Few industries are as fickle as retail. The change of season signals a shift in what’s in and what’s out. What customers want this fall will be different from what they wanted in the summer — or last fall, even.
This constant shift in customer needs and wants is what retailers have to deal with. Successful retailers are the ones that embrace this change the best. The best ones take it a step further and seek to redefine and create fashion trends themselves.
Where once retail fads came and went, these days it can inspire movements. And movements stay and disrupt the status quo.
Take Lululemon and Under Armour for instance. The term “athleisure” may have seemed like a passing fad, but this segment of retail is growing by leaps and bounds, and are "saving the fashion industry". Maybe brick-and-mortar isn't dead after all.
These brands have redefined their offerings (and their marketing) to appeal to a more casual and health-conscious demographic. They capitalized on the growing awareness of fitness and nutrition.
Decision-makers realized that instead of sticking to a niche market, the best way to grow would be expand their footprint. This meant appealing to people outside of their regular demographic like those who went to yoga for an hour every day, or the crossfitter who sweats it out twice a week.
Companies realized that they didn’t need to stick to traditional dress codes. Changing their designed apparel so that people could wear both while active and when they just wanted to get out and have some coffee. It seems incredibly simple in hindsight but other larger competitors allowed themselves to be trapped in traditional thinking.
As a result, Lululemon and Under Amour are now reaping the benefits of others’ missed opportunity and have taken the lead in the retail apparel industry.
Another revolution in retail is happening in the streetwear space. Adidas, for one, has seen its footprint grow exponentially through the years. This was through its "Boost" technology, paired with smart marketing.
Adidas redefined its athletic wear, partnering with popular rapper Kanye West to create Yeezy shoes, which up to this day sell out within minutes of their release.
Adidas saw exponential growth from their renewed perception of customer needs and wants. Using this to adapt their strategy on marketing and collaboration, they revolutionized both the sneaker industry and streetwear culture in the process.
Supreme is a billion-dollar brand that has seen similar success in retail. With its flagship stores in New York and Los Angeles, the brand used to see people line up for days before a release. Supreme continues to be so popular that the privilege to walk into stores on a release date is raffled out. Their products are so sought after that simple tee shirts can fetch over $1000 on the resale market — even if they were just $40 to $80 at retail.
The transformation of retail streetwear is so revolutionary — and lucrative — that even big luxury brands want in on the action. Brands like Louis Vuitton and Balenciaga used to serve only a distinct high-fashion clientele. But nowadays, they’ve come out with a number of street collections themselves, which have been widely accepted.
What lessons can we learn from these brands? Their success is undeniable and holds beneficial tips for success for those in and outside the retail industry.
Many of these successful retailers refused to be complacent. Despite having an established clientele, they thought of ways to improve their existing products as well as how to expand their footprint. They were strategic in their risk and tapped into new markets.
These brands' success is strongly linked to their embrace of collaboration. Kanye West was a rapper, not a designer, but Adidas still went full-steam ahead and created the profitable Yeezy footwear line. Similarly, Under Armor and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's partnership had their shoes sell out in 30 minutes. Besides working with celebrities, these brands are now collaborating with each other. Creating limited edition releases that sell out in minutes, even if they’re priced at a premium. Gone are the days where brands work in a bubble, shunning association with other companies.
The movers and shakers of today where the ones that paid attention to the shift in customer expectations and took the lead. They listened to the voice of the customer pointing them towards a new generation of influencers, which include a focus on heathlier lifestyles, comfort-wear and apparel experiences. Something the Nike Experience seems to address perfectly.
The Short Of It
While these companies are currently the leaders with their innovative and strategic approach to increasing their footprint, this status is one they will have to work hard to keep. As technology and expectations continue to fluctuate, so does the customer's perceptions.
The market is changing faster than ever, and if brands want to stay relevant they must adapt and anticipate what comes next. This may mean expanding to markets they ignored in the past and seeking out collaboration, but above all is listening to their customers' needs and expectations.
Find out more about the migration towards experience-based retail as opposed to product-based HERE.