landfill suggests not. The need for companies that purely specialise in exiting stock for brands also tells us otherwise. Companies were unable to turn their stock into demand. Will the pandemic cause a rethink and actually help us go back to simpler times where we invested more in quality wardrobe staples and it felt like a treat to buy a new outfit? We are starting to see bigger brands stating the desire to move to two collections a year and to lose the multiple-pre collections. They are also looking at a higher mix of “evergreen product” which as the name suggests means the product will be relevant for seasons rather than just 6 weeks. Companies are now actively planning to hibernate stock (M & S and Next) so they don’t have to burn through it at huge discounts but where appropriate to plan it in for the next seasons collections.
Whilst there will still be a need for “heat” high trend led product the balance of how much this makes up of a collection definitely feels like it is shifting. All of this drives the hope of a more sustainable future. My new favourite programme is The Sewing Bee and I love the transformation challenge where the contestants take an old garment and transform it into something fabulous. Perhaps that’s the future…