Ellie Sanderson is not afraid of being heard and voices opinions others share but are often reticent to voice out loud. She looks, assesses and analyses so her views are based on research, not whim. We welcome them…
In the March/April edition I wrote about ‘runway to retail’ and questioned the lead-times we currently have when we buy new samples. The article challenged why we currently buy in March for delivery in October and was that time line set up for media and show purposes or the consumer needs? I believe the former.
The response to this piece was cosmic and came from far and wide. I enjoyed a week of healthy and heated debate from both suppliers and retailers. Some utterly agreed that we needed to change and others defended that change was not needed, as our industry is “different” to mainstream retailing. (Pop online and read the comments – excellent points were made.)
It was brilliant to debate in such a lively way and in doing so I also learned that whilst the supply chain is slow in some areas of our industry, in others – and in particular at the manufactured end – there was some great progress underway to speed things up.
My point was and still is, that showing product in March that cannot physically be made and delivered till October / November is counter productive.
Guessing forward predictions for over a year ahead and the release of images of product that is not available for months is a threat to our livelihood and out of kilter.
Without doubt, all retailers that stock designer labels 100% agreed for the need to change, below is a snap shot of some of the comments received.
“Showing in March with delivery in October is far too long a gap and is setting us all up to fail. There should be the most popular dresses (and there will be four of those, at least, per designer) that should be ready to ship to us within a month of the show”
“I agree that we need to look at the way we buy and I would love to have smaller drops throughout the year. Some high-end designers are very slow at getting their new collections out”
Other retailers agreed that releasing imagery at show time was a huge issue, fuelling the consumer’s expectations that the dresses were readily available.
(I do have to add though that some retailers were just as responsible for this happening and over shared, IMHO.) The concern that in showing the product now would then lead to consumer demand now is a very real threat to us all.
“Brides see the new collection runway shows on YouTube etc and think they should be able to buy it within a couple of weeks, just as they can with their day/evening wear.”
“I couldn’t agree more, how frustrating it is to have brides come to us six months before a collection arrives in the boutique with images that she can’t try and can’t get out of her head. This does not help us close a sale.”
The comments about my article have also highlighted the huge distinction between designer labels and manufactured labels. Whilst I totally accept these products are massively different and that there production processes are too, they seem to be miles apart now more than ever.
A number of retailers commented on how brilliantly their manufacturers have been coping with the consumer change in demands and gave so many great examples of superb ideas to cut down the time from runway to consumer.
“Some companies are moving in this direction, I’ve just come back from a buying trip where the dresses have all been tested in stores before the collection was launched, best sellers have already been put into production so some of the samples I’ve ordered will be with me in May. They also have a fantastic portal system and often have stock of popular dresses.”
There were examples of manufacturers who had their top five dresses available to ship in four weeks. Tied into a social media launch and it’s the perfect model. Intelligent retailing at its best.
So what now?
It is clear and very real that designer label retailers would rather buy in September for December / early January delivery. This closes down the gap of product exposure to the media without availability.
Most designer label retailers would happily buy throughout the year for fresh deliveries during the season. This smooth’s out cash flow, manages production better for our suppliers and tightens up the loop of runway to retailer.
This seems such a no brainer but our designers NEED to be in synch for this to work.
Many of manufacturers seem to have grabbed this nettle fast and hard – these guys will clean up with their modern approach but, sadly though, those that defend how we currently buy and deliver will loose their market share. More retailers than ever have this on their non-negotiable list when they go shopping and only those retailers who are niave or new find the old timelines acceptable for today’s consumer.
I guess we will have to wait and see what happens next year.
What I do know is this, the retailers are asking for this change and suppliers who change will be the future not the past.