Fast-fashion retail”, also known as disposable fashion, is a concept that many believe originally came from Japan -the land of fast-shoppers and the fastest-changing trends. What it means is when a retailer can provide stylish clothing that’s completely trendy, delivered to the consumer fast and at relatively inexpensive prices, then change up their entire inventory, with fresh new styles within the timeframe of about 2 weeks. The result is that consumers, usually young people who want to change their styles often and are part of a faster paced mash-up culture of high-end and low-end styles, will buy the store’s collections, but because the costs don’t break the bank, tend to have a more “disposable” attitude towards the apparel and simply buy more when new fashions are on the racks. This also includes buying inexpensive accessories.

The leader in big-box retail in the fast-fashion movement is H&M from Europe and as they continue to move into America, adding more stores, they have become the retailer to watch (along with American Apparel, Target, and Uniqlo) in the near future. This store, which is becoming synonymous as a brand in terms of youth culture “brand preferences,” as indicated in our European Youth Culture Study covering the UK, France, Italy, Spain, and Germany, is the most popular store that 15-25-year-olds prefer to shop in at 16%. As outlined here, other top stores in our Pan-European Report include Zara, Topshop, and others, depending on spikes in preferences from various countries, i.e., TopShop in the UK and El Corte Ingles in Spain.

In comparison from our North American Youth Culture Studies, while H&M is not the #1 favorite store yet, they have tripled in the last 2 years as a preferred shopping location among 13-25-year-olds, which also corresponds with the increase in the number of H&M stores available in North America, as well as their growing reputation for attracting buyers online via Second Life and other highly integrated digital shopping campaigns (which Uniqlo also has).

Other stores to note include the increase in shopping preferences for Forever 21, which to many, taps into that fast-fashion concept; Target, thanks to their cool marketing and advertising programs, including “masstige” campaigns of combining top-end designers with limited-edition collections for the retaile; and Vintage/Retro which continues to increase as an inexpensive place to buy fashionable, old-era items that can be paired with others to create an original, culture-clash ensemble. And as we noted earlier this month in our profile on Uniqlo from Japan, (see also “Japan’s Retail Warrior Uniqlo Steps-up Its Digital Shopping Integration on Its Way to Becoming “The New Gap but Different” -Label Networks Profile, Data on the Store/Retailer Quantifies How Success Came to Be“), they too are a part of the growing fast-fashion movement that’s forever changing up retail.

However it’s interesting to note how certain retailers are creating new market opportunities within this genre. For example American Apparel not only keeps up with trends quickly but in many ways are the ones creating trends because they can change their inventory fast given that they are vertically integrated in their manufacturing (see also “Profile on American Apparel: Data Analysis from Label Networks’ North American, European Youth Culture Studies plus Latest Post of 28.7% Increase in Same Store Sales Indicates It’s the Brand to Watch“). In addition, as we’ve noted in previous stories about the brand/retailer, American Apparel appeals to a broad range of youth culture, across various ethnicities, subcultures, and trends, and because they are in the wholesale market, have essentially been able to get others to do the branding for them with their blank T’s and other first-layer garments.

Target H&M and TopShop, have used the concept of masstige to great effect, by bringing in either top-end designers such as Stella McCartney, Isaac Mizrahi, and celebs such as Madonna to increase credibility among the masses with limited-edition collections. This has created an even more vibrant shopping experience while increasing exposure and offering up content for juicy marketing and advertising campaigns -particularly on the web.

In many ways, the growth of fast-fashion, which also plays into the power of pop-up retail, has made what was once considered “informal” retail, “formal” retail as the new strategy for capturing new consumers.

For more information about fast-fashion, pop-up retail, and the state of retail in general, including consumer preferences data comparisons and profiles for American Apparel, H&M, Uniqlo, Target, Vintage, TopShop, PacSun, Zumiez, Quiksilver, and others, please contact info@labelnetworks.com; (323) 630-4000 about the Premium Global Youth Culture Subscription 2008.