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Technology takeover: The fashion industry is next

February 20, 2017 11:36 AM
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Technology will continue to disrupt every industry and clothing, shoes, and accessaories are next.  We are now entering the third decade of the Amazon effect, and it is just now hitting the fashion industry. 

Technology is already resulting in the following 5 changes to the fashion industry. 

New brands

Today’s consumers are doing the opposite of what yesterday’s consumers did.  OUT is mass brands.   IN is targeted brands.  OUT is status based on price.   IN is status based on quality or functionality.   Established fashion brands like Tommy Hilfiger, Donna Karan, and Ralph Lauren will continue to lose their appeal.  New brands will rise based on values speak to today’s consumers.   Those values include “Made-In-America” or “Sustainability or “Low-Impact” or “Buy-one/Give-one” to name just a few.   

The store as an experience

Go to any of the 20 Shinola stores open today, and you will have a unique experience.  While all of the stores have the full range of Shinola products, each store is unique in design and authentic to its city in materials.   One store has Shinola soda for its customers to enjoy.   Another has the premier West Coast tattoo artist shop as part of the store.  A few of the Shinola stores have unique local coffee bars tucked inside.  One hosts the real working factory where the Shinola bikes are assembled and another where some Shinola leather is made.  The Shinola stores are an experience, they offer people a compelling reason to shop in person. 

Fewer department stores

Chapter 1 of disruption is well documented—online taking share from offline. Chapter 2  of disruption is gaining momentum—companies going direct-to-consumers.   A new generation of companies like Warby Parker and Honest Company are connecting directly—both online and offline—with their customers.   Department stores may not survive this second chapter of disruption as it reduces the importance of product curation for the customer and it erodes the margin of the middleman.   

Expect retail chains to close stores and entire chains to close on a regular basis for years to come.  The crown jewel of department stores, Neiman Marcus, just pulled the plug on its IPO plans, after reporting five straight quarters of declining comparable sales.  Macy’s, the granddaddy of of department stores, recently announced it will be closing 100 of its stores and cutting 10,000 jobs. 

Smaller stores

When stores do remain they will be smaller in size. The average new store build is estimated to be 25% smaller this year than it was a decade ago.   Established brands will also create sub-specialty stores.  Chanel announced its first boutique selling only footwear and Saks Fifth Avenue opened its first standalone shoe store.  Will stores go away?  No, but they will change.  According to the 2016 McKinsey Millennial Survey, quality was a top driver of purchasing behavior, something that can often be best determined in person.   But that means the role of a store will change to one of showcasing products, so the store footprint will become smaller. 

Amazon  . . .and who?

Amazon has moved into fashion in a pretty major way over the past year or so and is adding additional categories, vendors, depth, and breath every week.  It is hard for other retailers to compete with Amazon on price and convenience, and Amazon will continue to scale and the price and convenice proposition they offer to consumers will continue to improve (hard to believe!).   

What are the major trends that retailers will need to tap into to compete?  Let me offer two here.

Service. The human element.  Everything about dealing with a person.   The in-person experience.

Customization. Making the product you want.  Designing your own shirt or dress.   You as designer.

Service is non-tech.  Customization is high-tech.  They are two keys to fashion competing and thriving.

Revolution Growth is an investment firm focused on consumer technology companies.

 

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