THE PHYS­I­CAL STORE MUST CON­NECT WITH CUS­TOMERS ON AN EMO­TIONAL LEVEL AND BE­COME A SPACE FOR THEM TO EN­JOY SPEND­ING TIME.

The Peak (Malaysia) - - The Economics Of Style - ASHVIN VALIRAM Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of Valiram

Could you share with us your in­sights on the mar­ket sen­ti­ment for lux­ury fash­ion? The cur­rent mar­ket sen­ti­ment is clearly chal­leng­ing. There are many curve­balls, be it cur­rency fluc­tu­a­tions, e-com­merce com­pe­ti­tion and the gen­er­ally gloomy eco­nomic back­drop. How­ever, these are ob­sta­cles that we’ve been cop­ing with since we started be­cause busi­nesses in­her­ently have chal­lenges. A busi­ness like ours grows at 30 per cent a year on av­er­age and we have dif­fer­ent depths of chal­lenges ev­ery day; from grow­ing our peo­ple, in­fra­struc­ture, or­gan­i­sa­tion and port­fo­lio of brands, to man­ag­ing the ex­ter­nal en­vi­ron­ment. From day one, we’ve pretty much been all-hands-on-deck, ac­tively in­volved in the op­er­a­tion of our busi­ness and dili­gent about op­ti­mis­ing our lim­ited re­sources. We’ve been able to thrive de­spite all the set­backs and curve­balls that get hurled at us. In fact, we’ve come out stronger. Cur­rent trends in­di­cate that spend­ing is shift­ing from tra­di­tional goods to ex­pe­ri­ences. Can fash­ion brands get into the ac­tion? I think it’s just an evo­lu­tion. Cus­tomers’ ex­pec­ta­tions ex­pand ev­ery year and, to­day, they sim­ply want more value for their money. This means they de­sire en­rich­ing ex­pe­ri­ences with each pur­chase in­stead of just prod­ucts. Brands have risen to the chal­lenge and are able to of­fer cus­tomi­sa­tion ser­vices and glo­cal­i­sa­tion – dif­fer­ent prod­ucts for dif­fer­ent mar­kets.

The world is glob­alised and in­stant ac­cess of in­for­ma­tion has made the job of a re­tailer a lot more com­pli­cated, but we are pow­er­ing through it. Valiram is a com­pet­i­tively spir­ited com­pany with a for­mi­da­ble team of pro­fes­sion­als from more than 15 coun­tries. That col­lec­tive strength is what makes us ex­tremely de­sir­able as a part­ner of choice to our brand prin­ci­pals, land­lords and part­ners. How do you think lux­ury fash­ion can re­main a for­mi­da­ble pres­ence with the cur­rent dom­i­nance of fast fash­ion? From the early days of Benet­ton and Gior­dano, fast fash­ion has been steadily gath­er­ing speed, but it’s the lux­ury fash­ion brands that are rais­ing the bar. Now, this clearly poses a fair bit of lo­gis­ti­cal chal­lenges be­cause it’s al­ready tough enough to cre­ate a run­way show, but to be able to then man­u­fac­ture a qual­ity prod­uct and make it avail­able as soon as pos­si­ble just kicks things up a notch. Clearly, the sup­ply chains have got­ten stronger and the de­sign process and fore­cast­ing have evolved to bet­ter de­ter­mine con­sumer needs. This en­tire con­cept means cus­tomer is king.

In the last 10 years, some brands have got­ten a lot stronger, while oth­ers have ei­ther dis­ap­peared or are in the process of clos­ing or shrink­ing. The brands we carry at Valiram are go­ing strong de­spite the chal­lenges we face be­cause we’ve been in­vest­ing. We’ve been a step ahead of the threats and fo­cused. So, re­ally, it’s about sur­vival of the most adapt­able and those who have been pre­pared to in­vest for­ward. As we’re wit­ness­ing the ad­vent of on­line and ex­pe­ri­en­tial shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ences, what do you think the store of the fu­ture looks like? The store of the fu­ture is not one but sev­eral pieces in both the phys­i­cal and dig­i­tal realms. You’ve got to have a great on­line store, travel re­tail pres­ence, per­haps an out­let store and a phys­i­cal store in all the key malls in the city cen­tre. The phys­i­cal store must con­nect with cus­tomers on an emo­tional level and be­come a space for them to en­joy spend­ing time. Ser­vice needs to be ex­cel­lent and the ex­pe­ri­ence has to be en­gag­ing and seam­less, en­abling op­tions of buy­ing on­line or try­ing and re­turn­ing in store.

Could you share with us your in­sights on the cur­rent mar­ket sen­ti­ment for lux­ury fash­ion? Fash­ion changes so fast, it is not al­ways easy to keep up. Un­cer­tainty has be­come the new cer­tainty of busi­ness and, as a brand, we have to learn to ad­just un­der ev­ery cir­cum­stance. It is an ex­cit­ing time for us in the in­dus­try as we try to un­der­stand and har­ness those chal­lenges, and turn them into op­por­tu­ni­ties.

New prac­tices and tech­nolo­gies will con­tinue to raise the bar for lux­ury fash­ion. We have a truly ex­cep­tional op­por­tu­nity to cap­ture growth in to­day’s dig­i­tal uni­verse. Hence, I be­lieve that it is cru­cial for lux­ury brands to adapt to the ever-chang­ing mar­ket but, at the same time, fo­cus on pro­vid­ing cus­tomers with a greater shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence and seam­less ser­vice per­son­al­i­sa­tion across all po­ten­tial cus­tomer touch points – both on­line and off­line. Cur­rent trends in­di­cate that spend­ing is shift­ing from tra­di­tional goods to ex­pe­ri­ences. Can fash­ion brands get into the ac­tion? Lux­ury fash­ion is a par­tic­u­lar in­dus­try and is de­fined by its cus­tomers. We have to con­vince con­sumers that they want to buy even if their clos­ets are al­ready filled. How can you stim­u­late some­one who has plenty? This is where au­then­tic nar­ra­tive and cre­ative sto­ry­telling come in. There is also an in­creas­ing need for us to re­spond to the dig­i­tally savvy cus­tomers, where ex­pe­ri­ences trump sin­gu­lar prod­ucts and val­ues qual­ity.

In this day and age, it is im­por­tant to cre­ate a great dig­i­tal and phys­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence end-to-end for cus­tomers. Seam­less and co­he­sive sto­ry­telling via these var­i­ous chan­nels can dif­fer­en­ti­ate you from com­peti­tors and, most im­por­tantly, en­gage the hearts and minds of cus­tomers. We need to ex­pand our reach be­yond a tra­di­tional base by lever­ag­ing com­pelling dig­i­tal me­dia, cre­at­ing ex­pe­ri­en­tial phys­i­cal spa­ces and ef­fec­tive so­cial me­dia en­gage­ment. How­ever, cus­tomers should al­ways be in our minds when these ex­pe­ri­ences are cre­ated. With­out great prod­ucts and sup­port­ive cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence, the halo ef­fect that these cam­paigns gen­er­ate will not reap the full po­ten­tial of its ben­e­fits. I be­lieve the most suc­cess­ful brand cam­paigns don’t just pro­duce awe-in­spir­ing cre­ative cam­paigns, but know how to in­te­grate their teams in de­liv­er­ing a seam­less tran­si­tion from hype to ser­vice. Cur­rently, we’re see­ing a ‘fash­ion im­me­di­acy’ con­cept of pre­sent­ing a de­signer col­lec­tion that can be pur­chased and de­liv­ered im­me­di­ately af­ter its run­way de­but. What are your thoughts on this ‘see now, buy now’ busi­ness model? I be­lieve that the strat­egy may work bet­ter for mid-price brands than it does for lux­ury ones, and may work well when it is backed by enough mar­ket­ing and so­cial me­dia. It is im­por­tant, how­ever, for brands to come up with a full strat­egy that con­tin­ues to drive sales through­out the en­tire sea­son, ver­sus that one time.

For lux­ury brands, it is cru­cial to have a longert­erm re­la­tion­ship with our cus­tomers. The in­stant­grat­i­fi­ca­tion el­e­ment of the ‘see now, buy now’ model might very well de­crease the de­sire, an­tic­i­pa­tion and romance that come with the tra­di­tional fash­ion sys­tem. De­spite the hype, I don’t fore­see the model re­plac­ing the tra­di­tional fash­ion buy­ing cal­en­dar any­time soon but, in­stead, of­fers an al­ter­na­tive for brands and shop­pers alike. Ul­ti­mately, great prod­ucts need time for true cre­ativ­ity and qual­ity to flour­ish. As we’re wit­ness­ing the ad­vent of on­line and ex­pe­ri­en­tial shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ences, what do you think the store of the fu­ture looks like? For lux­ury goods, es­pe­cially fash­ion, many shop­pers would still want to touch and try on the prod­ucts be­fore they make a pur­chase. So, I don’t think the phys­i­cal store is go­ing away in the near fu­ture. How­ever, I fore­see more high-tech re­tail con­cepts pop­ping up – stores that al­low shop­pers to move seam­lessly be­tween the on­line and off­line worlds as they are look­ing for the most con­ve­nient way to shop.

LUX­URY FASH­ION IS A PAR­TIC­U­LAR IN­DUS­TRY AND IS DE­FINED BY ITS CUS­TOMERS. WE HAVE TO CON­VINCE CON­SUMERS THAT THEY WANT TO BUY EVEN IF THEIR CLOS­ETS ARE AL­READY FILLED.

Could you share with us your in­sights on the cur­rent mar­ket sen­ti­ment for lux­ury fash­ion? Lux­ury fash­ion has, for awhile now, en­joyed a prolonged and sub­stan­tial sales surge. How­ever, the lux­ury fash­ion bub­ble is now fac­ing dif­fi­cul­ties and the fo­cus has shifted from tra­di­tional per­sonal lux­ury goods (PLGs) to ex­pe­ri­en­tial ideas and events. It is no longer enough to carry unique brands and hope that they will drive sales on pop­u­lar­ity alone – de­mand has to be gen­er­ated and this is where tech­nol­ogy comes in. Never have we been in an era where so­cial me­dia and tech­nol­ogy play such an in­flu­en­tial role in what we do. Cur­rent trends in­di­cate that spend­ing is shift­ing from tra­di­tional goods to ex­pe­ri­ences. Can fash­ion brands get into the ac­tion? Sto­ry­telling is very im­por­tant for lux­ury brands as the nar­ra­tion sur­round­ing the prod­uct is just as im­por­tant as the prod­uct it­self. Dig­i­tal and so­cial me­dia of­fer ex­cel­lent op­por­tu­ni­ties for so­phis­ti­cated sto­ry­telling and to­day’s tech­nol­ogy al­lows lux­ury brands to use a level of per­son­al­i­sa­tion never avail­able be­fore, go­ing be­yond de­mo­graph­ics to con­sid­er­a­tions of an in­di­vid­ual’s life stage, pas­sions and pri­or­i­ties. Of­fer­ing rich and highly per­son­alised con­tent will un­doubt­edly have an im­pact on the growth of busi­nesses. Cur­rently, we’re see­ing a ‘fash­ion im­me­di­acy’ con­cept of pre­sent­ing a de­signer col­lec­tion that can be pur­chased and de­liv­ered im­me­di­ately af­ter its run­way de­but. What are your thoughts on this ‘see now, buy now’ busi­ness model? Con­sumer de­mand for in­stant grat­i­fi­ca­tion no longer fol­lows the tra­di­tional fash­ion cy­cle and they lose in­ter­est the more time passes be­tween prod­uct view­ing and de­liv­ery. The ‘uber-isa­tion’ of goods and ser­vices has also led to in­creas­ing de­mand for in­stant con­sump­tion from fash­ion. Fast-fash­ion re­tail­ers in­tro­duce new prod­ucts ev­ery few weeks, which has also led to con­sumer de­mand for prod­uct new­ness from the lux­ury mar­ket.

It is likely that more brands will be­come open to sell­ing cer­tain items to con­sumers di­rectly fol­low­ing fash­ion shows, but we will have to wait and see if it’s sus­tain­able. I be­lieve it is still in ex­per­i­men­tal mode as de­tailed numbers to sup­port as­ser­tions of sales spikes are se­verely lack­ing. Cer­tain brands such as Burberry and Michael Kors, who have been fore­run­ners in this, have re­ported suc­cess with this model. How­ever, they have a wide range and the re­sources to meet de­mands that smaller brands might not have. Fur­ther­more, the ‘see now, buy now’ de­vel­op­ment presents ad­di­tional chal­lenges and in­creases lo­gis­ti­cal com­plex­ity, as re­align­ing or­ders and de­liv­ery sched­ules with sup­pli­ers is re­quired. Ul­ti­mately, qual­ity ready-towear needs time for true cre­ativ­ity and qual­ity to flour­ish, and de­tailed work re­quires the time and scale to pro­duce. How do you think lux­ury fash­ion can re­main a for­mi­da­ble pres­ence with the cur­rent dom­i­nance of fast fash­ion? There will al­ways be de­mand for lux­ury fash­ion – lux­ury is an un­par­al­leled ex­pe­ri­ence in­com­pa­ra­ble with fast fash­ion re­tail­ers such H&M and Zara. I do think they have a sym­bi­otic re­la­tion­ship with each other, though. In­deed, H&M has proven that with its ad­vent of team­ing up with the lat­est de­sign­ers for its col­lec­tions – Kenzo, Bal­main and Jimmy Choo have all col­lab­o­rated with great suc­cess. In

THE STORE OF THE FU­TURE WILL PLACE A HUGE FO­CUS ON CON­NEC­TIV­ITY AND CON­VE­NIENCE.

essence, lux­ury has a cer­tain as­pi­ra­tional and at­tain­ment value, a cer­tain je ne sais quoi that will al­ways al­low them to have an al­most in­vul­ner­a­ble pres­ence. As we’re wit­ness­ing the ad­vent of on­line and ex­pe­ri­en­tial shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ences, what do you think the store of the fu­ture looks like? Tech­nol­ogy be­ing used in the stores is in­creas­ing, hence the re­quire­ment for a more seam­less shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence. With con­sumer ex­pec­ta­tions to at­tain prod­ucts quickly ris­ing, fash­ion houses have no choice but to adapt to con­sumer de­mand for in­stant grat­i­fi­ca­tion. The store of the fu­ture will there­fore place a huge fo­cus on con­nec­tiv­ity and con­ve­nience.

We also can­not ig­nore the realm of vir­tual and aug­mented re­al­ity. Re­tail­ers will in­creas­ingly make use of tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tions such as 3-D vir­tual fit­ting rooms to fa­cil­i­tate size fit­ting, as well as leverage so­cial me­dia tools such as chat­bots to ser­vice cus­tomers, sell prod­ucts and even ac­cept pay­ments, which will al­low for a more in­ter­de­pen­dent and co­he­sive re­la­tion­ship be­tween on­line and off­line.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.