As the globe accepts its new COVID-19 framework and economies open up, the South African fashion industry sits precariously on the edge. On the one hand it could grasp on tightly to its pride and topple over, or it could drop its guard, be audacious and successfully collaborate to stay alive on the other.
In South Africa, the landscape is possibly providing its independent designers to SMME players with an opportunity to change the dynamics of the game. Looking at our new Coronavirus playing field, as uncertain as it still is, I’ve identified five (5) trends I think could develop, boom, and accelerate a healthy recovery of our local clothing and textile industry.
1 Pop-Up Boutiques
With fashion brands taking a hard look at consumption changes effecting their production strategies, labels adopting a slow fashion approach are likely going to drop pieces of their collections at various times during a cycle (a year). These drops, to garner consumer buy-in, could be ‘launched’ with collaborative pop-up boutiques with other designers dropping complementary products.
This tactic saves on costs, as these are shared amongst a group of people, and maximises on reach and sales. Shopping centres could benefit from this trend by hosting these pop-up boutiques at favourable fees, therefore increasing their own foot traffic back into the mall, provided all hygiene and social distancing measures taken still deliver an excellent customer experience.
2 A Boom in Digital Boutiques
Multi-brand boutiques currently not selling online will be the amplifiers of the trend. As consumers observe social distancing norms and only leaving their homes for essentials, being able to buy online their favourite local brands and having them delivered to the comfort of their own homes will be key.
Brick-and-mortar boutiques will have to deliver a digital shopping experience still reflective of the physical nuances customers are familiar with, merge these with added personalised shopping experiences and close the loop with with efficient deliver and after-sale services.
3 The Influencer Shop
There is already a wave of Bloggers and Influencers with online stores. Most of these procure product from manufacturers in Asia, Europe and the Middle-East and effectively make use of services such as drop-shipping for delivery. Brands need to assimilate this model and offer Bloggers and Influencers the opportunity to become official Ambassadors, selling their clothes for an agreed remuneration.
Bloggers and Influencers would essentially have the opportunity to either push-forward as multi-brand stores or outlets that focus on a specific brand for a realised time period. This trend is a win-win; giving Bloggers and Influencers new followers and Brands new customers, while converting engagement into sales in the process.
Shopify and Facebook Shop are making it even easier now for independent brands to set up (digital) shop. These platforms, and others, give the brands total control in how the customer experience is designed from arrival to checkout.
For South Africa, finding the most appropriate courier / delivery method is likely to be the biggest challenge when adopting this trend. Brands who look at delivery creatively and consider collaborative and alternative options, are likely to lead the pack.
5 PR & Communications
A handful of reports cite brands cutting their communication and PR budgets, rerouting them to other parts of the business; I don’t necessarily think it’s completely true or entirely reasonably. Given the fact that, with no advertising to encourage customer engagement as before, PR and communications will peak – especially for brands who take this opportunity to rebrand, reposition themselves into the responsible (sustainable and ethical) fashion category and push a new narrative.
PR Communications is by far one of the most affordable ways a brand can market itself, and a successful story – fusing insight and personableness to deliver a brand’s value proposition that’s dear to a consumer – holds the potential to snowball by itself with additional media featuring the brand with no extra effort from brand.
Our fashion entrepreneurs can’t completely do this on their own; government intervention will be a requirement and consumer behaviours will hopefully shift in a beneficial direction.
If anything, these trends reflect the opportunities this pandemic has forced us to develop. And tenacity, a drive to survive and creativity are likely to be key ingredients to success, setting the weak apart from the bold.
For an personal deep dive into the above, e-mail me via Monde.Mtsi@renaissancemensa.com.