Europe is bracing itself for dramatic temperature drops over the coming days, as a wintery freeze sets in. True, it’s to be expected in early February, but it’s also the time when SS12 collections begin to drop instore.
The February issues of fashion magazines are brimming with summer styles and hot holiday looks. Brands are quick to announce their new arrivals, as the ad campaigns featuring bare-limbed and bronzed models jump from sun-drenched pages.
Retailers, too, are racing to get their new season’s wares on display. Just a quick browse through online Visual Merchandising shows a large proportion of overtly sunny homepages and wishful newsletters. Reiss’ homepage update on the 28th January welcomes its visitors to ‘Sunshine Season’. Republic meanwhile launched a ‘Spring Alert’ newsletter on the 24th January and Esprit updated their ‘Season Kick-off’ homepage on the 1st February. Everyone loves to see new product, but the timing seems a little jarring when we’re piling on coats and scarves to venture out into Sunshine Season.
Let’s not forget, just four months ago, retailers were left reeling over the unexpectedly warm Autumn. In fact, just last week H&M released fourth quarter sales figures reporting a surprise drop in profits, citing the unseasonably warm weather as cause for build up of stock. Will retailers have learnt their lesson this time? Will they be able to react in time or, as signs indicate, is it too late?
Belgian designer Bruno Pieters launched his concept etail site, Honest by, this week. It’s not only fascinating in that it allows transparency into the entire costing of each garment (from where the fabric was sourced, to how many hours labour went into it) but also in its approach to seasonality:
“Honest by offers an alternative to the traditional two-season fashion model. Summer and winter garments are offered all year around to recognize the increased frequency of international travel and the need to adapt to different climates and temperatures. New items arrive throughout the year and sell out when they sell out.”
Retailers need to satisfy the demand for new product, but within a localised and reactive way. Sticking to 12 month macro marketing plans simply does not work. Social networking sites and e-tail allow for closer conversation, manufacturing and merchandising capabilities allow more flexibility and more retailers should employ direct response to weather. And please, let’s drop this seasonal business.