At the press day unveiling their AW 13 collection, Reiss revealed to fashion media that they will be moving away from trend-led product in order to differentiate themselves from the majority of high-street retailers. Instead, they’ll be stripping back and focusing on quality, clean finishes and detail. This is a stark change from a retailer that once described themselves as “a design-led, iconic, modern, sexy label“, and whose site underlines their ethos as being “an uncompromising commitment to delivering innovative and original product..” fusing “..design, quality and value”. With 42 years in the business, occupying a niche at the premium end of high street and a loyal customer base including the Duchess of Cambridge, what’s prompted Reiss to change their tack?
The last six months have seen interesting shuffles in staff structure at the British retailer, with the exit of brand director, Andy Rogers, and ecommerce director, Dan Lumb, and the promotion of previous menswear director, James Spreckley, to creative director. Are these rejigs in personnel indicative of product needing a rethink too? We drilled into our data to find out what’s been working, identify the opportunities and assess whether a move away from trend-led product really is the best approach.
Analysing the products that arrived online between 1st March to 1st June helps us to understand not only the brand’s tactics, but how consumers are reacting to them too. In the given three month period, 375 new products came into stock, with the majority of products in the £70-95 bracket. The emphasis on that price point has remained consistent for the last 12 months.
Looking at the prices of the products that have sold out (and those that have subsequently been restocked) can indicate where consumer demands lie, which are perhaps being under-served. In accordance with Reiss’s emphasis on the £70-95 bracket, this is the area with the most restocks, an encouraging sign that they’re in tune with their scope here. However, there’s a further area of products selling out and being restocked at the £165-180 mark. Being out of stock of in-demand products in this range suggests a missed opportunity to sell more at a higher price point.
So which types of product are selling well? Exploring the available items from the 1st March – 1st June period to find those that sold out of some or all sizes swiftly, we can see that the £159 graphic printed Giselle fit and flare dress, the £139 Otto lotus print dress and a £69 sequin front t-shirt were all immensely popular. Other well-selling lines include structured body-con dresses in plain shades, a slash neck top and striking £195 button-back jumpsuit. This backs up what has sold well for Reiss in previous periods: small-scaled prints on body-con, structured dresses, straight-legged tailored trousers and pastel shades.
What doesn’t sell well
Looking at the Reiss items which historically have required discounting in order to shift their stock, we can quickly build up a picture of what pieces Reiss should avoid. Primarily, high-priced basics have not sold well at full price. A £95 slouch jersey dress from May 2012 was dropped to £66 in order to sell out, a February 2012 restock of a mint coloured, cropped t-shirt saw the pricing slump from £49 to £24 and the Fillipa pink mesh sweater currently online has been reduced from £110 to £55 without yet selling out.
Premium basics, such as the products mentioned above, are part of an over-saturated market: Net-a-porter’s plain white t-shirt selection includes styles from Helmut Lang, Splendid, Acne, James Perse, J.Crew and T by Alexander Wang, with a price range of £30-85. Of the five t-shirt styles that Net-a-Porter sold out of during 1st March – 1st June period, only one was a plain tee, comparable to those Reiss has stocked, and the others were all printed. The appetite (or lack thereof) for expensive t-shirts is further indicated by the fact that, of the 704 t-shirts Asos stock, ranging in price from £6-190, it is their £8 crew neck that has been restocked the most. The sports-luxe trend has perhaps breathed false optimism into this product area, and Reiss would do well do avoid chasing after it. It’s true that simply cut and monochromatic items are selling well for Reiss this season due to current trends, but we hope this doesn’t steer them down too bland a course in their shake-up. Particularly for e-commerce, merchandising with a limited palette and simple shapes can result in a lacklustre experience, and given the format, fabrication and clever detailing go unnoticed.
Premium is still a small market, but one with strong competition. Whistles have repeatedly shown deft knowledge of their consumer and timing of trend. Their best-selling items from 1st March-1st June are an exciting mix of innovative product and current trend: the embossed leather skirt, the metallic pointed-toe pumps and the leopard print dress. Reiss may see these successes and wish to steer towards and simplified product in order to differentiate, but they shouldn’t overlook the cheaper pricing of the soon-to-arrive J.Crew which will dominate the premium basics market. Instead, Reiss would do well to expand the £150-195 price point, which is under-represented in their price architecture currently, and that will define them as separate to Whistles – this could be where their quality, detailing and more luxurious fabrics are headed.
Expanding on success
So what can Reiss take from our findings? Firstly, that they must refrain from having an assortment which is too homogenised. Their current online offering has a palette which is too aligned and although neat, it doesn’t make for particularly exciting shopping. A stricter edit would have cut down on the four £149 black patterned, body-con dresses which are far too similar.
Building into their higher price points will help them differentiate, but to do this they need to give the customer something special. Whilst the over-subscribed mainstream trends won’t help here, latching onto luxury trends early will help them entice the savvy consumer. They would be foolish to turn their back on trends altogether – they are vital in luring consumers back.
With the former menswear director taking the helm as creative director and trying to replicate the successes he’s had into womenswear, it is critical Reiss don’t try to repeat the formula that works for the male consumer with the female consumer. Male and female shoppers have very different shopping habits: a brand shouldn’t try to speak to both with one language. Zara are an excellent example of this – their womenswear is directional and experimental with loud print and straight-from-catwalk appeal. Their menswear on the other hand is classic and sharp.
And if Reiss are truly looking to own a segment, perhaps they could explore the lifestyle of their most influential customer: the Duchess. Wouldn’t a premium-priced maternity line of smart, well-cut dresses have done rather well?