How retailers sell a new season
For the optimists, summer is still totally in the air, sandals are cemented to feet and winter seems so impossibly far away. On the other hand, the pessimists are still firmly rooted in their winter boots and reluctant to remove those layers. Sometimes, it seems like never the two camps shall meet and agree on what season we are actually in (at the start of Spring). This was until the fashion world proposed some kind of peace-core, with the middle ground known as ‘transition’.
What is transition?
‘Transition’ is that moment when you suddenly realize that you’re sweltering in your winter jacket, but it’s too cold to go coatless. It occurs sometime in early spring, but think of it like a middle season, a little stop off before we hit Summer and it’s often a place where many people lose their way.
Of course, retailers have been quick to identify this void and try to maximize on it with a collection known internally as ‘transitional’. Think of transitional as capsule collections specially tailored to ride this period through. As we leave winter and approach summer, you can expect trench coats, cropped trousers and Breton tops with shortening sleeves.
What problems does transitional bring?
Transition sounds like the miracle solution for that in-between season but the logistics behind the model is more complex than it may first seem. First up, the timeline is totally problematic since transition can literally consist of a matter of weeks and can also become totally void if temperatures unpredictably soar. Similarly, if spring never really surfaces, and winter seems never-ending, then the need for transition is canceled. This unpredictable environment proves problematic with forecasting, so less and less retailers are working with traditional supply chain models when it comes to range planning for this period.
Instead, retailers are looking to quick response possibilities – product particularly sourced as and when it’s needed, in a nod to the buy now, wear now model championed by Tom Form and Burberry. Quick response channels include local buying, air freighting, seasonless merchandise, and buying ready finished goods in a model which is totally anti-establishment compared to the long-term lead times that currently underpin fashion buying models.
This dialogue is not new; the fashion world has been debating over “consumer’s needs” for decades. It just seems that the Internet (namely Instagram) has brought the debate to a head. As we sit now in April, the current fashion model dictates that our in-store options are high-summer collections, while our aspirations are already geared to next winter. This model leads not to just frustration but a real decline in sales if the environment (namely the weather) does not lend itself to styles and designs. Transitional offers a great solution but stocks have to be managed in a way that they are depleted by the time high-summer really does soar. Retailers have different tactics for managing this stock depletion, including aggressive prices and limited editions but, the fact is, transitional is a small period that may or may not need to be plugged meaning it will always be a volatile ground where most retailers prefer to tread lightly.
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