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The fashion industry is in many ways one well-suited for the transition from traditional brick-and-mortar retail operations to e-marketing and e-tailing forms of commerce. This justifies the focus of this discussion on two e-tailing organizations, Agent Provocateur and Topshop. The primary research will be dominated by data regarding Topshop and Agent Provocateur respectively. Both e-marketing-based lingerie companies, these cases would help to illustrate the benefits to fashion e-tailing as well as the drawbacks.
The discussion here will evaluate both the opportunities and demands placed upon fashion companies choosing to undertake e-tailing as the primary mode of commercial activity. An appropriate evaluation of the internet as an instrument of importance to retail in general is first appropriate. The internet has fully made the transition from a dynamic information tool into a multidirectional channel for the wholesale exchange of goods and services, with the fashion industry now representing its unanticipated versatility as a mode for commercial activity.
According to The Financial Times, (2006), growth in the value of retail sales made via the Internet grew by 56% in 2005 to a record of ? 103. 3 billion. (Mintel Report, 2006). The online retail market is predicted to continuously grow substantially due to the declining cost of the relevant hardware materials, broadband access rates and marketing strategies. (Mintel Report 2000). But it has not simply been a unilateral relationship in which technological advances drive forward fashion retail. In fact, the fashion industry’s unique set of challenges has also played a part in driving innovation specific to fashion e-tailing.
This discussion will examine the ‘high-fashion’ obstacles which have culturally and technologically prevented some pricier retailers from entering the e-tailing market. However, here, the discussion will also illustrate one way in which technology has been adapted according to the needs of its evolving venues. Specifically, “new technologies being developed by U. S. department store groups could soon make designer clothes a more viable proposition on the net. Customers can key in their measurements and ‘try on’ garments in virtual changing rooms. Lands End reports some success with its virtual dressing room, with 1.
5 million hits over two years. ” (Tredre, 3) If this model proves a successful one, or at least a pathway to increasingly more imaginative solutions to newly illuminating problems, it could help to complete an inevitable transition to a point at which e-tailing ultimately supercedes traditional retail as the prime avenue for fashion consumption. Such ambitions are the product of a continually expanding recognition amongst specialized fashion retailers of the capacity of the internet to incisively target desired audiences. Another example of this capacity improvement is one oft-neglected in discourse.
And by nature, this is what has rendered it so ideal a candidate for renewal by way of e-commerce. The plus-size market is one that has historically been treated as a secondary market, correspondent to the psychosocial relationship between fashion and culturally endorsed body image and body orientation. This, retailers and consumers attendant to the specific market will attest, is an inappropriate disregard that fails to capture a very substantial demographic of potential consumers with the desire and the sensibility to be fashionably attired. According to a 2000 article, “it’s no surprise plus-size sites are cropping up.
Plus-size women— shoppers who wear sizes 12 and up—have long found a dearth of options at traditional retailers. “They don’t cater to us—or they relegate us to the ghetto of their store,” says Sally Smith, editor-in-chief of BBW. Which is pretty shortsighted, considering that more than 60% wear sizes 12 and up. ” (CI, 1) Certainly, this is not only indicative of an opportunity for the internet to help specializing retailers connect with intended buyers, but it is beyond this a unique social equalizer which can help to equalize the experience of shopper’s otherwise disenfranchised by traditional retail avenues.
These are all considerations driving the subjects for this study. In evaluating the conditions of the latter mentioned business, it was evident that Agent Provocateur was most pleased with the ability which the online operation afforded the company to remain in regular content with the customer. Provocateur’s literature refers to the online clientele as a community, insofar as their choice of the internet as a purchasing avenue has established a direct and personal relationship with the company that comes in the form of personal customer support, email exchange, newsletter mailing and updates on fashions and pricing specials.
This reinforces one of the key advantages discussed in our literature review of e-tailing over traditional modes of fashion shopping where customers enter, exit and subsequently are no longer engaged to think of the retailer. An additional benefit illustrated by this approach would concern the Kate Moss campaign in which the supermodel’s presence on the website had helped to draw increased visitation. The medium’s capacity to host images of celebrities and to serve as an ongoing forum for a promotional campaign is suggestive of the flexibility of this type of space.