This week, we attended the IMRG Virtual Fashion Connect 2021. Taking place over 3 days, we joined on Day 3 to listen to insights from across the fashion industry.
IMRG is the UK’s online retail association which supports the community between retailers and suppliers. With panel discussions from industry experts on topics ranging from Brexit to bras, including the latest retail stats and trends, here’s our top takeaways from the day.
For the panel discussion, debate was centred around “What does a best-in-class delivery experience look like?”, including insights into what customers want from delivery and returns – and which areas still need to improve.
Reflecting on the past year, Bobbie Ttooulis, Group Marketing Director at ecommerce delivery partner, GFS, said: “H&M have set the trend for changing stores to local fulfilment hubs. The challenge we see time and time again is that retailers have to operate with multiple carriers, multiple IT partners and integrate carrier options to their systems – it’s very complex.”
Pete Blackburn, Commercial Director for InPost, added: “Over Christmas, we saw companies actively encouraging click and collect services to take pressure off delivery carriers. But with a younger generation concerned with sustainability who want to choose how items are delivered or returned, (how brands deliver items) is going to evolve as continued consumer demand, coupled with market factors like carbon emissions and government initiatives, will mean changing trends will not only continue over the course of this year but also accelerate. I think it’s a healthy thing for consumer choice.”
However, when it comes to recent UK/EU Brexit border headaches, Bobbie explained: “Looking at the stats, 20% of retailers stopped shipping in the first week in January. Whilst initial teething problems with paperwork etc. will start moving into the background, this issue will continue for the rest of this year. We’ve seen retailers ship harmless things like woollen jumpers run into problems and have to suddenly get licenses to ship this. Another example would be anything with feathers in it, such as pillows or puffer jackets. The process has been made difficult.
“Now, retailers have to think outside of the box – one thing that isn’t going to go away is the added cost and hassle of UK/EU border issues. When it comes to the cost, you’re not going to shift that to the customer – so retailers either need to suck it up as part of their bottom line or do something different to get over these Brexit issues.”
Lingerie Sales Boom in Lockdown
Matthew Walsh, Director of Data and Retail at IMRG, said: “Something that we don’t normally talk around is the lingerie sector – it’s left out in the cold! However, lingerie has done well in relation to other areas of the clothing market. Clothing has been neglected as, over the last year, there’s not been as many social occasions – people are not buying stuff to wear to the office, to see friends, there’s no parties going on. Yet, as lockdown eased, clothing (sales) came back – it’s a sector driven by day-to-day activities. But lingerie is a necessity – you have to buy a new pair of pants and you have to replenish items, in the same way that beauty sales have also soared.
“It’s misleading to think that all of clothing has done badly over lockdown. Looking at the graph (below) we think this is one of the highest results the lingerie sector has ever had. This graph follows lingerie sales over the last 60 months; usually the two lines (for clothing versus lingerie) stick together but in March, when we went into lockdown, they started to separate. Now, the sector is doing well – there’s lots and lots of extra spend.”
Using IMRG’s insights, Matthew continued: “We gather lots of information sent to us regularly by retailers and we use this to work out the UK’s average basket value. It usually hovers between £85-95 per month. As you can see in the graph (below) menswear and womenswear usually pairs nicely; however, looking at the last 60 months, there’s currently a very low ABV, which could mean that there’s lots of discounting going on.”
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