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Resort & pre-Fall: small collections with big potential?

Retailers are adept at constant drops of product yet most brands haven't reacted. With growth in the Resort market, is this a sign that demand is customer-driven?
Resort & pre-Fall: small collections with big potential? | EDITED
  • EDITD Jason Wu Resort to Spring 2013
  • EDITD Michael Kors pre-fall to aw1314

We have reached that strange time in the year again, in which Resort collections are shown and, by and large, slip under the radar. Perhaps their elusive nature is due to the relative lack of media coverage they receive in comparison with the bi-annual seasonal collections. Even so, almost all of the industry power players choose to create Resort (and pre-Fall) collections on a yearly basis, suggesting they should not be ignored. Their worth however, is somewhat unclear. In an attempt to rectify this, we investigated further.

Resort and pre-Fall are so often cited as being teasers for, or precursors to, the next season. Certainly, some designers’ collections do hint at their main season ranges and some are commercialised versions of what will later hit the runway – stripped back in print, and toned down in their luxurious fabrication. But for others (Michael Kors among them), the demi-seasons offer opportunity to show something entirely different, captivating an alternative audience or appealing to varied stockists. Thus far, this years resort collections have painted a divided picture as to their function.

The Resort 2014 trends (so far!)
Since not all of the collections have shown yet, trends spotted at this stage are early potential indicators of a bigger picture. Already, we can see a clearly defined palette coming through. A piercing electric blue stood out at Christian Dior, DKNY, Akris and Versus Versace by J.W. Anderson, and head-to-toe white featured at Diesel Black Gold, Akris and Chanel. The latter continues a trend we saw at the AW 13/14 collections. Fuschia and cerise were also noticeably present at many of the collections showed so far, including Dior, Akris, DKNY and Oscar de la Renta. The proliferation of lace and sheers, as seen in New York and Paris for AW 13/14, appeared again, this time from Oscar de la Renta, Dior, Bottega Veneta and DKNY.

However, there are trends too that are not continuations of AW 13/14, nor do they make particular sense with what’s to come with SS14. Take Moschino Cheap & Chic – their AW13/14 collection paid homage to tartans, but for resort, they’re showing tie dye, which is a trend that is firmly rooted in current commerciality, and as such, one that it would be unwise to invest in heavily for SS14.

The data behind the collections
By looking at peaks in new product arrivals online, we can see that buyers at leading international retailers (such as Selfridges, Matches and Neiman Marcus) have placed a great emphasis on the mid-to-late July arrival of stock, which is key timing for pre-Fall collections. At Net-a-Porter, stock arriving in late June is the highest peak in the year, with a large intake in one hit, rather than a sustained period of smaller orders. These pre-Fall arrivals are pretty consistent and tight in their timing, compared to the AW collections, which are spread out across retailers from August to mid-December. Might it take designers longer to fulfil their less commercial main season orders?

The current swathe of pre-Fall products arriving online consist mostly of shirts, dresses, coats and trousers. These have predominantly come from Rag & Bone, Marni, Belstaff, Helmut Lang, Preen and Oscar de la Renta. Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman are the retailers with the largest pre-Fall offering. The average price of a pre-Fall item on the market currently is a very high £987, with sell-through taking an average of 158 days.

Data from last year shows a lower average price point of £646 and a fractionally slower sell-through of 160 days. The majority of pre-Fall products were retailing in the US market in 2012, whereas there is a greater investment from UK retailers for 2013. Pre-Fall appears to be on the increase, is the same true of Resort?

For Resort 2012, the average price of a product was £512 with a 92 day sell-through. Neiman Marcus had the largest Resort stock, with Burberry as the most-stocked brand. For Resort 2013, the average price has leapt to £991 – in line with pre-Fall pricing for the year. The UK market has grown here too; though Bergdorf and Neiman still lead with their assortment size, Selfridges is now in third position. Dolce & Gabbana were the most-stocked label for Resort 2013, and products took on average 111 days to sell-through.

There is real growth opportunity in the Resort market, and this is reflected in the pricing strategy within a brand. Rag & Bone gave their Resort 2013 collection a higher average price point of £245, compared with their SS13 (£231) and pre-Fall 2013 (£214) collections. This seems to have been a successful strategy so far, with their Resort collection selling through at a rate of 30.6%, which is significantly higher than both their SS13 and pre-Fall collections at 18.4% and 17.7% respectively.

What this means for industry
Karl Lagerfeld’s comment that his Resort 2013 show should be seen as a “collection not a pre-collection”, was on the money. The current focus on catwalk trends in the mass market retail suggests that it does not make sense for designers to use their Resort or pre-Fall shows as “teasers” for their next collections; with quicker turnaround times, retailers can commercialise their styles before main collections have even been shown. Given that this is increasingly the case, high end brands can learn from retail consumer habits. Social media is, in part, responsible for the shift in expectations towards communication and immediacy; consumers have become used to being continually updated on brands’ activity. This now needs to be translated to product availability, because there is a market and a demand for trans-seasonal product drops that occur more frequently. This is evidenced in Michael Kors’ starkly different pre-Fall 2013 and AW 13/14 collections that not only allow the brand to appeal to a wider range of customers, but also keep things fresh and new.

With global eyeballs on a brand, there is no longer one set idea of a customer because, as well as providing an opportunity for the customer to better understand the brand, social media can help the brand to have a better understanding of the customer. By having four rather than two collections per year, brands have double the opportunity to reach customer’s climate, tastes and their level of interest in trend product vs timeless pieces.

Resort and pre-Fall collections provide an opportunity to bring out new ideas more regularly and keep consumers interested. They should begin to be seen as trend-setters in their own right, rather than as echoes of or pre-cursers to the Fashion calendar’s main events. This is a chance for retailers to cash in on demand, in an area that is still yet to reach its full commercial potential.