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EDITIONS Report: “Make sure you’re always relevant.”

Retail experts from LK Bennett, Jack Wills and Debenhams discuss pricing, promotions and Black Friday at our speaker series EDITIONS, in London.

Retail experts discuss pricing, promotions and Black Friday at our speaker series EDITIONS.

If there was a single thread that ran through all the topics our wonderful speakers and panelists discussed onstage Tuesday night at EDITIONS: LDN, it was the importance of relevance. Relevance in demographic, in product, in pricing, in promotions, and how each, in its own way, related to the night’s overarching theme: getting the holiday season right.

“Forty-one percent of products online today are discounted, on average by 32%,” said EDITED retail analyst, rachel in an opening presentation which laid bare the data behind holiday season promotions and pricing. “The holiday season is the critical period for retailers,” she stressed. “The key to success is knowing how your promotions and trading strategy compare to the rest of the market.”

With 15 days remaining until Black Friday, and arguably fewer until the holiday shopping season reaches peak chaos, our experts, Charlie May (designer and founder of the Girl a la Mode blog), Sarah Thornley (Director of Merchandise at LK Bennett), Katherine Savage (Strategy Manager at Debenhams) and Toni Chadderton (Head of Merchandising at Jack Wills) prompted by moderator and CEO of Soleberry Advisory Gabrielle Hase, used the coming commercial wave as a start point for the conversation.

“Let’s talk about pricing, discounting and what we’re looking at over the next six weeks as we head up to Christmas and Black Friday and all of that,” Hase began. “How promotionally driven are your businesses?” Adding, “Not all sales are awful. They drive a hell of a lot of volume.”

“[Our promotional strategy] is something we focus all year on because these next two months are so key in every retailer’s calendar,” responded Thornley. “We’re at the premium end of the market, we do regard discounting as potentially having a negative effect on the brand. However I do think done in the right way, at the right time, it doesn’t necessarily have a negative effect … If you have a quite clever way of promoting Black Friday on social media and in the press, it can make the brand look clever and is actually quite attractive. Where if you do blanket reductions, depending on part of the market you’re in, it can be quite damaging.” Adding with a laugh, “I wish Black Friday had never arrived. But it’s something we need to deal with now.”

Outside of what Hase called the ‘Black Friday vortex’ that panelists were unanimous in their belief that too many categorical sales can damage a brand and train customers to wait for sales and never pay full price. The goal, as they saw it was to stick to a discounting strategy that’s regular and inspires confidence.

“We keep talking about a promotional nirvana, for us it’s two main sales, two mid-season sales and probably one Christmas friends and family. And that’s where we’re heading back to,” Chadderton said. “We’d really love to get away from the category promotions. Our aim over the next 12 months is to slowly wean ourselves off them again. We were in a place where we didn’t do them but probably over the last six months, we’ve got into that place, but we don’t want to be there. I think the customer understands four sales a year, it fits in with how your product changes and they are really your biggest opportunities to clear stock and drive it through a good margin.”

Savage echoed the thought adding, “I think the big thing now is not just about value. It’s about quality as well, and getting better prices the first time around. So I think we can move away from having people thinking about promoting, and thinking more ‘first price, right price.’”

Of course, the night wasn’t all pricing and discounting talk, designer and blogger Charlie May told us about her use of social media, Snapchat and Instagram specifically, to create a lifestyle around products, one that includes travel, food and other interests, as well as clothes. In three words: to be accessible.

“I would love to see Luxury [brands’] Instagrams using their actual designers – and I know they have way too much going on to be handling the Instagram – but just to hear their tone of voice, because as soon as they do an interview in a magazine everybody’s all over it. They want to hear from them, and I think a brand is really all about the designer. So it’d be really nice to see more from them,” she said.

There was a lot more discussed over the ninety minutes, but as someone probably mentioned (or should have mentioned) last night, brevity is the soul of content strategy. So with that in mind, we’ll sign off. Thanks so much to everyone who spoke and and to everyone who listened. It was a wonderful evening, and we can’t wait to do it again.

We’re taking EDITIONS on the road next week with our first ever event in NYC.  If you’re interested attending, there may be a few tickets left here. As for London, we’ll be back in January, so stay tuned!

Interested in speaking at EDITIONS? Let’s talk about it. To get yourself on one of our New York or London panels, write to us at hello@edited.com.

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