Retailers Adopt a ‘Wear Now’ Approach

Discussion
Aug 05, 2010
George Anderson

By George Anderson

It used to be that when August came around, you could walk
into a clothing store and find plenty of options for the fall. If
you needed something to wear right then and there, you’d be able to find a
very limited selection, typically on a clearance rack near the back
of the store.

Perhaps it was the Great Recession or maybe just a better understanding
of consumers but, whatever the reason(s), a number of chains are bumping up
inventory of current season lines for people to wear now.

Eric Cerny, a spokesperson for
Abercrombie & Fitch, told MarketWatch, "When
you think back-to-school, you think jeans and fleece. But it’s high-90 degrees
outside. We want to have weather appropriate items mixed in."

"Retailers have been very focused the past 18 months in managing their
inventory," said John Long of Kurt Salmon Associates. "That doesn’t
always mean reducing it. That means looking for opportunities to get the best
sell-through at the highest margin possible."

Some see potential pitfalls
to the wear now approach.

"Shops need to excite customers with new product," Claire Hamilton,
an analyst at WGSN, told MarketWatch. "Summer clothes are in sale
mode. Fall coats and sweaters move the consumer on to the next big thing, and
that also means purchasing at full price."

Discussion Questions: What do you think about the "wear now" approach
being taken by clothing retailers?

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18 Comments on "Retailers Adopt a ‘Wear Now’ Approach"


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Paula Rosenblum
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

I’m prejudiced here. I have NEVER understood how someone could even put wool against their skin in the heat of the summer. Or find a nice Easter bonnet when the sleet was flowing from the sky.

The only downside to “wear it now” is “mark it down deeper later.” That means, if you don’t get the buy right the first time, you may be ultimately stuck with the product for a full year. But overall, I do believe this is a better solution for retailers and a downside for consumers like me, who’d buy items when I was ready to wear them, by which time they’d always be on sale.

The replenishment argument doesn’t do much for me, by the way. Because with the point of supply so far from the point of demand, you can’t replenish fashion/seasonal in time anyway.

Bob Phibbs
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

How could “wear now” not be good for business? Look at Forever 21, H&M, etc, who are riding the concept weekly, not seasonally.

Used to be retailers HAD to stock early and get out just as customers would be looking for seasonable apparel. That often meant sweaters in August, swimwear in March. This is a positive for customers as a result of shortened lead times for production.

Anne Howe
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

Finally! Retailers selling “wear now” clothing in August instead of just winter coats, fleece and boots! Sign me up for a shopping trip!

Warren Thayer
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

It’s about time! But then, I’m one of those who never gets excited about fashion. I just buy function, and when I want it, I want it.

Ciri Raynor Fenzel
Guest
Ciri Raynor Fenzel
10 years 9 months ago
This past winter in DC we had 50″ of snow on the ground in February and we needed snow boots for all of the kids. I went in search for them at Target and found not one pair of boots. However, there was a full wall of flip flops on sale at $10/pair. I can assure you that flip flops were the last thing on my mind (even if they were $2!); all I wanted was for my kids to stay warm until we dug out of the snow! Honestly it infuriated me! So yes–“Wear Now” is absolutely in line with where consumers are today. The reality is that we live in a “real time” world over saturated with things to do. The majority of society is planning less simply because they are hanging on by a string, whether it be financially or due to hectic schedules. More importantly, we are living in the moment because social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare encourage us to do so. Think too of consumer’s expectations… Read more »
Dick Seesel
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

Not a new trend…in fact, most retailers have pushed back deliveries of true “cold weather” goods as August and September have become noticeably warmer in recent years. (Of course, you will still see the beginnings of a winter outerwear presence in most department stores in early August, at least in cold-weather climates.) Retailers, their vendors and their product development teams have gotten a lot smarter about delivering “transitional” color palettes in wear-now fabrications than a decade ago; at that time, many stores’ apparel floors looked like museums because the customer just wasn’t motivated to buy.

David Biernbaum
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

Many consumers don’t have the time or the financial resources to do forward buying for the next season. Smart apparel retailers are adapting the “Buy Now Wear Now” approach because that’s the type of society and buying culture we have become.

Dan Berthiaume
Guest
Dan Berthiaume
10 years 9 months ago

I will agree with the majority of posters here; “wear now” respects the needs of the consumers. Many people are still buying summer wardrobes, especially in warmer areas of the country. Even here in frosty New England, t-shirts and shorts are a common site into early October. Also anyone familiar with current teen/tween habits knows that kids often go to school in shirtsleeves even in the winter (partially because everyone’s parents now drives them to school).

Joan Treistman
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

Moms, retailers, and consumers overall want what they want when they want it. Having an inventory that matches current needs supports household finances, back to school students’ fashion desires, and retail inventory control strategies. It makes good sense to me.

Mel Kleiman
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

A new mindset for a new economy and new methods of doing business.

Better inventory control, better marketing, better shipping methods, all equal happier customers who get what they want when they want it.

WOW! How hard is this one to understand?

Cathy Hotka
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

Applause all around for seasonally appropriate merchandise. One additional request, though: can we delay back-to-school until August? Nothing is more annoying than seeing plaid and backpacks being advertised right after the Fourth of July.

Bill Emerson
Guest
Bill Emerson
10 years 9 months ago

Maintaining a wear now assortment reflects, I think, the evolution of the merchandise planning process for most retailers. If nothing else, pressures on working capital have ended the approach of bringing in largely unsalable forward season goods and then letting them sit unproductively for weeks/months. Secondly, retailers are becoming much more sophisticated about managing the timing of deliveries by geographical locations.

In short, retailers are following the lead of the Zaras and H&Ms of the world and moving towards a “pull” process as opposed to the outdated “push” process. Everybody wins.

Roben Anderson
Guest
Roben Anderson
10 years 9 months ago

At the retailer where I work, it’s all about the “what’s coming up.” They’re gearing up for Back-to-School sales, and the fall sports; this has been going on since early to mid-July. Each day I work I see more and more jackets, fleeces and other fall and winter clothing.

In my opinion, people don’t buy things to “stock up,” like a fleece jacket in August when it’s averaging 85 or so and almost equal humidity outside. With the economy the way it is, people are going to wait until it gets marked down, or goes on sale, which of course won’t happen until the season.

Mark Johnson
Guest
Mark Johnson
10 years 9 months ago

It is kind of a PITA (pain in the a–) when in June you can no longer buy swimsuits and you see winter parkas out. Doesn’t make a ton of sense. You would think with all of the amazing technology out today, we could do a better job of planning, forecasting, and shopper marketing.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

I am all in favor of the wear it now approach to retail selling. Retailers have the best opportunity to sell current seasonal wear during the season. I have never understood why I would want to try on winter clothes during the dog days of August. It makes no sense to me.

I am reminded of a saying: if you keep on doing what you always do you will keep getting what you always got. (There are many versions of this; but the one I used will suffice for now.) Retailers need to change this thought process and change when they display and sell non seasonal items.

Anne Bieler
Guest
Anne Bieler
10 years 9 months ago

Shoppers are more cautious about spending–so how do winter coats make sense in August? People buy what they need as it becomes important. Deferral of purchase makes even more sense if the need is months down the road. People actual buy boots and snow shovels in January–but stores last year were stocked with spring fashions and sandals. Definitely the right direction for apparel retailers.

Carol Spieckerman
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

Retailers have TALKED about wear now forever but have done little about it. Stores continue to resort to middling and hard-to-sell “transitional” items (3/4 length sleeves and corduroy shorts, anyone?) or they create jarring anomalies (fleece rolling out even as sweat is rolls down).

Why wouldn’t retailers spell it out by creating “wear now” sections in the store/department featuring fresh product that will cap off the current season? And, rather than making fabric/weight the only visual cue for next season styles, those offerings could be featured from a trend perspective (hot trends for fall would be highlighted now). Clearance would be a separate section.

Vertical fast fashion retailers have set a new standard for product development lead time reduction and in-season course correction and even formerly stodgy retailers like J.C. Penney have done a terrific job of following suit. The capability is there; all that’s missing is coherent execution.

Ted Hurlbut
Guest
Ted Hurlbut
10 years 9 months ago
At the risk of offending anyone, can I interject a reality check. There’s a reason why January and February, and July and August, have traditionally been clearance months, where seasonal goods like winter coats and swimwear are marked down. Nobody wants to buy winter coats in March, nor swimwear in September, at any price. Up until now, nobody has figured out how to get to 100% sell-throughs at full retails. So “buy now, wear now” in theory is great, except that up until now, the devil’s been in the execution. I say “up until now” because, as mentioned above, there are fashion retailers like Forever 21 and H&M who are dramatically shortening lead times and increasing the frequencies of deliveries, which help drive sell-throughs much closer to 100%. But among those other retailers who have pursued a more traditional supply chain strategy, based on minimizing landed costs, there’s been little demonstration that they can effectively match supply with ultimate demand, short of simply cutting back dramatically on quantities. “Buy now, wear now” is clearly a… Read more »
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