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