Is Cyber Monday punishing fashion profitability?
You can barely move for statistics about how successful Cyber Monday and its predecessor Black Friday have been for the retail sector – online at least. While store queues may have been somewhat lacklustre, the first big festive trading test has brought UK retailers more than £3.5 billion sales. Not bad for a weekend’s work!
The exponential growth of Cyber Monday shows the genesis of a great promotional idea. The term was coined by NRF BIG Show’s sister event, Shop.org, in 2005 to describe the growing appetite for online shopping in the run-up to Christmas.
Fast forward 10 years and Cyber Monday is now the biggest trading day on the ecommerce calendar – and has inspired a number of ‘copycat’ flash promotions. Alibaba’s assimilation of Singles’ Day into a Chinese retail event has proved phenomenally successful; meanwhile, many retailers are starting to build the profile of ‘Green Monday’, an event created by eBay in 2007 to mark their busiest shopping day of the year.
However, you can have too much of a good thing, and this might well be the case for the fashion retail sector. Though Cyber Monday itself shows no signs of slowing, it has led to the proliferation of the flash promotion model across the year. Indeed, there have been ecommerce websites built specifically around the flash sale model.
A key survival tactic during the global recession, flash sales have become a trusted weapon in fashion retail’s arsenal, and shoppers have now come to expect limited edition deals on a regular basis. In this sea of special offers, shoppers have become ‘promotional blind’, to the point where they expect to receive money off the items they buy all year round.
The difference from five or six years ago is that now things are starting to look up – consumer confidence is rising, as is disposable income for a large percentage of the fashion buying population – yet they still want value for money. And this is eating into profit margins, as fashion brands need to fuel the discount chain with inventory, which they would much rather be selling at full price.
Perhaps it’s time for fashion retail to recalibrate and focus on prioritising other selling points aside from price, such as speed of styles from catwalk to clothes rail. By matching their capabilities more closely with consumer desires, fashion retailers can potentially move gradually away from the current discount-heavy landscape, towards selling more goods at full price.
The key here is not just keeping pace with shopper expectations, but accelerating alongside – even ahead of – them.
Establishing a more intuitive, collaborative relationship will add value to experiences and nurture greater loyalty to the point where the customer is willing to make a purchase irrespective of price, because they’ve bought into the brand ethos.
Then, retailers will no longer have to rely on quick-fire promotions; saving them for special occasions like Cyber Monday, when they will make an even bigger impact.