The apparel and textile business blog from Leonie Barrie
If you would like to offer your comments, opinions, suggest topics or just have a good rant, please feel free to email: Leonie Barrie.
16 Dec 2003 22:05
In contracting Exel to provide a range of logistics services for its children’s wear Zip Project, Marks & Spencer will be banking on some hefty returns in terms of lower costs and improved lead times. The move is also significant in that it marks the growing trend for fashion retailers to outsource specialised aspects of their supply chains in an attempt to give them a competitive edge. M&S says it wants Zip to be a "world-class benchmark" in its industry and has no doubt studied the stellar rise of Zara with its finely-tuned high-speed, frequent delivery supply chain strategy. However, Zara has just posted a salutary lesson in its third-quarter results, blaming the hot summer for a drop in sales as shoppers bought cheaper summer clothes and shunned more expensive items such as coats. It seems that no matter how innovative the business model, the weather is something that cannot be predicted.
12 Dec 2003 15:14
Like most people I get desperate - or should that be creative - when it comes to choosing Christmas presents. Equally, I'm not one of those organised shoppers who start buying next Christmas's gifts in the January sales, and have all their presents wrapped and tagged by October. So a request that landed in my in-box this-morning made me realise that despite these shortcomings I operate in a different league to some people. Here's a taste of what it said:
"I was wondering if you could help me find a Christmas gift I would really like to get someone. I have searched everywhere for a Burberry designer face mask - the ones people were using during the SARS scare. I know they were only imitation (I found this out after I called Burberry's head office in the UK) and I have searched the web over trying to find them with no luck. I don't know if you are the one who might be able to help me and if you aren't, do you know someone who could?"
Now we always do our best to help our readers, but this one has me stumped. I remember that fake designer masks were one of the spin-offs of the SARS scare in China and Hong Kong, but as for a stockist...or a Christmas present? If anyone has any ideas please let me know!
Au revoir to A&F catalogue
10 Dec 2003 16:51
While it’s not surprising that Abercrombie & Fitch has finally buckled under the pressure of sustained protests to halt publication of its racy catalogues, what is astonishing is that the company took so long to make the decision. Since its launch in 1997 the quarterly magazine has been getting more and more controversial, and its latest issue was so far over the mark that its future was never going to be viable. But even so, there’s no doubt that A&F has significantly raised its profile through the magalog, and its promise to replace this with “an innovative and exciting campaign in the spring" will have the watchdogs looking on closely.
If the shoe won’t fit…
08 Dec 2003 16:57
…fix the foot. A little radical perhaps, but according to an article in the New York Times this weekend, increasing numbers of women are resorting to cosmetic foot surgery to ensure they can fit into the latest Manolo Blahniks or Jimmy Choos. At least that’s what they hope to achieve by having their toes shortened or collagen injected into the balls of their feet. Not surprisingly going under the knife can cause more problems than it solves, with women even risking permanent disability in their quest to be fashionable. But even so, demand for the operations is increasing. I just find it sad that people are prepared to risk their health so that they can fit into the right footwear. There's more to life than a pair of shoes...
A Happy Christmas for retailers?
05 Dec 2003 18:12
UK consumers are expected to part with an impressive £72.6 billion during the festive season - but if the sales promotions in London at the moment are anything to go by it would seem that clothing and footwear firms are turning to special offers and discounts to secure their slice of this £2,900 per household spend.
Just back from a couple of days in the capital, I was surprised at how lacklustre and uninspiring many of the shops were, considering we’re just three weeks away from Christmas. Eveningwear promotions were everywhere, suggesting that retailers are getting nervous about their festive performance and realise there’s little to motivate customers into parting with their cash.
This evidence seems to fly in the face of forecasts which point to overall strong demand for clothing, stable consumer confidence and a general feel-good factor. In fact, if you listen to the pundits no one seems to be talking Christmas down.
But with so much of today’s spending financed by credit and an interest rate rise increasing the cost of borrowing, maybe both retailers and consumers are steeling themselves for a fall in the New Year. In a press release today Verdict Research says it believes the outlook for January will be much tougher. "Ironically the more people spend on Christmas, the more likely it becomes that the Monetary Policy Committee will raise interest rates in the New Year to curb borrowing and make it a tough start to 2004 for retailers.” If that's the case, it's a no-win situation.
Who gives a. . .
02 Dec 2003 16:56
Marketing firms masquerading as fashion companies is just one of many criticisms levelled at retailers French Connection and Abercrombie & Fitch, both of which promote their clothing lines with a range of shocking, offensive, witty and definitely controversial, images.
For French Connection it’s the FCUK logo and sharp slogans such as ‘The Joy of FCUK’ that have inflamed public opinion, fallen foul of the Advertising Standards Authority and led to some US chain stores boycotting the range. While at Abercrombie & Fitch, raunchy images and sexually-biased editorials masquerade as in-store posters and a quarterly magazine offers advice to teens along the lines of: "There are no sexual boundaries and no consequences to any sexual behaviour.”
While there’s nothing particularly exciting about the garments sold in either chain – sensible shoes, chinos, and V-neck sweaters – their campaigns have consistently kept the brands in the public eye. And until consumers stop responding positively to provocative advertisements I believe these crude promotions are here to stay.
It also seems that the US protestors who have pressured A&F to remove its current issue, known as the "Christmas Field Guide," may have inadvertently created a holiday must-have. Copies being auctioned on eBay today have already attracted bids as high as $42 each.
27 Nov 2003 14:46
On the day that our US friends tuck into their Thanksgiving turkeys, top executives from food and drink firms McDonalds, Cadbury Schweppes, PepsiCo UK and Kelloggs have found themselves facing questions from the House of Commons Health Select Committee about soaring levels of obesity in the UK. The overweight issue is a problem that’s threatening to overwhelm apparel firms too – particularly in children’s wear where many clothing companies are struggling to cope with the huge range of sizes and body shapes.
The figures are startling: the number of children with weight problems has doubled in the last 20 years; and more than a third of 10-year olds are overweight.
A new report from Verdict on the so-called Generation XL questions whether some chains should pull out of children’s wear altogether and free up space for items that yield better sales volumes. At the other end of the spectrum some retailers are believed to be looking at introducing ‘outsize’ ranges for obese children, many of whom already buy clothes designed for older children and even adults. Now that really is food for thought.
Supermarkets check out fashion
24 Nov 2003 18:21
The dust has barely settled after the fall-out between UK supermarket chain Sainsbury’s and designer Jeff Banks, but already there are signs that the supermarket fashion wars are hotting-up again. The decision by Tesco to expand its more up-market Finest brand into clothing for the first time shows just how much is at stake in this market – and how much growth potential these retailers still see in the non-food sector.
Leading the way is Asda with its ever-popular George range – the second largest clothing retailer by volume in the UK and the market leader in children’s wear - with annual sales around the £1 billion mark. It has even stepped into the high street with new stand-alone George stores, a move that takes it head to head with other low cost retailers such as New Look and Matalan.
But while there is obviously no reluctance at the lower end of the market to throw cheap and cheerful fashions into the trolley along with the rest of the weekly shop, I wonder whether this sentiment will extend to the more pricey leather jackets that Tesco is proposing to sell? After all, it is already better known for its more value-conscious Florence + Fred and Cherokee lines.
The George range proved beyond all doubt that the concept would work, and I personally think Tesco could be on to a winner – particularly at the very big and successful stores where a lot of customers will get to see the new range. After all, we’re all strapped for time these days, and it wasn’t so long ago that I bought a suede coat in M&S – and then popped into the food hall for the week-end groceries!
Chinese quota conundrum
19 Nov 2003 17:19
It’s not surprising that the Bush administration’s decision to re-impose quotas on Chinese imports of bras, dressing gowns and knit fabrics has polarised industry opinion. On the one hand, US textile makers are claiming victory, having lobbied extensively for the "safeguard" quotas that were negotiated as part of China’s accession into the WTO. On the other, apparel makers and retailers say the decision will raise prices for consumers. The one party that hasn’t had a lot to say on the matter is the Chinese. But maybe that’s for a very good reason. All the shouting and celebrating is masking the fact that China could be the winner in all this.
As Mike Flanagan of UK sourcing intelligence firm Clothesource told me today: “The decision is effective only for a year. The new quotas are set at a level at least five times (and in one case three hundred times) the level of US imports from China in 2001. It affects no-one but China. It is, to the letter, in line with agreements made with China when China joined the WTO. It is also, to the letter, in line with agreements made with the WTO. And its timing is a clear signal to China that the new quota will not be around next year. We believe it is actually a victory for China.”
17 Nov 2003 17:30
You’d better be careful next time you don your trendy Burberry togs for a night on the town – you could end up red-faced and thirsty. The British fashion label’s attempts to make its camel, red and black check more accessible have backfired – or been spectacularly successful, depending on how you look at it – to such an extent that its distinctive designs are now banned from several British pubs, restaurants and nightclubs where they are linked more with football hooligans and rowdy street gangs than respectable fashion folk.
Last week, a woman toting a Burberry bag and umbrella was turned away from a pub in Aberdeen, Scotland because of the brand’s perceived tie with hooligan culture. She was so humiliated she took her story to the papers, generating acres of unwanted publicity. Burberry has, it seems, been tarred with the same brush as other designer labels such as Lacoste, Aquascutum, Evisu and Stone Island which have also been adopted as the troublemakers’ unofficial uniform.
I can’t help but think the brand’s distinctive look is creeping into overkill, and this unwanted association is a direct result of its distinctive look – which is now replicated at low-end stores across the country. But unfortunately, no amount of advertising or brand building can dictate who buys the clothes and when and where they wear them.