A look into some of the strategies the most successful global retailers are employing.
Who is winning in retail and how are they doing it? Insights into retailers’ digital and bricks & mortar strategies to survive and thrive during this volatile trading period.
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• Price increases on core items was noted while discounting was shallower. Prioritize protecting margins and maintaining brand value instead of aggressive reductions to move stock.
• Zoom dressing continued to see success with tops categories confirmed as a sales driver. Retailers such as boohoo and Levi’s expanded on their offering to cater to this movement.
• The majority of retailers continued to expand their reach. While growing brick-and-mortar presence in the current climate might not be an option unless you’re in a stable position, look to partnerships with third-party sites or new brands to invest in to attract a broader customer base.
Expanding wholesale and a return to traditional marketing
Despite halving marketing spend, the British brand credited its increase in revenue (54% from August to September) to investment in TV advertising and direct-mail brochures complementing its social and email marketing campaigns. In August, Sosandar expanded its presence, selling dresses, tops, bottoms and outerwear at both John Lewis & Partners and Next with prominent advertising on the former’s womenswear landing page. The brand showed signs of success on both third party sites with a rapid sell out rate, selling out of the majority of SKUs in 15 days at JL&P and 21 days at Next.
Category diversification and price increases
The denim giant reported a gross margin at 54.3% of net revenues in the third quarter ended August 23rd, up 53% YoY. Reuters reported this was due to price increases and investments into tops and womenswear. EDITED data backs this up with women’s tops arriving online in the past three months making up 43% of the total assortment vs. 30% in 2019. Additionally, the average advertised full price of women’s jeans currently in stock sits 2% higher than last year, while outerwear has seen an 11% rise. For menswear, shorts and outerwear is 3% and 10% higher than in 2019 respectively. While other retailers have moved to close stores during COVID, Levi’s has actually revealed plans to open new locations.
Increasing prices for core styles and minimal discounting
Lululemon reported a 2% YoY increase in revenue to $903 million during the quarter ending August 2, with online sales surging 157% as stores temporarily closed.
Benchmarked against the rest of the activewear market, the average price point for leggings and sports bras in August remained stable compared to pre-COVID times. Lululemon actually raised the average price of these top-performing categories. The total average price of leggings in the US stocked in September is 10% higher than in 2019, while sports bras have taken a 9% hike.
Despite the raised price tag, these styles continue to perform well. The number of products selling out of majority SKUs from these categories combined grew 41% over the past three months YoY.
Even as markdowns during COVID reached Black Friday levels, since January, the percentage of products reduced at Lululemon hasn’t exceeded 20% of its total range. Even at its highest in July when 17% of products were reduced, the average discounting amount remained lower than its competitors at 30% vs. 31% at adidas, 35% at Puma and 43% at Fabletics.
The boohoo Group
Investment in tops and shallower discounts
Despite the retailer stating it faced some of its “most challenging times,” profit before tax increased 51% YoY to £68.1m in the six months to August 31st of this year. During this period, high investment in tops at boohoo was noted with this category seeing a 7% YoY increase, catering to the Zoom dressing movement. This was driven by casual styles such as T-shirts, camis and hoodies while shirting was reduced. Additionally, discounting was significantly pulled back in August, with the average amount taken at 30% vs. 36% in 2019.
The H&M Group
Focus on e-comm and full price sales
After a soft Q2, the Swedish retail chain managed to beat Q3 estimates for the three months which ended August 31st, and reported operating profit at 2.7 billion Swedish kronor, while sales came to 50.87 billion Swedish kronor. A focus on full price sales is said to be responsible for the turnaround with brands in the UK pulling back their discounts from an average of 54% to 49%. The group will be focusing on its online strategies with plans to cut 250 stores in 2021.
*Brands analyzed: H&M, Monki, Cos and Weekday
The Very Group
Investment in electronics and activewear
The Very Group confirmed a return to profit and full year revenue exceeding £2bn for the first time, mainly driven by electricals, but strong growth was noted in women’s and children’s sports clothing. Over the past three months, investment in activewear has grown 10% for women and 21% for children YoY. This year also saw 100 new brands added such as Mint Velvet and Topshop.
No discounting in store
Post-lockdown sales are higher than expected for Primark, forecasting closing the year at £2 billion – a 12% drop on last year. Despite no special discounts applied to shift stock, an increase in footfall has been reported. Primark has continued opening new stores throughout the pandemic with new locations opening in in France and Poland. Existing stores in Malaga and Lisbon are set for expansion in the coming months.
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