With designers Jean Paul Gaultier and Viktor & Rolf both announcing that they are ditching their ‘Ready To Wear’ collections and concentrating purely on couture and fragrances, it got me thinking about the divide that I can see on our own high streets and also within equestrian clothing retail.
The quest to ‘stack them high and sell them cheap’ which we’ve seen in mainstream fashion over the past few years (since the recession) has changed consumer spending habits and I think this has had an effect on how equestrians also spend their money: designer brands seem to be thriving (with many reporting an uptake in sales), whilst others aimed at the more “affordable” middle of the market seem to have been struggling with poorer sales.
With cut-price brands coming into the market place, it seems that consumers are either more inclined to save up that bit extra to invest in a piece that will last forever, or buy cheap and maybe have to buy twice, but at “that” price they felt they couldn’t resist. It has basically created a throw away culture, where consumers know that item won’t last forever, but feel it’s good enough to do the job, even if its life span might be short… which leaves our mid-priced, high quality brands sat in middle, needing to be all the more attractive!
Of course this isn’t the case for all brands and there are still plenty of mid-priced brands out there doing considerably well, but I suppose the biggest differences I’m seeing are the need to source manufacturing abroad to help increase those ever tightening margins and the need to market products well and with a tone of voice which makes them desirable, aspirational and irresistible for their price point.
Looking to the future, is this a sign of things to come? Will we see the divide between top designer brands and cheaper brands increasing with little in-between? I think the equestrian brands which are in that middle market can still survive (and indeed, do very well!) but many do need to invest in their businesses, update their approach to marketing and embrace the changing environment around them, because what they often seem to forget is that their customers are also the very same people who are influenced by the glossy world of advertising and branding all around them! Take note or lose out!