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Industry Jan 8, 2013 4 min read

Is mass market the only market?

In fashion’s past, trends have emerged from two routes: they’ve ‘bubbled up’ into luxury from street subculture, or they’ve ‘trickled down’...

In fashion’s past, trends have emerged from two routes: they’ve ‘bubbled up’ into luxury from street subculture, or they’ve ‘trickled down’ from luxury to mass market. The ‘trickle down’ route existed because retailers had to wait for consumers’ tastes to catch up and luxury designers were the ones with freedom to experiment and innovate. Well, that’s all changed, and it’s had a profound effect on the industry.

In today’s fashion landscape, with show imagery available online globally within minutes, the proliferation of bloggers and the rise in social sharing of purchases, retailers don’t need to wait for consumers to catch up with trends; they need to stay up to speed with consumers. Furthermore, no longer are luxury brands the ones who have the skills and budgets to experiment – in fact, many luxury houses have fared far worse in the current global climate than successful high street retailers. That’s left us with an interesting situation, best highlighted by our Top Mover reports. Each month, EDITD customers have access to comprehensive reports showing online’s latest fast-selling garments, across different markets and categories, worldwide.

Let’s take a look at some of November 2012’s reports to visualise those changes clearly and to understand consumer tastes and demands. Our Top Mover reports feature products which arrived online in the previous month and display price constancy, quick sell through and rapid replenishment. Brands and retailers are analysed within three categories; Mass Market, Mid Market and Luxury Market.

Dresses
Looking at November’s Top Moving dresses, we can see that what’s selling well for luxury, is simultaneously selling well for mid market and mass market. Take embellished body con dresses, which on the high street have seen sell outs for Motel at Topshop with a price point of £58, at mid market have sold out for French Connection at Neiman Marcus priced $248 and for luxury have sold through at $440 for Alice & Olivia, also at Neiman Marcus. There’s very little difference in the garments – almost certainly up close the luxury has finer detailing and finish, but through to sale the consumer has experienced little differentiation in their online purchase.

The same story can be seen with cut out dressesBlack Halo’s $345 garment at Bloomingdales, Karen Millen’s £140 version at House of Fraser and Next’s £79 take for the mass market. All arrived online in the same month and all simultaneously sold well to their respective markets.

Skirts
The skirt category demonstrates similar behaviour, with leather skirts flying at a $1,495 price point (Zero + Maria Cornejo at Shopbop), at £250 (for Whistles) and £65 (Miss Selfridge). Skater skirts also make the month’s carefully analysed edit, spanning price points from River Island at ASOS’s £11, on to Club Monaco at Shopbop’s $150 version and up to Halston Heritage’s $250 style.

Tops
Within the tops category, shifting well for each of the markets are simply styled, silkily fabricated button up shirts: Equipment’s £255 black silk at ASOS, Theory’s £190 electric blue version at My Wardrobe and both River Island’s £25 black and cream takes. Another notable style, with a presence on many AW 12/13 catwalks including Christopher Kane’s, is the leather sleeved t-shirt. In November it saw success in near-identical versions for Zara (£19.98), Markus Lupfer (£113) and Yves Saint Laurent (£449).

Outerwear
Season-specific items show the same consumer behaviour. In the same month, horizontally-zipped biker jackets sold out for Dorothy Perkins at £55, Karen Millen at ASOS for £325 and for Helmut Lang at Selfridges for £150 (a jersey version).

What’s going on here is that the consumer’s fashion knowledge and hunger for newness is steering the industry. Everyone can be a fashion critic these days, through social networking sites, but with speedy manufacture everyone can also be a high fashion consumer. Take the crop top trend, which was booming on SS13’s September catwalks. Using our social tools, we can see that consumers were already discussing the trend in their droves, months ahead of the pivotal shows. High end is simply reflecting this.

Access to more fabrics and developments with manmade fibres means interpreting high end styles is easier than ever for the cheaper end of the market. Listening to what consumers are talking about, and having access to real-time data to capture emerging interest is the only way to stay on top of this taste-merged market. It could be argued that mid-market will have the hardest job luring their consumer’s spend as high street consumers rarely shop at high end and vice versa. Meanwhile, the mid-market consumer has the dual risks of more readily affordable product at close hand or the incentive to increase their spend to secure a high quality version of the trend. And how best to differentiate? Mid-market and luxury simply have to find ways to improve and enhance their online shopper’s experience.