Welcome to the the Ivey HBA Retail Marketing Management blog. Retail marketing is an exciting, dynamic, important, and very visible aspect of the overall field of marketing. Throughout the year, students will be posting comments regarding contemporary retailing issues. Although this is intended to be used by Bus 4411 students, industry marketing professionals are also invited to join in if they like.

Monday, January 26, 2009

You too can buy designer...

In a world where designer gowns, trendy jeans and chic and expensive clothing fight for advertising space in our newspapers and magazines, the fashion industry has become an important form of expression for both men and women worldwide. The term fashion can be associated with both positive and negative connotations, representing beauty and goodness, but also trends and materialism. Fashion has become a status symbol, expressing one’s personality, level of wealth or cultural and religious beliefs. Global fashion hubs include, Paris, Milan, New York and London, where the most upscale designers go to display their new designs with pricey runway shows, and highly paid models and celebrities spend thousands of dollars on the newest and hottest designs. With three main categories of fashion design, Haute Couture, Ready-to-Wear, and Mass Market; entrepreneurs worldwide quickly knock off haute couture designs to the mass market retail customer in order to widen access to the high fashion designs and trends.

Today, in challenging economic times, people of all financial backgrounds are reducing their spending on frivolous items. Credit is tight, as people focus on securing the important necessities. In order for high end fashion designers to stay afloat, there has been an increasing trend for designers to produce lower-end, affordable mass market designs for North American retails chains such as Target, Wal-Mart and H&M, to name a few. Well respected fashion designers like Isaac Mizrahi, Liz Lange and Karl Lagerfeld were amongst the first to embrace this trend, starting in 2002. Marshal Cohen, author of “Why Customers Do What They Do,” stated that “fashion has a new venue,” as a way to confirm why these high-end designers continue to mass market themselves. Consumers and fashion-know-it-alls were shocked in 2008, when exclusive and edgy designer Comme Des Garcons decided to create a line for H&M Tokyo, with price tags under $100, following the success of Roberto Cavalli’s line for H&M. More recently high-end handbag designer Anya Hindmarch, and celebrity favourite shoe designer Sigerson Morrison have new product lines at Target for under $50.[1]

Even shoppers with larger budgets are eager to see what their favourite high end designers have created for the mass market stores.[2] Although the retail value proposition for Karl Lagerfeld at H&M is similar to Karl Lagerfeld on Fifth Avenue in New York City, consumers can guarantee a wide selection and great shopping experience, but with a very different and much reduced price tag. Today’s “recessionista’s” flock towards these mass market stores as soon as new designer merchandise is scheduled to hit the shelves, and it is no coincidence that Target and H&M sell out of their designer items within days of its arrival. Mass market stores place their new high fashion designer products directly at the front of the store to ensure that even consumers who are unaware of the new shipment will be forced to browse the clothing racks. This is not accidental, as the prices are quite a bit higher than the store’s own private label brand.

I personally think that the fashion industry has evolved into this new wave of fashion selling and merchandising. There are less people who are willing or able to spend upwards of thousands of dollars on haute couture, and I think that it is wonderful that these talented designers are sharing their masterpieces and fashion flare with the general public, the exposure is great for the designer as well as the retailer.

H&M has stated that this is just the beginning, they are hoping to acquire other big names in fashion, including “Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs…” and other high end designers that are globally recognized.[3] With the state of economy and retail in particular, this is good business thinking.

[1] http://www.thestyleinsider.com/king5/2008/10/three-new-designer-lines-hit-target
[2] http://www.cnn.com/2006/US/10/18/bin.budget.designers/index.html
[3] http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/05_22/b3935090_mz054.htm

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