strategic design & innovation

Ready to Wear Now: Leading a Luxury Retail Revolution

digital & 4IR technologies human experience value creation

Delivering a superior customer experience doesn't always require digital innovation, but it does require a clear and constant focus on the needs and rapidly changing expectations of your primary customer.

Iconic British luxury brand Burberry has undergone a complete transformation within the last decade. In the mid 1990's, it was synonymous with high quality trenchcoats beloved of a wealthy but conservative clientele. I never anticipated much change from year to year when I visited Burberry's Head Office in East London to review and select pieces from the next season's ranges.

As the new millennium dawned, its signature check was heavily counterfeited and became the uniform of an entirely different market sector, the 'chav'. Then in 2006, Burberry, under the leadership of then CEO Angela Ahrendts then Creative Director Christopher Bailey, embarked on a strategy that would not just reclaim the brand's luxury positioning, it would position it as a leader in its sector. 

Not only did the collections become highly sought after, the brand became synonymous with innovation in the luxury brand space, pioneering the use of digital technology in their flagship stores, both for interactive customer engagement as well as a sales process enabler.

Earlier this month Burberry announced* they would be leading a different revolution: The brand will no longer stage runway shows of seasonally designated collections six months ahead of their delivery to market.

Burberry Womenswear Fall 2016

That schedule was established long ago to meet the needs of department store buyers and the production schedules of the glossy magazines. Now that the balance of power has shifted irrevocably from these intermediaries to the consumer, focusing such heavy investment on the needs of the former makes no sense whatsoever.

Challenging the status quo, Burberry is moving to a "see-now, buy-now' collection model. Furthermore, these collections, simply referred to as 'February' and 'September' will acknowledge that for their global consumer, it's always summer somewhere in the world.

Abandoning the last and most entrenched anachronisms of the pre-globalised, pre-digital era takes leadership.

To industry outsiders, the move would seem like common sense, yet it has sent shock waves through the fashion industry. Burberry had in fact been innovating to address the disparity for some time, beginning with live-streaming of their runway shows, and evolving to enabling ordering straight from the runway and live social media campaigns.

And indeed it makes good business sense all round. In the digital age, the traditional six month interval between the runway shows and delivery to store left ample window for agile, fast fashion operators to 'take inspiration' from these ready to wear collections and deliver their 'interpretations' to the mass market well ahead of the originators, profiting at the creative expense of brands such as Burberry. 
    With considerable global reach, both in physical store footprint and engaged social media following, this move by Burberry will transform the expectations of the luxury fashion consumer, creating a knock-on imperative for other brands. Several, notably Tom Ford, have already announced they will follow suit.

    Older Post Newer Post