CONSUMER APPEAL: Giving the consumer a reason to shop, be it through new products, stellar customer service or providing value are what panelists found to be the new rules of retail at the People StyleWatch Retail Summit, held Friday morning at the Time Warner Center in Manhattan. Three retail chief executives — HSN’s Mindy Grossman, Gilt Groupe’s Susan Lyne and Lord & Taylor’s Brendan Hoffman — joined StyleWatch editor Susan Kaufman and moderator Dana Telsey, ceo of Telsey Advisory Group, to discuss the changing retail climate.
“It’s clear that people are being more discerning, so the last thing you want to do is disappoint them when they’re parting with discretionary income,” said Grossman of courting a choosier shopper. As a result, retailers and designers have to be more innovative. Grossman said products that have sold strongest on HSN this year have been those which help women save time or help them feel good, such as fitness equipment, beauty products and kitchen goods. Additionally, Kaufman has noticed designers are dressing up their wares while paying attention to price. “People are getting away from the basics. A T-shirt isn’t just a T-shirt anymore; it’s embellished” with rhinestones, screen prints and adornments.
Retailers also need to make the shopping experience an event for consumers, and the panelists talked of the success of Fashion’s Night Out on Sept. 10. Though weekly promotions at Lord & Taylor and online sales at Gilt Groupe also help attract consumers, the panel agreed customers aren’t simply looking for a good deal. Lyne said while the sweet spot for customer purchases is between $100 and $300, one deep-pocketed jewelry buyer purchased a piece last week for $20,000. “Clearly, people are willing to spend if they believe there’s real value there,” Lyne said. As for results so far in 2009, she said sales at Gilt, which is still in growth mode, have grown fivefold in the first quarter compared with a year prior, and Lord &Taylor’s Hoffman said September will post a positive comp for the first time all year. Stylewatch, too, is trending up — publisher Michelle Myers said the magazine will increase its rate base to 725,000 from 700,000 in 2010; ad pages for the magazine are up 21 percent to 473, according to Media Industry Newsletter. — Stephanie D. Smith