Fashion weeks are crucial for retail fashion buyers to connect with brands, seek out trends, feel garments, and assess inventory for the coming season.
For this FW21 season, due to travel restrictions and lockdowns taking place worldwide, buyers have had to adjust to mostly digital shows and remote buying appointments.
Retailers are under pressure. With surplus stock sitting idle and lockdowns pushed back until March, it is still too early to tell if consumers are willing to spend once restrictions are lifted.
On top of that, UK fashion retailers already faced 360 million pounds worth of Christmas 2020 clothing and footwear returns, according to Retail Economics. With stores still forced to remain closed and returns still rolling in, problems arise for retailers planning, ordering, and selling their latest collections.
It is difficult for retailers to successfully estimate order volumes for the coming FW21 season with leftover stock, fewer funds, and many uncertainties.
“There is great uncertainty at the moment,” said Marino Edelmann, Strellson brand director. “We don’t know when stores will open again, how much can still be sold and how many products will then be needed for the coming winter. Even for the best-organized, best-planning retailers, it’s a big gamble at the moment. Nobody knows how much stock is left from the winter season and what the strategy should be for next fall/winter,” he said.
Strellson is Switzerland’s largest menswear manufacture with mid-range products aimed at men between 25 and 40.
Problems for brands planning and selling their collections
Budgets have also become a massive issue for brands. Since they have not been able to sell their inventory, retailers do not have the necessary funding to purchase the latest collections from brands during this upcoming buying season.
Manufacturers and brands also face similar problems in the shoe industry. January is usually a month of sales when retailers can empty their stores and unload inventory in preparation for the newest collections.
“As a retailer, you don’t know where you will be in six months. Many stores find it difficult to order right now and will postpone it for a while. Some only buy in one go in February and March, as soon as they can,” stated Jan-Dirk Wittrock from Vagabond, a shoe manufacturer with more than 80 retailer locations in the UK.
When will it return to normal? Forecasts for the FW21/22 orders
According to recent research carried out by Ubamarket, over 21 million (50 percent) of British consumers reported that going to the shops or supermarkets in lockdown has been instrumental in combating the pandemic’s isolation and loneliness.
Nevertheless, retailers will be cautious about upcoming pre-orders since it is still uncertain if consumers will spend money if they do go shopping. Maximilian Böck from Swedish/German fashion retailer Marc O’Polo stated: “The fashion market must expect 10 percent less than in a normal autumn and winter season.”
Edelmann does not expect a return to a normal situation until next year. “I think there will be an upward trend from March, April with the warmer weather and vaccinations. The summer order volume will be a bit more normal again, and the true normal orders probably won’t come back next January.”
Pros and cons of virtual buying
Stricter rules and regulations mean buyers have needed to adapt to digital showroom formats, making the pre-ordering season even more difficult.
Trade fairs and showrooms are critical to a brand’s success, as it is where the majority of business for the year is done.
In places like Germany, companies must adhere to strict hygiene regulations and invest in plexiglass if they are allowed to keep showrooms open. Most companies such as Marc O’Polo say they see a need, especially among buyers of women’s fashion, to come to the showroom to touch or try on the garments.
According to Wittrock, the pandemic has shown that some orders can be placed digitally without problems, especially for basics. “Vagabond has also invested in digital ordering tools. Driving or flying for hours is often not worth it. Retail buyers have already started to think differently.”
However, for smaller retailers, investing in the latest buying and e-commerce platforms poses another challenge regarding how much they can afford and spend on these latest technologies.
This article was originally published on FashionUnited.DE/NL/ES, translated and edited to English by Tess Stenzel.