When asked about the rampant See Now Buy Now trend, which is revamping the old connotations of the fashion industry, Alber Elbaz, a Moroccan-Israeli fashion designer, calmly said “When there is a wind of change, we can build a wall to protect ourselves from the storm or we can build a windmill to let the wind blow faster, so we can benefit from the wind and be part of the change.” Of course, he was right not just in a philosophical sense, but also in terms of business. And as the wind of that change becomes a year old experiment–pioneered by giants like Burberry and Tomy Hillfiger–much of the dust has settled down, painting an unbiased picture of the efficacy of this trend. The problem is that medicine always comes with a possibility of side effects. And business trends, in concept, are no different than medicine. They can help but they invariably come with negative side-effects. And having an acute understanding of this simple truth is what matters the most while dissecting this trend with the scissors of rationale.
A) Seizing The Moment:
For at least half a century, the mainstream fashion industry has been nourished and nurtured by the two-season model designed around “autumn/winter” and “spring/summer”. The repercussion of this model was that fashion giants used catwalk models to showcase those clothes that people would only get the chance to buy after six months or so. But in the current ecosystem of digital media, which comprises of social media and other chat applications, buyers are just a click away from countless beautiful clothes and apparels. Naturally, the impact of fashion shows’ clothes, which was lingering once, gets withered away in the current span of 6 months. The desire that used to steadily grow and result in a purchase decision, no longer exists. In the fury of instant satisfaction, it’s now or never, and fashion is now special case.
The moment where people are dazzled by the art, craft and beauty of a fabric for example, is the right moment to seize. Because that’s where they are likely to make an impulsive decision. Zach Duane, CEO of Victoria Beckham, has put it in a clear way: “If you are spending millions, promoting a collection, why on earth would you be doing that six months before it hits store, when you could drive desire at the moment it goes on sale?” Besides, getting the clothes straight off the runway has the “I was there” badge and social currency aura attached to it. This all plays on the psyche of customers, supporting the reports showing high sales as the result of See Now, Buy Now trend.
B) Broadening The Vision:
As I have mentioned, the fashion industry has followed the two-season calendar ritually for many years. But the Formula One like speed with which globalization is sweeping everything and transforming the world into a global village, has made the idea of seasonal trends antiquated. The season barrier is blurred by the plenitude of air conditioning, of mass-market long-haul travel, and of a global economy. Amidst such dynamic environment, it would be a silly mistake to design clothes only for people who live in one climate, one culture, or one way of thinking. If your brand lover is somewhere in a different hemisphere, whose season doesn’t match with yours why would you focus on a specific season? Digitalization, which has made the See Now Buy Now trend a practicality, is helping the fashion industry to move away from the twice-yearly trend roundup. Instead, it has made the industry much better in catering to the world.
C) Counter Attacking The Counterfeits:
The parade of clothes that happens during the catwalk is no longer restricted to the catwalk itself. The wine sippers, who sit in the front row of the show, make it public by sharing them on Instagram or Facebook. This early glimpse of high-end designers work, simply opens doors to imitators. A six month period is more than enough for them to copy these designs by making negligible alterations and presenting those designs as their own. But this problem can be crushed by making the collection available for shoppers as soon as it first display hits the public domain.
Many people may fail to gauge the importance of this benefit. But the point is, creating an authentic and well designed piece of clothing is an art, and art loses half of its sense when the original idea is lost. Big brands have maintained their supremacy due to the high artistic quotient that drives the imagination of new designs, fabrics and patterns. Their ability to come up with authentic pieces that others can’t even think of is the biggest differentiator for them. If that differentiator melts, which is quite a possibility if others crate the cheap copy of their classic idea, they may have to struggle for identity!
The Negative Side Of The See Now Buy Now Trend:
A) Inventory Woes:
To implement the See Now, Buy Now trend, designers need to have stocks at their disposal. Otherwise, they can’t make the clothes available immediately. That has some financial and stock dangers, but those dangers can be handled efficiently by well-capitalized brands with their own stores and the ability to coordinate runway looks with in-store merchandising. It’s certainly not a young fashion brand’s cup of tea.
Besides, if designers don’t have a strong market research efforts, it becomes extremely difficult to predict demand for a new collection, as volumes are ordered from suppliers before there is any real life reactions to base decisions on. Due to this inaccuracy in the prediction, they may overstock or under-stock. In the former case, they run the risk of creating a surplus of stock which then must be disposed of at a discount, diminishing margins. In the latter case, they may miss some huge business opportunities. The only way to tackle this unfortunate situation is to ensure that your suppliers are agile enough to facilitate the reordering of the most popular lines.
B) Stultification Of Creativity:
From thinking about the feel and texture of a garment to the finalization of the design, creating a fashion apparel is an amalgamation of many creative processes. But making the clothes instantly shoppable during the fashion shows freezes the development of collections for several months, in order to put them into production in time to stock stores before staging the show. Even though Christopher Bailey, Burberry’s chief creative officer and CEO, says that see-now-buy-now policy doesn’t mean that you lose any creativity or any of the artisanal skills, this is in gross contradiction with the designer’s psychology and his working principles.
The second, and perhaps the most worrying point is that this consumer-driven buy now gives the consumer tremendous control. Any work of art, like creating beautiful clothes, can’t be done by catering to customers’ aspirations all the time. Otherwise, customers end up being the co-creators of the products. And in the field of fashion, which is all about creation and innovation, listening too much to the customers can be detrimental. The reason behind this is designers, and not customers, are in a better position to think what magic a fabric can weave. This was well explained by Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company, when he said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses” People very often don’t know what they want or need. Especially for the products that fall into the creative or innovative segment. They realize its worth after the product has come into existence. Apple products, created by Steve Jobs, can be seen in the same light. It took a while before people learned to understand his disruptive product innovation. Maybe, that’s why Diego Della Valle, president and CEO of Tod’s, was a bit dismissive about this instant gratification method when he said, “It’s true that we need to be quicker, but we are not talking about a piece of soap. We need to [build the] desire for the products and make the storytelling [perfect].”
After looking at both the good and the bad sides of the See Now, Buy Now Trend, the most certain thing is the fact that this trend is going to stay. And the reason for this is we live in the empire of immediacy, fanned by things like one-day-delivery.
Note: Go through this blog where we have explained Burberry’s motives behind implementing See Now, Buy Now trend.