With the risk of a downturn in consumer confidence and a predicted boom in value clothing, the grocers have a fantastic opportunity to grow clothing sales and market share, which in turn opens up potential to better utilise excess space.
The risk of a significant impact on retail spending as consumer confidence falters is very real according to the BRC and law firm Bond Dickenson’s latest retail employment monitor. Also reported this week by Verdict Retail is the report predicting growth of 23.6% in 5 years looks quite possible.
As confidence diminishes, and spending is reigned in, consumers will be looking for better value for money in their clothing purchases, which implies cheaper prices. However, they are not looking for poorer quality or fit which places retailers in another margin squeeze.
Retailers already established in the value clothing sector are well placed to grasp the sales opportunity and maximise scale to achieve the quality and price consumers are looking for.
Key for grocery clothing is how it is marketed and merchandised to the consumer. Quality is still a critical facet of the purchase decision and if the environment in which the product is offered is cheap, then the value perception will be affected.
We have been critical of Sainsburys in store clothing offer in the past and are still waiting to see consistent improvement. However, online TU clothing is a very strong offer: trend-led edits, fast changing ranges (although that is a perception from the edits and regular website refreshes) and good value endorsed by Gok Wan.
George at Asda and F&F have a way to go to take advantage of the value clothing boom and could lose out if they do not up the pace significantly in the coming 12 months. We have seen poor use of space in store, weak ranges and some uninspiring product in the past.
What must happen to take advantage of the value clothing trend is a translation of the online communication and messages into store. Alongside this, staff training and in store operations must be optimised to provide customer service at every point adding value to the proposition which will reflect on the value perception of the product.
The opportunity therefore is not so much in price, rather in value and environment and that is where margin can be supported. Value clothing retailers can use merchandising techniques, range editing, clever buying and fast fashion to achieve growth. Any retailer with any degree of complacency will miss the boat.