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Focus on trends: Under the microscope

by Petra Dillemuth , 06.08.2015

When developing visions for Future Fashion Retail, as we have been doing in a creative and complex process over the past few months, it is essential to examine the consumer of the future. What characterizes these consumers, whose attention and money do we rely on?

Reports from recently opened and revamped stores in the fashion and lifestyle industry indicate well-conceived product range concepts and modern, imaginative interiors. Retailers are coming up with great ideas and investing. What are customers up to? Are they kind, friendly and perhaps even grateful?

In small and medium-sized towns, this is perhaps still the case. Customers from towns such as Minden and Osnabrück and the surrounding areas recognize the efforts fashion boutiques are making in expanding, modernizing and updating the concepts of their stores to the latest trends. They still have their regular customers. Medium-sized towns also benefit from a small degree of social control, which is keeping the behavior of customers and residents in familiar territory. An urban community feeling remains. The tendency of “top dogs” to integrate not just coffee shops, but also restaurants in their stores serves to develop the sense of culture society in a town and strengthen the bond.

However, in the right circumstances, the wrath of citizens does on occasion bubble up in small communities. They can behave in different ways. Aggressiveness and egoism are phenomena in keeping with the spirit of the times, representing collateral damage of our selfish prosperous lifestyles. How is this connected to Future Fashion Retail? That remains to be seen.

The future is being conceived in the major cities. Living in the hustle and bustle of major German cities is where many dream of living, and not just the young. Here there are no top dogs. No single company can meet the diverse needs and expectations all at the same time.

For example, the independent boutiques of Berlin-Mitte are currently doing a roaring trade with trendy sneakers, sold by friendly, competent young sales staff. Their patience should be admired. Some of their customers might be intelligent, but they are not particularly pleasant, and certainly not grateful. They are “zeitgeisty”, cool, impatient, arrogant and egocentric. Howard Saunders, an English trend researcher and retail expert with an agency in New York, USA, is of the opinion that in the selfie culture of today, everybody looks after number one. “Everything is about me” – says Saunders of today's customers.

The retail concepts of the future must gratify this egocentricity by appealing to customers as individuals. Customer participation is an excellent strategy for achieving this. Topshop, for example, includes customers in product design, asking them to help decide on colors, materials and shapes. The virtual community is taking the place of the real community at fashion stores and restaurants. Making customers feel they are part of something and presenting them with tempting offers is the direction that Zalando has taken with its activities.

These include plans for the recently acquired Bread & Butter and the new STYLE IN REAL LIFE platform. Four female customers with different body types are presented with their preferences, are dressed by a stylist for an occasion and styled to be photographed in the manner used by bloggers. Of course, every bit of each outfit can be ordered there and then. Men and other female body types will be added soon.

The idea of STYLE IN REAL LIFE can also be interpreted by in-store retailers. For example, through a contemporary, permanent customer fashion show. Howard Saunders believes participation and community are the most important building blocks for fashion retail of the future: “Whether a lounge, library or hairdresser is the meeting point, acting as a crowd magnet, there must be areas that are excluded from the hard sell, where customers can relax and not feel they have to buy something.” Woe betide if customers are bored or served the wrong coffee brand. Then they may well suffer reprisal from the self-righteous consumer community.

For more information please contact Petra Dillemuth at petra.dillemuth@gfk.com.