Over the last year, Australia has seen an influx of international fashion retail giants joining the high street, causing a stir among retailers that are already trading in an increasingly competitive market.
Most recently, iconic Japanese retailer, Uniqlo, US fast fashion retailer, Forever 21, Spanish favourite, Zara, and Swedish mega-chain store, H&M, have ascended on the high streets of cities in Australia. Not only has this caused a buzz in the market, it has also created a spike in fashion retail employment, as reported by regional director Richard Wynn in the latest salary and employment forecast for Australian retail, by global recruitment consultants Michael Page.
With larger stores, globally recognised brands, high volumes of customers and typically low price-points, some of Australia’s biggest high street industry players are concerned that these international chain stores will threaten the Australian market.
So, how are the new international big players performing? According to the latest findings from Roy Morgan Research, amongst these international players (out of a subset of the 66 fashion boutiques surveyed) H&M is the clear leader, with 143,000 Australians aged 14+ buying from H&M in any given four-week period. It’s a close contest for second and third though, with Australian boutique Forever New (108,000) edging out Zara (106,000).
While these statistics are disconcerting for smaller retailers, the report also notes that H&M’s success only accounts for one per cent of total clothing shopping, since just over 10.5 million Australians buy at least one item of clothing in an average four-week period, from a wide range of retailers. So in an already competitive market, how can independent retailers compete with the increasing arrival of international fashion giants? According to Andrew Price, GM, consumer products, Roy Morgan Research, it is crucial to know your customers’ approach to shopping.
“Australian retailers keen to thrive in this increasingly crowded, globalised market need to be very clear about how their customers approach fashion shopping,” Price said.
So who are your customers, how are they shopping and what do they want?
Build a strong online presence
According to Deloitte’s latest White Paper, it is crucial for Australian retailers to capitalise on the digital influence in Australian retail. 65 per cent of shoppers in Australia use a digital device to find out about products before they step in store, and 26 per cent of shoppers are more likely to make a purchase when using social media before or during a shopping trip. Further to that, the report detailed a 25 per cent conversion lift when digital devices are used before and during a shopping journey in Australia.
Since Australia is reportedly the third most developed country in terms of digital influence over instore visits – and well ahead of European countries – it is integral for Australian retailers to build a strong online presence and capture the customer even before they step in store.
Retail is detail
According to Michael Page, since the rise in international retailers in Australia, many retailers have employed store visual merchandisers to revamp their store and to, “improve the customer experience in an increasingly competitive market.” Natalie Coulter, visual merchandiser and founder of Belle Flanuer advises retailers that “retail is detail” and stresses the importance of personalising the instore experience. “The shopping experience has to be a treat!” Coulter said.
46 per cent of customers will buy from a retailer who personalises the shopping experience. Therefore, the instore experience is crucial to a successful business, and critical to the customer experience.
“Share yourself. Share why you do what you do with the customer. Personalise the shopping experience. You can inspire, connect and inform the customer of your brand philosophy by way of signage, store presentation and display.”
Although many retailers worry that they lack visual merchandising skills, Coulter said that there are 10 small steps retailers can make to elevate their retail space.
Discover the latest trends
What do your customers want? What is that one piece, or one trend that will draw their eye and make that sale? It is key to look for both new labels and trends that your consumers want. Trends can often be hit or miss, so it is important to know your store’s demographic and find out exactly what they want. Again, this goes back to the value of your online presence – use social media platforms to get to know your customers, their wants and needs.
So, what trends should fashion retailers look out for in the upcoming buying season? According to global trend forecasters, WGSN, fashion retailers should look out for fashion pieces that integrate high-tech wearable technology.
WGSN reported that collaborations between designers and technology companies are becoming more commonplace as consumers begin to expect technology to fit into their lifestyle – rather than the other way around. From fitness tracking jewellery to USB bracelets, fashion labels are increasingly finding ways to offer a sophisticated blend of technical functionality and fashion.
Fitbit has recently collaborated with Tory Burch; Kyte & Key have established leather USB bracelets; and Leoht have released savvy tech handbags which feature a device charger, internal lights, two USB ports and a charging dock.
Similarly, sports luxe is set to continue to be big this season, with even more well-known labels and brands debuting athleisure lines. Australian womenswear label, Minkpink, has also launched its debut activewear line, Minkpink Move, and more commonly, activewear is becoming streetwear.
The WGSN Seasonal Trade Show Round-Up also reported a mixture of pattern trends and apparel.
“The season’s print and pattern focus results in a roster of key trends that are neither overtly masculine nor feminine, and instead are applicable across a range of market sectors,” the WGSN report said.
“A noteworthy theme for the season is how brands communicate their message and exactly what they are saying. From in-your-face typefaces to designs that disappear into the background, brands maintain a fun and experimental approach to pattern in order to convey both the expected and unexpected.”