Everyone knows that ASOS have it pretty sussed when it comes to product range and pricing. Just last Monday, the Independent’s Harriet Walker wrote a piece on how they’re riding the recession successfully. Then this week, ASOS shares slumped, closing the week with a 12.7% deflation. But perhaps traders are missing a trick. Is consumer sentiment so invested in the brand that they will continue to ride high on the crest of recession? We set about analysing just how recession-proof their collections are, and whether customers are biting.
A decision every retailer has to make during a recession is whether to play it safe and risk boring customers, or be bold and risk alienating them altogether. We can judge the risk-taking by looking at which of the season’s trends a retailer or brand subscribed to, and to what extent. Topshop chose to pay homage to four for SS12: festival, girlish-femininity, sports-luxe and the print-laden retro holiday. Zara have created a couple of statement pieces from the aquatic and 1920s trends, with the majority of their SS12 offering sitting within the boundaries of sports-luxe, florals and soft-tailoring. Forever21 are offering six themes: festival, grunge, floral, body-con, metallics and safari. All are familiar and on the consumer radar. Many were around last summer, and perhaps the one before that: consumer comfort blankets.
So what are ASOS offering? Their SS12 Trend Guide presents a total of nine trends, which cover safe ground like lace dresses, sports-luxe and femininity. There are trends which aren’t going to terrify consumers, yet feel seasonally fresh, such as 1920s, bold colour and print-clashing. And then there’s the downright bold, which only hard-core fashionistas and bloggers have been attempting: pyjamas as daywear, mermaid with its challenging lengths and shimmering fabrics and ‘Freak Like Me‘ which name checks Meadham Kirchhoff and Tavi as inspiration – brave stuff indeed. Add to this the launch this week of the latest ASOS AFRICA collection – think African prints clashed to dizzying effect, peplums galore and reversible features – and it looks like ASOS are up to something.
What’s more, that something works. Assessing their own-brand designs is the best indicator of how brave they have been. Take their bright yellow Lace Jacket with Embellishment priced at £120 – a strong price point for the competitive retailer. Well, since its arrival at the start of the new season, it has sold out in 4 sizes. More? Look to their Pencil Skirt in Rainbow Sequins for a statement. One that has sold out in five sizes. ASOS AFRICA arrived instore yesterday and has already seen size sell outs across many styles including the tricky Mombasan Print Tulip Dress and Zebra Print Midi Dress. The split-level skirt has received a hard time in the press, yet they not only tackled it with their Maxi Skirt in High Low Hem, but they paired it with another tricky trend, pastels, running it in soft green. It has sold out in all but one size.
Should we really be surprised that such unique and cutting-edge product sells? With ASOS’s online fanbase up by nearly 10,000 new followers on Twitter alone this month, and sentiment towards the brand up by 7.6% in the same time frame, customers get what they do. In fact, customers asked for it. Last September, whilst the SS12 collections were shown internationally, 2807 influential people mentioned the mermaid trend online. There may be bigger trends, but with so many retailers addressing the middle ground, customers can be selective about where they shop. In a recession, more than ever, there has to be a USP in order for customers to bite. This can be scary territory for a brand or retailer, but data makes these ‘risks’ an option. There’s a lot to be said for the brave. Let’s hope those traders hear it.