Posts Tagged ‘fashion industry’

A little yuletide conversation

December 23, 2011

I’ve broken my blogging silence by voicing my opinion on the woes of Xmas retail over at the fancy Conversation website.

It kicks off like this:

The lead up to Christmas inevitably draws our attention to the actions and performance of retailers. This December there have been very few tales of cheer.

It gets better! Read on here.

It’s Short-O-Matic

January 20, 2011

Just over two years ago I posted about the potential of (and possible pitfalls associated with) launching an online design-your-own boardshorts operation (a la T-shirt phenomenon Threadless).

http://www.shortomatic.com/index.php/all.htmlI was intrigued today when I stumbled upon a magazine mention of just such an entrepreneurial endeavour.  A mob out of California (now that shouldn’t surprise) called Shortomatic have been building up a portfolio of user- and guest designer-provided shorts through a pretty nifty website.

They have a number of similar elements to Threadless, although users cannot vote on prospective designs (instead the firm is the complete gatekeeper once artists submit).  There is a revenue stream for successful designers of up to $1000 per design ($5 a pair up to the maximum run of 200), and a feel-good pledge to donate a similar amount to a charity.

Contrary to our discussions/expectations, all the materials are sourced and stitched together in the US (rather than China), which does push the pricing a bit higher than I expected ($US a pair).

The operation also suffers from a pretty slow turnaround from order-to-shipping – 21 days or so – which would seem to narrow the potential customer base a little (to those explicitly seeking a rare item of clothing).  Again, you might argue this is a move away from Threadless’ model, as the t-shirt vendor’s speedy delivery (obviously built on an ability to print and warehouse shirts confident of sales from their much bigger customer base) allows for pretty spontaneous purchase, while Threadless’ policy of limited runs also encourages a “buy while you can” attitude.

Nevertheless, this looks like a pretty neat play at this considerably smaller and tougher fashion segment.  Again it does beg the question what other design-your-own, crowdsourced interfaces can we foresee (remembering we’ve also looked at custom bicycles on here too)?

Follow me to Oz

July 13, 2010

So, despite my repeated naysaying it seems not only is US ragtrader The Gap definitely coming to Australia (their first store will open in Melbourne next month), but they may well be leading a serious onslaught of entrants into the Aussie market.

According to this hype-heavy piece, the list of fashion retailers eying off Aussie wallets now includes Banana Republic (a Gap brand), Forever 21 (from US), Topshop (UK), and Uniqlo (Japan). While I am still taking this talk with a big grain of salt, there is certainly a long tradition of follow the leader amongst multinationals.

This behaviour may reflect several underlying motivations. Rivals may be concerned about early movers locking up resources and this limiting the scope for late moves.

In the retail domain there are grounds for concern that early movers may secure prime store locations, although this is much more of an issue in groceries and fast food than in fashion.  Indeed in fashion, it is more likely any early advantage comes from building stronger relations with landlords and property brokers as anchor tenants.

Unlike fastfood, the franchising model used is only likely to be rolled out at a country-level (i.e. companies are awarded the right to run all stores in a state or country, rather than companies that then sub-franchise to individuals store-by-store), so there is a less of a race to secure franchisees and/or build reputations.

Interestingly two of the most successful internationalisers H&M and Inditex (i.e. Zara) remain very tightlipped about any Aussie plans.  Both firms are much less inclined to franchise (mainly because they control their value chains much more tightly than the others on this list). They’ll need a lot more convincing that Australia represents sufficient bang for their buck/Euro/krona.  I suspect they still see Australia as small fry.

But I’m reluctant to say never anymore. The  performance of their international rivals down under may well play out as the demonstration effect (that this is a market worth seeking) that is a further key aspect of following.

A Swedish flip-flop

May 18, 2010

Fourteen months is a long time in international business.  In March 2009, I quoted a senior figure at Swedish fast-fashion retailer H&M who said:

“We’ve never really opened in a country where they are in a different season.  We are not in South America and although we have one shop in Egypt we are concentrated in Europe and North America, with some shops in Asia.  The next destination is Russia… To go somewhere like Australia, it’s far away from our production offices”.

This week, her boss announced a reversal of this stance:

Hennes & Mauritz AB, Europe’s second- largest clothing retailer, is looking at opening its first store in the southern hemisphere to tap emerging-market growth and catch up with larger rival Inditex SA.

“Brazil and Argentina are very interesting,” Chief Executive Officer Karl-Johan Persson, 35, said in an interview at his Stockholm office, adding that he’s also looked at Australia. The company wants to enter the region at some point after making “sure we can handle it.”

Tellingly, it would seem that there has been some demonstration effect from the firm’s big rivals – Inditex and the Gap – expanding their operations into the lower hemisphere.  H&M are concerned about missing the growth opportunities in this markets.  International Business scholars need to pay close attention to such clustering of expansion behaviour within an industry, as a firm’s location choices (especially when market-seeking) are not independent of their competitors’.

Do I think we’ll be seeing H&M in Aussie shopping strips real soon?  No, I can’t see that we are a major priority for these guys, or Inditex, and I remain unconvinced about the likely scale of Gap’s entry.

Australia will remain an under-internationalised retail sector for years to come.

More on forward integration into online retailing

December 3, 2009

Yesterday’s post about Billabong’s forward integration into online retailing ended with a query about whether other such firms have pursued this strategy (and whether it has been a success).

Coincidently I have since stumbled upon this story reporting recent moves by various Italian fashion houses such as Armani, Roberto Cavelli, Valentino and Ferragamo, to build their presence online (link c/o State of Lux). This quote sounds pretty familiar:

“The cost of making a Web Site is not that big. That’s encouraging fashion houses,” said Stefano Sassi, chief executive officer of Milan-based Valentino, which opened its Web shop six months ago. “There’s a very interesting margin on e-commerce.”

It would seem these firms would face a similar issue with channel conflict (with potentially even more conflicts with respect to price parity maintenance).

Armani has also taken on the m-commerce challenge with an i-Phone application. Is this sort of customer engagement better suited to luxury goods?



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