Wednesday, 08 December 2021 14:45

The Gen-Z ‘Contemporary Vintage’ Hard Sell

NFTs fashion dolce gabbana investing gen z

There was a time when buying fashion was solely an investment in yourself. You bought fashion, at varying price points, thinking little or nothing of its intrinsic value after you’d finished using or wearing it. If it was lucky it would make a few pounds at a local charity shop after being donated. It was only very special showpieces or clothing worn by famous people that held any real value.

Left - Dolce & Gabbana sold its last Alta Moda Couture collection in NFT format

Today, designer fashion is being spun as ‘Contemporary Vintage’ or ‘Future Vintage’. It is being sold on the promise that it will retain some type of value or even increase. A generation of younger people are being asked to pay increasing prices for trainers and clothes on the pretence that they are an astute investment. Sounding like a giant Ponzi scheme, and adding in things like NFTs, are we seeing a new generation being hoodwinked into ‘investing’ into fashion?

I think it's a complex landscape here, almost half of the UK Generation Z saw some negative alteration to their employment through the pandemic period, and for this generation, it's increasingly hard to get into meaningful work.” says Petah Marian, founder of Future Narrative, a retail, culture and consumer trends expert.

“This sense that the system is rigged against them is leading to all sorts of speculative behaviours, be it trying to get access to limited-edition trainers to flip, or in some cases crypto currencies. Some people do make considerable amounts of money out of selling items, but, unless you know what's going to hold value, it's a risky game, as a lot of the future value lies in how well it will resonate later on.” she says.

In November, London designer fashion retailer, Machine-A, with self-described 'contemporary vintage’ e-commerce site Byronesque, launched a vintage area selling archival and rare runway pieces from the like of Rick Owens and Raf Simons.

As I understand it, contemporary vintage is just a new way of marketing vintage items. The way that Machine B is positioning itself is that the contemporary vintage selection will be key vintage items from a series of iconic designers that have a certain cult appeal.” says Marian.

Called Machine-B, it launched at the Machine-A store in Soho and online. What was interesting was how Machine-A was using these archival pieces to promote its other contemporary designer offering and labelling it as ‘future vintage’. This speculative retail approach included small and lesser known brands such as Stefan Cooke and Kiki Kostadinov.

Kerry Taylor, founder of Kerry Taylor Auctions, the world's leading auction house specialising in vintage fashion, fine antique costume and textiles, says, “I have concerns about people purchasing trainers for hundreds of thousands of dollars – when we know that items made from rubber or plastics in the 1960s have started to revert/disintegrate. High quality artisanal items such as Hermès handbags however are probably only going to increase.” she says. “I would trust vintage vintage as it has an established track record rather than ‘contemporary vintage’ which is a bit of a contradiction in terms. We have no idea of the marketing hype will come true.” says Taylor.

Taylor thinks brands and designers are marketing their clothes and product like this to make them seem more special in a world flooded with brands and garments. If you were to ‘invest’, what would you look for?
They should buy what they like rather than just for an investment. Investments can go up or down – but if you love a piece – then it doesn’t matter so much. Always check condition – avoid anything altered or with damage.” says Taylor.

NFTs fashion dolce gabbana investing gen zMarian thinks brands that have a strong and passionate fan base or items that either speak to a brand's codes or are exceptional examples of where it departs from it are more shrewd investments, as well as items that have a limited release.

“It's part of the broader narrative around circularity and retailers slowing consumption around new items, while also generating buzz around key designers by elevating second-hand items as "archive pieces" that are special and rare.” says Marian.

Right - Burberry's first NFT collection launched in August 2021

Fashion brands are offering other avenues to invest, and making their brands look more attractive in the process. NFTs or non-fungible tokens, offer a chance to buy digital versions of an item. Individuals need to establish a digital wallet to store your cryptocurrency in order to purchase an NFT.

In June, Gucci partnered with Christie’s selling an NFT video called ‘Aria’, the title of its AW21 collection, for $25,000, while in September, Dolce & Gabbana sold an NFT couture Alta Moda suit for £740,000 at auction. The new owner also got a physical suit for that price. Dolce & Gabbana grossed $5.7 million from its first auction of NFT collectibles.

Tying fashion items and collections to NFTs raises the investment levels, but are NFTs likely to be a good long-term investment?

“It's very early to say what the mass uptake will look like.” says Marian. “There's a passionate community of collectors that are driving up the value of NFTs at the moment, but I can't say what the long term value of the current releases of NFTs. I think NFTs are here for the longer term, but it's very early to say what the value or the market will look like for individual assets in a year or two years from now yet.” she says.

Add the growing noise around the Metaverse - the British Fashion Council (BFC) recently announced a brand new category as part of The Fashion Awards 2021—the first ever Fashion Award for Metaverse Design exclusively with Roblox - and the way digital and physical items are blurring, these new ways of owning or consuming as item are selling themselves as investment opportunities to a younger and more engaged consumer.

NFTs fashion dolce gabbana investing gen zAll investments are speculative. By linking and promoting positive examples of fashion items increasing in or holding their value, brands are cleverly giving the illusion that it is a certain. This is targeted at the younger consumer queuing at stores in Soho or entering ballots for items happy to pay significant sums of money with the idea lurking in the background that they will be able to resell it at some point or even flip at a profit. Websites like Stock X continue to propel the hyped hysteria.

Left - Hyped kids? Luxury brands are invested in giving the perception their goods will retain or even increase their value to younger, Gen Z consumers

Fashion has never really been a serious investment before. Fashion, in its nature, is fickle and unpredictable. Implying that something is resellable at a price close to what you paid for it and/or a solid investment is another pull brands are using to activate the purchasing power of their expensive products. It doesn’t feel like you’re chucking your money away like it did in the past to a generation more careful with money. This bubble is getting bigger and we all know what happens to bubbles when they get too big.

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balenciaga gucci hackNo creative worth their salt will ever admit to being out of ideas. Even no idea is an idea these days. Collabs. have become the go-to to fill the gaps in fashion’s creativity and its continual appetite for product over the past decade. Two empty heads are always better than one?

Fashion is a cycle and like the Ouroboros, an ancient symbol depicting a serpent or dragon eating its own tail, it goes around and around. But, today, that coil has become so tight it has almost devoured itself. In a ‘pop will eat itself’ moment, former rivals are now collaborating and even swapping creative roles, while retailers, desperate for new ideas are trying to incubate new designers, labels and ideas to fill the ideas vacuum. 

Is fashion officially out of ideas?

The biggest ‘hacking’ of the season, (not a collab. anymore - FYI), was the tie up between Balenciaga and Gucci. Both Kering brands, and in Gucci’s centenary year, Gucci’s ‘Aria’ collection, meaning air in Italian, featured no-doubt sell out product the resellers will only dream about. 

Left - Balenciaga & Gucci's 'Hack' in retail form

Tagged as Balenciagucci or (Gucciaga), the internet blew up in April when Alessandro Michele added Balenciaga’s silhouettes and branding across Gucci product. 

Two of the biggest and most desirable names in luxury fashion merging like this is unprecedented. A classic Jackie bag was emblazoned with the diagonal Balenciaga font, while Balenciaga’s Triple S was reimagined with the recognisable Gucci Flora print.

If this wasn’t enough rehashing of ideas, the collection also mined the famous Tom Ford era of the mid to late 90’s, reproducing some of his vintage looks from the Gucci archive. Balenciaga’s creative director, Demna Gvasalia said on Instagram Stories after the Gucci show with regards to the homage to Tom Ford’s Gucci. “It really defined the decade in fashion, I think. But I love how today everything mixes in together — ’70s, ’90s, ’00s, etc. Anything is really possible and fashion is such a melting pot of the past, present, and future. That’s what makes it so special and intriguing I guess.” 

This product will be in great demand - it isn’t currently available on the main Gucci website - and is therefore guaranteed that it will be swapping hands for a premium when it enters the market. While fun, it does a reek of an ideas cul-de-sac.

Mario Abad, Fashion Editor at Paper Magazine wrote on Twitter (Nov 8th) “Something about Balenciaga tagging their stores with “Gucci” to mark the collab’s launch is making me lose it.”

fendi fendace versace swapThe biggest ‘swap’ of the SS22 season, (not a collab. anymore - FYI), was Fendi by Versace, Versace by Fendi. Donatella Versace and Fendi’s Kim Jones swapped roles and designed collections for each other’s brands. Versace and Fendi, Capri Holdings and LVMH brands, respectively, unveiled “two iconic collections that celebrate their friendship and the cultural impact of Versace and Fendi.” 

Right - Versace's Medusa looks very natural with Fendi's Greek key

Labelled ‘Fendace’, the collection saw Fendi directors Kim Jones and Silvia Venturini Fendi create 25 Versace looks while Donatella Versace reciprocated with 25 Fendi ensembles. Items included Fendi Baguette bags with Medusa heads and Versace’s signature safety pins scattered across Fendi looks all set to hit stores next spring.

fendace kim jones donatella versaceConsidering Kim Jones only joined Fendi as artistic director of women's collections in September 2020, we’ve yet to clearly see what he can do with the brand. He is also men’s creative director at the giant, LVMH owned, Dior. Fashion conglomerates are finding it increasingly hard to attract big names designers to their houses. Note Daniel Lee just exciting Bottega Veneta.

Left - Kim Jones & Donatella Versace at the launch of 'Fendace'

On the retailer front, MRPORTER.COM announced a competition to find the next menswear design stars to celebrate its 10th anniversary in April 2021. Called MR PORTER FUTURES, the three lucky candidates could not already own a registered or trademarked business with an annual turnover of over €10,000 and was open to anybody regardless of experience of background.

Sam Kershaw, Mr Porter buying director, “We have always been committed to championing a diverse mix of new and emerging designers throughout Mr Porter's decade in business, but if this year has taught us anything, it is that we have the responsibility to use our global platform to give equal opportunities to all new aspiring menswear voices, no matter their experience or background”

Announcing the winners in September 2021, MRPORTER said. “Fashion, after all, can be a tough place to succeed, and, if we’re being honest, isn’t quite as diverse as it could be. For all that it speaks to a global audience, the industry that drives it is largely centralised in just a handful of cities – historically New York, London, Milan and Paris – while talent is disproportionately drawn from a small number of high-profile schools.”

The winners began a year-long design programme to turn their ideas into reality. At the end of the year, they will debut their very own menswear collections exclusively on MR PORTER.

Exclusivity is the way forward for multi-brand luxury sites all battling for the same customers. This also offers MR PORTER the potential of a fresh wave of ideas and a newness that isn’t just another collaboration. It also looks as though it is supporting the fashion industry and diversity.

Tiffany SupremeAnother brand desperate for cool is Tiffany & Co. A much-rumoured high profile collaboration between Supreme and Tiffany & Co. is set to drop this week.

 Right - Would you return this to Tiffany? Tiffany & Co.s collab with Supreme

The VF and LVMH owned businesses’ collection called ‘Return To Tiffany’ is inspired by pieces originally launched in the 1960s and comprised of pendants, necklaces, bracelets, earrings, rings, and keyrings. Tiffany’s new CEO, Alexandre Arnault, was also the head of Rimowa when they did a collaboration with Supreme.

Fashion consumers have reached collaboration fatigue and this is why the big brands are spinning these as ‘hacks’ or ‘swaps’. It is also why they are upping the ante by partnering with brands of equal stature. Collaborations needed to get bigger to have any impact. Collaborations before were always a David and Goliath type relationship of big brand supporting little. There was no threat there and everybody knew who was the bigger and more important of the two. Where will the brands go from here?

These do look like a desperate grappling for new ideas and attention. Brands not coming up with fresh ideas and therefore not impressing the retailers is making them look elsewhere to nurture a new crop of ideas and designers, especially outside of the main fashion capitals. Considering fashion had something of a pandemic break, for the last 18 months, the latest round of shows in September didn’t feel like a group of creatives burgeoning with fresh ideas. It felt like an industry fully burnt out and these partnerships do nothing to argue against that.

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Wednesday, 20 October 2021 13:14

ChicGeek Comment Creative Influence

Kendall Jenner as creative director influencersHow valuable is influence? Modern marketeers are continually grappling with how to use ‘influence’ and where to put their time, focus and investment. ‘Influence’ is nothing new, but, thanks to social media, it has become the Holy Grail of marketing as traditional channels have declined. While measured in followers, engagement etc. the ultimate measurement is sales. And volumes speak volumes for the majority of brands.

Left - Super-influencer Kendall Jenner was made Creative Director of designer multi-brand site FWRD

Brands have partnered and collaborated with influential people for many years, but, in order for them to be more invested, many brands are now appointing influencers as  ‘Creative Directors’ or inviting them in as shareholders or investors. This creates longer term relationships and exclusive parties both invested in the success of the arrangement.

Recently in womenswear, PrettyLittleThing announced Love Island’s Molly-Mae Hague, while FRWD announced Kendall Jenner as Creative Directors.

Molly-Mae Hague, 22 years-old with 6 million followers on Instagram, found fame on the ITV dating show. In August, she was announced as UK and EU Creative Director as well as launching her first exclusively designed collection since her announcing new role.

She had previously worked with the brand as their UK Brand Ambassador ‘curating iconic edits’, BTS videos and podcast interviews. In her newly appointed role, the brand said Mae-Hague will take an active position in creatively directing upcoming campaigns for the brand and signing new faces within the UK and EU. Umar Kamani, CEO at PrettyLittleThing said, “This felt like a natural fit for us. Molly has been a huge part of our PrettyLittleThing journey.”

Amy Simon, Global Head of PR and VIP at PrettyLittleThing says, “We have been working with Molly for a few years, way back when she had a much smaller following and she has always been a supporter of the brand.

“We have followed Molly’s career and she was a no-brainer for us when it came to selecting our new Brand Ambassador for the UK. As our relationship has grown with Molly, her input into her shoots and creative has been amazing and she is the PLT customer. She knows what our PLT customer wants, so the choice to then take it a step further was for her to come on board as Creative Director.” says Simon.

Mae-Hague’s current role will be for one year and hopefully way beyond this says the brand.

“She will be meeting the teams at HQ regularly and working across ambassador shoots, seasonal campaigns, our Influencer Marketing strategies, showroom openings, YouTube and so much more. Her role as Creative Director goes beyond her previous Brand Ambassadorship.” says Simon.

Many people are quite sceptical and snobbish about influencers being appointed creative directors at brands. It could be viewed as a kick in the teeth for true designers and creatives, but on the other is this just a natural extension of the brand/influencer relationship?

Influencers have been a huge part of the brand’s success since the beginning, and we work with influencers of a varied following across the globe.” says Simon.

“The influencer marketing team have great relationships with the ones that we work with and we know our audience relate to the Influencer. We regularly expand beyond just posts, we’ve had many successful edits, interviews for our podcast and collaborations across all our key markets.” she says.

In the US, luxury womenswear fashion destination FORWARD [FWRD], part of the REVOLVE Group has announced Kendall Jenner, 25, as the new Creative Director. Jenner has 192 million followers on Instagram.

“I grew up loving fashion and have been incredibly fortunate to work with some of the most brilliant people in this business. As FWRD’s Creative Director, I am excited to help curate the site’s offering with emerging designers and brands.” said Jenner on her appointment.

The multi-brand site says, as the new Creative Director, Jenner will be in charge of the look and feel of the site, curation of brands sold, monthly edits of must-have trends, styles, and looks, as well as marketing ideas, brand partnerships and brand activations. Jenner kicked off her new role during New York Fashion Week this month.

“Kendall as the Creative Director for FWRD is the perfect choice as we continue to invest in the next generation luxury consumer. We have always had an extreme admiration for Kendall’s style, creativity, and overall exquisite taste. Her multifaceted experience in the fashion industry and the vision she has outlined for the FWRD business has the potential to transform our business and the luxury business as a whole.” Michael Mente, Co-CEO and Co-Founder REVOLVE Group, Inc.

Revolve Group (RVLV) says it ‘is the next-generation fashion retailer for Millennial and Generation Z consumers’ with two sites REVOLVE and FORWARD. REVOLVE offers a more affordable assortment of premium female apparel and footwear, accessories, and beauty products from emerging established and owned brands. At FORWARD, they ‘offer a highly curated assortment of iconic and emerging luxury brands’.

Andy Murray AMC clothing CastoreKendall and Mae-Hague are the same age as the target customer for both of these brands.

Manchester based, In The Style, actively works with influencers to create collections and the influencer gets a cut of sales so has a vested interest in the success.

It’s interesting that they would choose to be so deeply embedded with one brand as it would preclude them (dependent on the contract) of taking money from others, so they deals would have to be favourable. On the flip side for consumers, are they really still mindlessly following what celebrities do? How much longer is that going to last?

Right - Sports stars are the ultimate influencers in menswear - AMC clothing from Castore with tennis player, Andy Murray

Over in menswear, it is sports stars, and more specifically footballers, who wield the greatest influence. Remember how David Beckham wearing that Superdry jacket catapulted the brand? Product placement on influential friends of friends of the brands can really kick start brands, particularly sportswear.

Two such British success stories are Castore and Bee Inspired. Brothers Tom and Phil Beahon, who both came from professional sporting backgrounds, founded Castore with a mission to deliver the ‘lightest, most durable, highest performing sportswear in the market’ and, since its launch in 2015, the digitally native business model has grown rapidly and now sells in more than 50 countries around the world. In 2019, British tennis star, Andy Murray, become a shareholder in the business and took on the role of board advisor, as part of its ongoing long-term partnership. His AMC range of sportswear under the Castore umbrella was recently seen on 2021 US Open champion Emma Raducanu’s coaching staff. Castore recently launched a collection with Olympic and Strictly Come Dancing swimmer Adam Peaty and are forecasting to turnover £14m this year.

In 2013 professional footballers Steven Robb and Mark Corcoran hung up their boots and were inspired to embark on a journey to change the landscape of streetwear. They launched Bee Inspired. Gifting their footballer friends and being featured on their subsequent social media channels helped the Glasgow based brand to grow extremely quickly. Lionel Messi (269 million Instagram followers), Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho have all worn Bee Inspired. They recently launched womenswear.

The sports shoe brand, On, an investment from Swiss tennis star Roger Federer, is eyeing a valuation of more than $6 billion in a U.S. initial public offering (IPO), a recent regulatory filing showed. On was founded in 2010 by running enthusiasts Olivier Bernhard, David Allemann and Caspar Coppetti, with Federer investing an undisclosed sum in the company in 2019.

“When we spotted Roger wearing On shoes around the world, we just got in touch. Turns out, he has been an On fan for a while. Switzerland is relatively small and it wasn’t long before Roger was catching up with our senior leadership team over dinner.” says the brand. Asian private equity firm Hillhouse also owns a stake.

Long term collaborations often turn into these arrangements. Many sports starts with money to invest are looking for income into retirement.

Somebody like Lewis Hamilton, who recently took a table at the Met Gala for young designers, is showing a strong interest in fashion. His collaboration with Tommy Hilfiger started in 2018, with his latest collection being entirely vegan. It wouldn’t take a genius for somebody at PVH, Tommy Hilfiger’s parent company, to want to tie him in and his 24 million Instagram followers into a permanent and invested relationship like his own label. Something sustainable, possibly?

Not all influencer investments have worked out as well. Just look at Rhianna’s Fenty clothing line or David Beckham with Kent & Curwen, where there was a price disconnect between the product and the audience. Aspiration is one thing, being unaffordable is another. The super-influencer needs to feel like the customer, but they also need to produce something that people can afford.

Super-influencers know their value and in a world becoming immune to sponsored posts it requires brands to think deeper and bigger. Tying them into a proper contracts or investments, but also allowing them to create what they want and then promote it is a major attraction to brands. The super-influencers get a deeper financial, creative and more fulfilling relationship and the chance to be part of something that could be really big. Having both invested parties pulling in the same direction and making product for the same audience is the ultimate in influence. 

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Independent retailers growing BroardstairsWhen a mighty oak falls the sunlight blazes in. The resulting glade sees green shoots appear with all manner of species stimulated to grow and compete for this finite opportunity.  A metaphor for business, the British high-street has seen many old oaks fall over and die recently, and, with optimism, the light that this allows to shine into the market could make it a boom time for new independents to open. With people shopping more locally, wanting the opposite of chain stores and craving something different, it is predicted that we will see a flood of independent brands and stores grasping to fill this void.

Left - Image from @ollyrzysko Twitter documenting the new independent stores in Broadstairs

Andrew Goodacre, CEO of Bira (British Independent Retailers Association) says, “It is a fact that people who have lost jobs often look to start their own businesses.”

It is worth noting how much better the leaner, and more flexible independent businesses weathered the pandemic. Recent research from the Local Data Company, the UK's most accurate retail location data company, confirmed there were 31,405 openings of independent units in 2020. Though openings were outweighed by 32,847 closures and resulted in the independent market shrinking by -0.4% (-1,442 units), it compares much more favourably to the chain market which declined by -4.5%, almost 10,000 units.

“We have also seen a resurgence in people shopping locally and there has been a significant increase in service retailing – barbers, hairdressers, cafes, etc.” says Goodacre.

“Indies have a personality and connection with their local communities that cannot be matched by the large chains. This is a good time because more people are shopping locally and care more about their local economy.

“Shopping locally, away from the large city centres, has happened throughout the UK, including London, as the boroughs have prospered at the expense of those shops in the centre or near high volume commuter stations.” says Goodacre.

Olly Rzysko, Founder of Good Candles, recently charted the arrival of numerous new independent retailers in the seaside town of Broadstairs through his Twitter channel @ollyrzysko, “I saw a lot of new units opening up, stores that were previously closed or maybe very tired reinventing themselves.” he says.

“Some of what had been previously pretty dead spots of high street were coming alive with new spaces from Affinity Brewery, a new lifestyle store and one of the most successful stores upgrading to a bigger unit. There were at least 6 new stores and several new places to eat and drink in a tiny town.” says Rzysko.

Why do you think so many independents are opening right now? And why there?

“I think it’s a mix of relatively affordably retail property, a mindset from people that they want local stores and a growing population by the coast that are willing to spend money here.” he says. “E-commerce is amazing if you have a unique product or a specific proposition but a real store can be so versatile and be a hub for the community and the brand.

“Independents can offer some choice, curated choice. I love Selfridges and their curation of product but I can’t go every week. Having some stores locally that can bring together interesting products and in some cases more local ones is really powerful. We’ve had a year of ’buy local’ messaging and I do think people really do want to spend more near to home.” he says.

“A lot of people are going back to offices this year but for many of us that will prob be 3 days a week. That has some significant impact. City centres lose 20% of footfall for every day we work from home (eg 20% of the Mon-Fri traffic for each day), this traffic is now local to where the workers live. They still want to buy lunch or a birthday card or a bottle of wine, but the money will be spent nearer to home.

“It is much easier to change tactics when you’re one store in a small town, much harder when you have shareholders and growth targets.” he says.

To kick start retail after lockdown many within the retail industry were calling for a ‘Shop Out to Help Out’ scheme, urging the government to support the sector by offering customers 50% off the cost of goods at independent retailers up to a maximum price of £10. Positively, since then retail sales volumes grew sharply in April 2021 with a monthly increase of 9.2%, reflecting the effect of the easing of coronavirus restrictions according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics. Non-food stores provided the largest contribution to the monthly growth in April 2021 sales volumes, aided by strong increases of 69.4% and 25.3% in clothing stores and other non-food stores respectively.

Independent retailers growing Durham

Masato Jones is an independent fashion designer who has recently opened his first store in Leeds. Originally from Japan, he studied at Central St. Martins and  started his eponymous label in 2012. He was based in London.

“London is so expensive, and doing bespoke I need to be somewhere in a city.” he says. “London has become slightly too commercial and I found Leeds has a very individual style. I saw young people wearing quite a unique style.

Right - Durham

“It seems the north like my style, the south are very quiet, my first impression was go north. We looked at Manchester and Liverpool, but I like what is going on in Leeds.” he says.

Selling men’s and womenswear, the newly opened store is in Thornton Arcade, just around the corner from Louis Vuitton in the centre of Leeds. It has an atelier on the 1st floor, open for pattern cutting and garment making classes, all tutored by Jones. Speaking before the move, he said, “It is very difficult to survive here in London right now, especially if a small business. The Leeds arcade has all independent shops apart from Starbucks, and we will stock artists’ work as well.”

Independents' Day is the national campaign to celebrate and promote the UK's independent retailers on 4th July. It started out as a small idea in the North of England and has grown into a multi-award-winning worldwide movement. Independents' Day UK is a not-for-profit campaign that exists to support and promote independent retail businesses across the UK all year round, but with an annual focus on July 4th. On July 4th retailers get involved by running special events and promotions including themed window displays, high street festivities, discounts and offers.There is now a network of ‘Totally Locally Towns’ across the world, sharing ideas, working together and making a difference to their independent businesses.

Further north, the City of Durham Parish Council has launched ‘Indie Durham City’. Managed by Gateshead-based retail consultants CannyInsights.com. It has been running since May 2020 to support and promote independent shops, cafes, restaurants, bars and other businesses in Durham’s historic city centre.

Graham Soult, Retail Consultant at Canny Insights says, “Indie Durham City was created in response to the pandemic to support and promote independent businesses. I’m helping make them more digital, update their Google listings, Facebook etc. all with free support from me.”

By helping them digitally it has increased awareness of the physical place to draw shoppers in.

“Initially they were really cautious about using those channels, but they are embracing them a lot more, all sharing updates in a given location which makes it a destination place.” he says.

The city social media has amplified the message. “Facebook, Instagram, Twitter are really important in providing footfall, people will check you out beforehand. You get that verification, the retailers are telling me they came in today and said they saw me on Facebook.” he says.

“There has been a flurry of independents,” says Soult. “We saw this before Christmas when 5 new independents opened in that period, and there’s another 4 new independents in a 200 metres stretch in the city. There’s clearly an appetite.” he says.

“The smaller towns that already have a independent cohort already, those places are proving quote robust with people living close by.” says Soult.

"It’s the in-between towns, they aren’t top tier, nor small market towns, places like Warrington and Middlesborough, who have the biggest reinvention ahead of them.” he says. “Get all the key stakeholders, like the council and landlords all working together, and the places doing that have that energy all pushing in the right direction.” says Soult.

People are seeing more independents because they are spending more time in their locales. There’s also not as much pull from the city or shopping centres with the widespread and much publicised bankruptcies of huge retail chains. There’s something quite sad about city centres right now with empty shops and boarded up retail units. It’s currently cooler and more original shopping local and doing business directly with the owner. There’s also a need and desire to tap into their knowledge and expertise and have a human connection.

These independent businesses still need online and social media to drive people to their physical stores, and it works better collectively. It’s very much stronger together. But, they need to do more than simply exist. They are competing for the pounds in people’s pockets, and while they probably won’t be able to match online on price, they can compete on originality, convenience, service and, most importantly of all, that personal touch.

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Wednesday, 17 February 2021 17:03

ChicGeek Comment Luxury Local

DFS LVMH local shopping Paris

The capitals of Europe were long destinations for foreign tourists, most notably Chinese and Arabic visitors, to fill their shiny Rimowa suitcases to bursting with luxury goods. Buying a new Hermès bag on the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré or a bespoke suit on Savile Row felt more authentic and could seduce many an international visitor to spend, spend, spend. 

Left - Interior of LVMH duty-free travel division DFS's T Fondaco dei Tedeschi in Venice

International travel and shopping have always been happy companions. One relied on the other, but, travel has all but stopped, and the millions who once flocked to Selfridges in London or Galeries Layfette in Paris are no longer arriving. This is prompting luxury houses to pivot and focus local. 
In its recent results, the world’s largest luxury group, LVMH, said there was a 28% decline in LVMH’s revenue for the full-year in Europe. It said while the Chinese domestic market saw strong growth it wasn’t enough to make up for the missed sales from their trips abroad.
LVMH’s chief financial officer, Jean-Jacques Guiony, said he hoped the group could grow its local European market to fill the void left by the tourists.
“Growing our local sales by one-third isn’t achievable in a year, or maybe even two, but we believe it’s achievable in a significant way,” he said. “We see no reason we should be shutting down stores, even in Europe where the recovery is less obvious for the moment.”
Traditionally, in the final quarter of the year (Q4) the majority of European luxury sales (50-60%) usually comes from tourism. In their Q4 results LVMH bullishly said, while Europe is still affected by the crisis, the United States saw a good recovery and Asia grew strongly.
In London, Brian Bickell, the chief executive of West End property company Shaftesbury, recently said overseas visitors may not return in numbers before “late 2022, perhaps not until into 2023, being realistic”.
With luxury European sales down by nearly a third, this potential sales time lag of up to two years needs filling by luxury brands in prime city centre locations, but how will they do it?
Darren Skey, Director and Founder of Nieuway Agency, says, “I think brands and retailers alike are finding and will continue to find it hard to grow their domestic customer.  Many stores in particular have been so reliant on the tourist trade, in particular Middle Eastern and Asian.  
“To swing both your marketing message and buy to suddenly attract a different customer takes time.  With LVMH, what accounts to a local audience? They have 5000 stores globally so I'm sure they can localise their sales a lot easier than a store who has 1 or 2 locations in the same country.  We've already heard from stores in the Middle East, they have seen triple digit increases from the localised customer who can no longer travel.” he says.  
“I think the changes to the buy/brand mix will be minimal to be honest.  I believe stores will be going through a process of thinning their brands as opposed to finding new brands to attract a localised customer.  Where brands are being picked up is if the brand has global appeal and can be translated throughout multiple customer profiles.” says Skey.  "Our brand, Holzweiler, has seen this first hand.  We are seeing a really strong reaction which is going to elevate it beyond its perceived Scandinavian success story.  Having products which are all encompassing is paramount.  A good quality sweat top and sweat pant is going to attract a multitude of customers, especially during the global pandemic.  But it's also important to offer products which have longevity and will work post pandemic.” he says.
Will this luxury local sticking plaster turn into a long term strategy?
“I think this will definitely be a short term strategy,” says Skey. “As soon as borders open and the pandemic dissipates (if that fully happens at all) I believe the concentration will return to the section of customers who were previously driving the turnover.  “In fact, I believe we could see a complete juxtaposition from the WFH attire with people wanting to go out and express themselves again. But, who knows when this might be?” he says.
LVMH, in particular with its DFS (Duty Free Shoppers) division was busy building huge temples of duty-free luxury shopping and hotels in Europe to service these high-spending foreign visitors. In its results, it said DFS saw a significant decline in its activity in most destinations due to the total suspension of international travel, but, new services were being developed for its local customers and online sales have strengthened.
But, how many local Venetians will shop at DFS’s hugely impressive T Fondaco dei Tedeschi overlooking the Rialto Bridge? Not to mention the refurbished La Samaritaine in Paris which was scheduled to open in April 2020. 
After nearly 30 months’ of renovation, a department store and a 5-star Cheval Blanc hotel with 72 rooms was to open its doors. It still hasn’t opened. In September 2020, Louis Vuitton gave us a sneak preview of the finished building by holding its womenswear show there. 

DFS LVMH local shopping VeniceDavid M Watts, Fashion Industry Advisor, says, “Given they (LVMH) have deep pockets it will be possible for them to refocus on local markets in Europe but not without its challenges given the continued state of lockdown all across the world. 

Right - Artist's impression of the new, yet to open La Samaritaine in Paris

“I believe they should perhaps consider developing a pop-up shop menu that will allow safe shopping, but also access to digital and commerce which will create a new hybrid. Something bricks and mortar retail was crying out for pre COVID.” he says.
So, what kind of new products or changes do you think they’ll make? “I suspect that homeware, wellness, beauty and casual wear will feature heavily.” says Watts. “Businesses are starting to review their own product offering; sleepwear, blankets, candles, pyjama dressing and track suit iterations abound.” he says.
Can you see this being a long or short term strategy and do you think it will be forgotten about post-COVID if the market and travel rebounds? “I think this new approach to product and more lifestyle focus on product development will become a core part of business. even for pure fashion brands.” says Watts.
“I believe that there will also be a return to stylish dressing with less emphasis on work/corporate and more on fun. The pandemic is forcing many of us to review our social habits and one suspects that people will develop an entirely new approach to meeting with friends and socialising and dressing habits may well change with it too.” he says.
A sales manager selling LVMH products at Harrods, who wished to remain anonymous, said even after the first lockdown locals didn’t have the same money so his brands were starting to launch ‘entry price’ items within the iconic department store. The problem with ‘entry price’ products is you have to sell more to reach the same sales volumes. The international tourists were an easy cash cow for these retailers and now they will have to work harder for less.
Central London’s luxury shops will have to work in stages. It will first have to entice even domestic, ‘local’ shoppers back to the prime shopping districts, and get them spending. Then hope the high-spending tourists follow not too long after that.
 
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