This isn’t a ‘Ten Retail Trends For 2019’ piece – that comes later, however, ‘remain relevant’ might just be the single most important trend to pay attention to for any retail business as we rapidly approach the New Year.
“Closely connected or appropriate to what is being done or considered”
Staying closely connected with your customers is not optional. The choice they have, often at just the touch of a button or a swipe right, is not only extensive but accessible like never before.
As consumers, we are promiscuous and unpredictable creatures, like the electorate we can be prone to wild swings as the mood takes us. And often for no apparent reason.
We expect, no, demand, brands to constantly be ‘in the moment’, constantly updating and changing to reflect current tastes.
Staying close to your customers outweighs price and product.
And in the digital age in which we live, this is by no means an easy task; social media means that we are forever updating ourselves in real time: who’s hot and who’s not.
One which most definitely falls into the latter is Topshop.
For years, the go-to brand for teenagers and twenty-somethings, it’s sales have been tanking for years. The combination of a lack of investment in its online business (owner Sir Philip Green famously still uses an old Nokia phone and shuns email) and trendier new brands such as Boohoo and PrettyLittleThing, have firmly relegated Topshop to the second division.
So what did they do? In April 2014, in a desperate bid to win back customers, Topshop announced that ‘ the icon is back’ – Kate Moss, the first supermodel turned designer, who left years earlier, was back.
There was only one flaw in the plan: whilst Kate Moss is undoubtedly a very successful supermodel and global icon, to many of Topshop’s younger customers she is old enough to be their mother.
But not only that, amongst their target demographic, social media is having a greater and greater influence on who they choose to spend their hard-earned cash with, compared to others, hers is a somewhat muted voice.
A quick look on Instagram is revealing: whilst Kate Moss has over nine hundred thousand followers, top fashion influencer Alexa Chung has over three times as many.
In other words, to a large proportion of Topshop’s customers, Kate Moss is no longer relevant.
Topshop, however, is not alone, there are many other brands, especially in fashion, who are having to show a certain stoical sangfroid in the face of determined and unrelenting pressure on sales and margin.
Even that darling of keyboard commerce, Asos, is showing signs that not all is well with the share price crashing nearly 40 percent after a recent profit warning. And this, even though they are not saddled with the cost of running a store estate.
Ahead of Christmas, in the final dash to the line, most if not all, are resorting to ever more daring discounting in an attempt to shift stock.
The problem is, whilst this may provide a short-term hit and keep the tills ringing, it is unlikely to have any lasting impact.
Because in an Instagrammable, selfie strewn world, relevance trumps discounting every time.
Date: December 27, 2018