It's that time of the year again. The moment models, fashion editors, designers, and celebrities have been anticipating: Fashion Week Season. While highly-esteemed and glamorous the events are certainly a hit for the fashionistas, but how well do they drive sales for fashion retailers?
In 1943, when the first-ever "fashion week," New York Fashion Week, was held, there was only one main purpose: to give fashion buyers alternatives to French fashion during World War II, when workers in the fashion industry were unable to travel to Paris. Since then ondon Fashion Week has been giving fashion designers the chance to showcase new collections ahead of when they’ll be on for sale. Since then the most prominent fashion weeks are held in the fashion capitals of the world, with the "Big Four" receiving the majority of press coverage being New York, London, Milan, and Paris.
Fashion retailers and department stores certainly capitalise from all the buzz created from the glamorous events, especially if they have stores in those particular cities. But exactly how well does the trade show benefit them?
“Fashion Week is a global moment for London's West End, driving tens of thousands of domestic and international visitors to our designer and high street stores,” New West End Company chief executive Jace Tyrrell said recently.
It can be argued that the Fashion Weeks aren’t what they used to be, with some statistics indicating that their prominence has fallen in recent years. Online menswear retailer StandOut found that consumer interest in the Big 4 fashion weeks had fallen by 20 per cent since 2013.
Although retailers don’t depend entirely on a fashion week for success, a Fashion Week could work in favor of them because of its tradition to showcase their garments. Based on how well they’re received from fashion critics and the wider public, retailers can anticipate the way it could affect their business.
“Fashion Week offers retailers the perfect opportunity to tap into new technology trends in fashion, that continue to change the way we shop and drive demand for a smooth and seamless customer experience,” Barclaycard director of strategy Anita Liu Harvey said.
“For example, some brands at Fashion Week will take advantage of the opportunity to engage with a wider audience than just those at the event, with a 360° live stream of catwalk collections via social channels."
“In addition, other brands in recent years such as Burberry and Tommy Hilfiger have adopted a ‘see now, buy now strategy’, making a selection of catwalk designs available to buy immediately after the show.”
Fashion Weeks may not be easily accessible to the general public, but that doesn’t mean the average consumer can’t enjoy the showcase. With the growing power of social media and the subsequent rise of individual social media influencers, people are now more connected to the event than ever before.
Instagram in particular has been key in promoting the event’s fashion garments, and since the launch of last year’s shoppable posts, consumers can directly purchase from the app.
Meanwhile, the ‘see now, buy now’ strategy means retailers can plan ahead by pre-ordering the styles that have been a success at a Fashion Week.
“We’ve noticed that the ‘see now, buy now’ trend has penetrated more retailers than ever before, with many offering customers access to their collections immediately after catwalk shows,” Tyrrell said.
He added that see now, buy now was a “key contributor to the spike in spend by these high spending shoppers”.
Red Hot Penny’s Russ Powell believes the only retailers who do well from Fashion Week are those that invest their time on putting their brand on Instagram.
“Most are still not posting directly shoppable posts,” Powell said.
“Those brands using Instagram well are bringing the imagination they show on the catwalk to their feeds.
“With many fashion lines posting challenging financial results, those with a digital first approach, coupled with quality products sold at a fair price are doing well.”
However, Peter McVeigh, director of Donaghys Shoes said that February was one of the quietest months of the year, therefore this month's Fashion Weeks were unlikely to increase online sales for retailers.
Meanwhile, Sandra Perriot, senior planner at retail specialist Cheil UK, said the main key performance indicator of a Fashion Week was the media impact value.
“Fashion weeks trigger conversations about influencers, local brands and the fashion world. This should benefit smart, data-driven retailers,” said Perriat.
“It happens online, on Instagram, so it’s trackable and the pique of interest for fashion – driven by celebrities and influencers – is re-targetable.
“With the right proposition, at the right time and place, retailers should be able to enjoy some benefits – online and offline.”
Fast fashion retail chains may not exhibit at Fashion Week as much as independent retailers like Tata Naka, Underage, and Kloto, but they still seem to see a surge in sales during the events as consumers scurry to find similar, more affordable trends.
Cyrine Allani Joaristi, founder of clothing rental service Nothing-to-Wear, said: “Fashion Weeks creates a surge of excitement around fashion in general, new prints, color’s and staple items infiltrate all low and high end fashion outlets.”
“In particular Fashion Weeks provide a financial boost to independent fashion stores, with some stores profits increasing by 24 per cent during September 2018 Fashion Week,” she added.
“Fashion week inspires individuals to be more bold and excited by available fashion choices.
“Customers are more likely to explore beyond renowned brands and high street retailers and browse unique pieces at independent fashion stores.”
As the fashion sector continues to dominate the retail industry, pressure is growing on fashion retailers and department stores to capitalise on the hype around global Fashion Weeks. This could include investing in social media visibility through influencers or shoppable posts, or rolling out their own ‘see now, buy now’ initiative – even if they don’t have a showcase at the event.