How Fashion Retail Brands Are Fighting to Stay on Top

It’s hard out there for a retailer. As competition mounts and brick-and-mortar struggles, here’s how fashion brands big and small are fighting to stay relevant…

Amazon is, unsurprisingly, often blamed for the struggles of other retail brands, as the mammoth site continues to move aggressively into the fashion space. In fact, Millennials are reportedly buying more clothing from Amazon than any other online retailer. According to Slice Intelligence research, almost 17% of all online clothing sales by 18-34-year-olds in 2016 was through Amazon—double the amount of the second most shopped online retailer, Nordstrom. Amazon has been steadily investing more in fashion and fashion retail offerings. Its efforts, combined with a seamless shopping experience and an immense variety of product, are paying off—they even made the top ten on Ypulse’s ranking of 13-34-year-olds’ favorite places to buy clothing. (And that was before they announced their upcoming Amazon Prime Wardrobe, which everyone is comparing to players like Stitch Fix.)

But long-standing fashion brands have more than just Amazon to contend with. Brick-and-mortar has been struggling for years, thanks to less-than-exciting or convenient in-store experiences, spending shifting into experiences, and a more frugal generation. Young consumers, raised in the recession, have been trained to expect sales and to be discount shoppers. Take Nordstrom: the brand is losing favor with Millennials as they skip luxury department stores for off-price options, a recent brand equity poll shows. Nordstrom’s dipping sales back up the poll, showing a 2.8% drop at their full-price locations countered only by Nordstrom Rack’s (their discount chain) 2.4% swell. Across industries, retailers are seeing the same trend, with overall sales sliding and…

 
 

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“As a graphic designer, without the arts being available to me in school I would have been lost as a child and where to take my career path. The fact that schools are cutting art programs is heartbreaking.”—Female, 24, NJ

Applebee’s is putting down the sriracha and giving up on trying to appeal to Millennials. The brand has decided their newer menu items—like a “triple pork bonanza” sandwich—and attempt at a “modern bar and grill” reinvention has “alienate[d]” Boomers and Gen Xers. They’re shutting down more than 130 restaurants and bringing back initiatives from before their attempted “pendulum swing towards millennials,” all-you-can-eat specials and 2-for-$20 deals. Other brands are creating new spin off chains to appeal to fast-casual lovingMillennials, that “[lack] the associated baggage of the old.” (Inc, NPR)

Adults-only ball pits, bouncy houses, and giant slides are sweeping the U.K. Millennials seeking a break from adulthood are flocking to places like Wacky World’s “massive bouncy-castle obstacle course,” which started out as a children’s event. The founder received so many requests that now every event has an 18-and-over slot, and has expanded to 19 cities. This “trend for arrested development activities” is caused by nostalgia, but the influx of marketing and branding leveraging the emotion could be popularizing these playgrounds for adults. (The Guardian)

Facebook is responding to the trend of asking for birthday charitable donations by integrating it right into the platform. Users in the U.S. can now trade in all the “HBD”s they get on Facebook for donations to the cause of their choice: well-wishers will be notified of the birthday along with the selected non-profit, and get the chance to donate. Facebook will ask users which charity they wish to dedicate their day to two weeks in advance, allowing them to choose from 750,000 organizations. (TNW)

Appear Here is the Airbnb of pop-up shops, giving brands their perfect temporary store for the new era of retail. The company finds short term retail space, and has worked with big-name brands like Nike and Net-a-Porter to open “experimental activations” or “test new products.” As brick-and-mortar continues to suffer and long-term stores close, Appear Here says physical retail is still needed, but to “tell a story.” The pop-up industry was valued at $50 billion in 2015, and provides a more low-risk, flexible option to avoid the retail wasteland. (Glossy)

Millennials & Gen Z are turning a profit online and on mobile by re-selling their retail. Thredup, Poshmark, and Depop are just a few of the most popular brands cashing in on the resale economy’s $18 billion market, and some shoppers say they are making $300 a week on the platforms. Some are also using social to sell, often in conjunction with apps or sites, including Snapchat, Facebook Groups, and Instagram. College students on a budget are reportedly especially drawn to resale, thanks to convenience, value, and access to luxury at a lower price. (FN)

“Adult means being entirely independent. I pay my own bills, make all decisions in my life, and feel very in control.”—Male, 20, NY

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