This Racked article about the proliferation of British fast fashion retailers is jam-packed with information, but the thought that lingered in my mind was the argument that U.S. retailers are struggling because they are “conservative and safe” (does being conservative and safe render you necessarily boring or indistinct?) And I wondered if that idea merits more consideration. The article conveniently ignores Forever 21, the American fast fashion giant who frankly could be doing better, but is the ASOS and Boohoo way really the path to market dominance? If the trend–shorter fashion cycles and more variety–persists, will there be a place for “classic” American brands like J. Crew or the Gap in the new retail landscape, even though these two brands seem to struggle for diametrically opposed reasons (the former for alienating customers by becoming too trendy, and the latter for never taking a risk)?
I don’t have any answers (or even good data to back up my claim), but my sense is that brand identity is the key here. The number of issues plaguing American retailers is legion, but a lack of (or a vague) brand identity imbues the decline. At some point, someone at J. Crew must ask this difficult question: Who is the woman who will buy both a Muscle Tank Top with Sequin Palm Trees and a Ruffle Skirt in Dark Stone with Floating Dot Tulle Underlay?
I will leave you with this McKinsey report as food for thought.
|J. Crew Sailor Skirt in Double-serge Wool in “Heather Honey” (size 00; from F/W 2016) || Burberry Westland Sateen Trench (past season) || Zara Crochet Dress in “Pumpkin” (past season) || Burberry Lavenby Medium Reversible Haymarket Check & Leather Tote Bag in Camel (also sold here and here) || Ann Taylor Pearlized Crystal Statement Necklace || Michael Kors Runway Watch (similar here) || Ann Taylor Mila Leath er Pumps|
I want to highlight two sale shoes that I love (they are both “practical” shoes made for walking): the Cole Haan Tali Bow Ballet Flat (reviewed here) in “Maple Sugar” (a seasonless color) is 40% off at Neiman Marcus in extended sizes; and the K-SWISS X Court Athleisure Sneakers in Doeskin (more beige than gray) are $28.99 at Amazon (through a third-party vendor, but I got my shoes from the same seller).