Friday, August 12, 2016
It's that time of the year, the end of yet another season, and the apparently inevitable sales in stores across the country abound. Consumers haven't been impressed by a sale in years, and yet all participants are all to willing to play the game.
Let's be transparent of my credentials or lack of them and perhaps my motivations.
I am a clothier who has been an owner of a high-end retail store, multiples even. I have also been a sales rep on the wholesale side, and I am now and have been for quite a few years, a designer and manufacturer. I don't know everything, I don't have the magic solution, and if I did, I would give it to you at 50% off, oh hell, let's make that 50% off and a pair of socks.
No matter how much excitement you try to instill into your costumer, how sexy you present it, how colorful your signage, a sale is still a lie. Yes, you read it correctly;
A SALE IS A LIE.
As much as those of you who will deny that what I'm saying is true, YOU are the ones who need to hear the most and will listen the least.
Why is a sale a lie? A sale on a garment is the attempt to entice the consumer to buy a product he presumably chose not to buy when it was at full price. It is assumed that this exchange is legitimate, that is, the retailer bought a product, for argument sake, for $50, marked it up to $100 and now, because he or she has not sold it and the season is coming to an end, reduces it because he wants to get rid of it, to $75. As legitimate as can be. So why is it a lie? No this isn't, but this, nowadays, is mostly overshadowed with the original overpricing of product, to the market down to what it should have been all along. So it's not really a sale is it? But at this point both retailers and consumers are complicit in this lying game, and we all walk away with smiles until the next shopping excursion.
Are you smiling retailers? Consumers, do you enjoy being played? Retailers are disappearing from the scene, consumers are ever more being presented with less and less choices, and most certainly, less beautiful choices because in order for manufacturers and retailers to conspire to offer you with garments that fit this scheme, they are limited by a variety of options; spend less on garments and do so by cutting back on the quality of the fabric and make of the garment, but ultimately, cut back also on the creatives, who day after day work to offer the world something new, something fresh, something that might entice the consumer to buy the product for its beauty and not its price.
But there is an even sadder lie that festers in the recesses of the retailers minds.
The end of a season, when a retailer puts his inventory on sale, is also the time when a retailer attends shows across the country and some even internationally. The money spent to travel to these shows is nothing to sneeze at, and not only are they an opportunity to see old friends, but these shows are very, very important in that it is here that retailers will replenish their store's inventories with new merchandise. The retail God indeed gives every store owner a period of Atonement, an opportunity to avoid the mistakes of the previous season and improve. So as I look across the many Facebook pages of retailer with everyone loudly declaring their offerings of incredible prices, and as I witness retailers buying the same old things they buy season in and season out, I ask;
is this not the biggest lie of them all?
You will do everything just like last season while expecting things to change?
Buying your new inventory as you shop looking through the filter of fear is not a recipe for success, it's a guarantee of failure. There are stores who while being in a city of one million inhabitants will ask to have your product exclusively and proceed to give an order of two dozen shirts. In what universe is this even remotely logical?
At a very brief presentation to about 40 retailers at the Chicago Collective Show I pretty much laid out the issues I touch on here. I ended my impassioned speech with "yes, I am an angry clothier".
While I didn't expect it, I received a sounding round of applause. It was followed by many visits from retailers with praises that ranged from "great presentation" to "the best presentation I've ever attended". To add, some actually saw the light, shed the filter of fear and saw the many beautiful garments offered in my collection and those of a multitude of collections being presented at the show.
Increase passion, decrease fear.
I will do my part, the rest is up to you.