Recession means that general retail is in a downturn and if anything, moving conservative when it comes to bringing on new fashion brands. Stores are going for brands rather than 1-off trends in design, making it more important for smaller brands to have full collections. But there are many aspects of retail that are booming, particularly online, vintage/thrift, collaboration retail, m-commerce, and other aspects that doing well mainly because they are most applicable to the way young people are shopping today. Taken from analysis within our North American, European, Japan, and China youth culture studies, these 5 aspects of retail are still going strong, and in many cases, increasing.
1) Re-Defining Eras: Vintage, Thrift, DIY
In many ways, because of the recession, shopping thrift or vintage is a smart way to achieve specific looks on the cheap and this is something that’s very attractive to young people who usually have a limited budget. Statistics from our Global Youth Culture Studies also quantify that shopping Vintage or Thrift has tripled in North America (and increased greatly in the UK) in the last 2 years.
Combined with the DIY spirit of today’s new generation, shopping Thrift or Vintage also allows people the freedom to buy certain pieces inexpensively and mix and match eras, creating entirely new styles and new ideas–even their own new subcultures from a cross-match of styles from various eras. Based on our retail shopping preferences from consumers ages 13-25-years-old, thrift shopping is also rising in boutiques as more tend to carry a mix of vintage pieces with their newer brands. Thrift/Vintage also surpassed preferences for shopping at locations such as Wal-Mart and Target last year. While statistics are twice as high among females, shopping Thrift/Vintage is still high among males also, especially within the last 3 years.
The other strong location preferences for shopping Thrift/Vintage is coming from the UK, specifically London. The plethora of cool 2nd-hand stores offering throw-back trends have been key inspirations for the rise of many retro music styles, including Nu Rave (see Label Networks story on Nu Rave and Vintage shops in the UK).
2) Masstige Collaborations
Masstige is a European term meaning mixing high-end designers creating “mass-market” designed pieces, usually done for big-box chains. On the one hand, masstige is a way that high-end designers continue to increase mainstream relevancy and be a part of the fast-fashion influences, which you can see with stores such as masstige projects created with Target, H&M, and TopShop. It keeps high-end designers relevant and more connected to the street level and causes excitement for retail creating hype with consumers that they are getting a limited-edition piece from a top designer.
Successful masstige examples include designer Isaac Mizrahi designing a limited-edition collection for Target; Karl Lagerfeld for H&M; Stella McCartney for Adidas; or even Burton Snowboards collaborating with Japanese designer Hiroshi Fujiwara not just with outerwear jackets but in the design of their new flagship store in Tokyo. Masstige is becoming the seasonal norm for many top store chains and continues to create excitement and hype to the shopping experience and among designers and retailers who create such collaborations.
3) The Power of Pop-up
The power of pop-up retail is greatly increasing as informal retail is becoming the new formal retail. When we say pop-up retail, we are referring to the usage of temporary retail spaces or empty spaces that are transformed into boutique shops for a limited time, often selling limited-edition items. Pop-up retail is also being done within large stores themselves whereby a designated area is re-branded as a special retail theme or own “store” within a store.
Pop-up retail completely taps into the youth culture psychodemographic that discovery is a motivating factor. Pop-up retails keeps retail in a constant state of change, creating a “rave event” sort of mentality in that only those in the know, know that the event is even going on, where it’s located, and what it’s selling. It’s a very powerful method of retail because pop-up creates movements: the store is ephemeral, gone in days, therefore creating a different sort of shopping experience by being pro-active instead of reactive to normal traffic and shopping patterns.
A great example of a large store doing this with a specialty boutique took place last month with The Gap in SoHo hosting a small pop-up store which was a collaboration of the concept store from Paris called colette. Inside the Gap’s pop-up colette boutique were limited-edition pieces in a tiny section of the Gap designed in a fresh retail mini-format like the Parisian version -but it was only there for 1 month and gone on Halloween. This is where informal retail, or other aspects of pop-up whereby retail takes over a warehouse space for a 2-3 day “storefront” of special pieces, is quickly becoming the real retail space when it comes to attracting youth culture markets. This concept was first perfected in Japan, then Europe, and now in a new format, has become a strong dynamic in the United States especially among leading-edge store marketers.
In Japan, if you venture into popular youth culture convenience stores such as Lawson or 7-11’s, you’ll see young people scanning magazines over product ads. Many mobile phones in Japan can read specific barcode ads which provide directions to the store where your product is sold, information about the product, price, and in many cases, the ability to buy the product directly from your mobile phone, known as mobile-commerce or m-commerce.
In the United States, m-commerce is catching on. Polo Ralph Lauren announced this Fall that is was moving in this direction whereby you can now scan items and order them directly off your phone, as was the case during their last fashion show.
The attractiveness of m-commerce among young people correlates with the fact that their cell phones are often their main communication and entertainment systems, not to mention news source as more people are able to get online via their phones (i.e., iPhone). The concept of doing more on one’s cell phone, from playing games, texting, listening to music, downloading news, and so on, make the transition of actually shopping via m-commerce an attractive and organic concept to youth culture markets in North America, just as is already the case in Japan.
5) Rise of Web Boutiques
Direct-to-consumer programs continue to increase as more brands are moving towards offering their products in an ecommerce store on their own website despite the potential backlash from “core” shops. However while many stores traditionally have been wary of ecommerce solutions, those working in youth culture industries have seen their brick %u2018n mortar version coupled with the internet and ecommerce as a marketing opportunity to reach a far greater audience. These stores (i.e., colette in Paris, The Hundreds) are usually leading-edge streetwear boutiques, or sell an eclectic mixture of electronics, music, home furnishings, sneakers, accessories and are using their store as simply the “portkey” (to borrow from Harry Potter), into a larger potential world of what the store really sells, which may also include the wallpaper, the store lighting, the carpets, even the store workers themselves to help host local events for brands.
In addition, many top web boutiques such as Karmaloop, Digital Gravel, Giant Peach, and others are becoming media players -introducing interviews with the designers they are carrying and connecting with consumers in an editorial format. This also feeds into the frenzy of blog cache culture, which continues to be popular among global youth markets. In many ways, blogs have become the p.r. selling tools for brands, especially when it comes to sneaker culture. But since they lack an ecommerce function, they usually make their money from ads. However the new move among web boutiques to incorporate both components (i.e., sales function and media) has created new excitement to the concept of retail.
In all, these 5 aspects of retail are tapping into the motivational aspects of youth culture spending patterns and creating pro-active solutions using a range of affordable ideas that are often missed by traditional retailers and brands that do not yet understand the changes in shopping patterns and inspiration behind today’s new generation of consumers.
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