While investors and analysts on and off Wall Street are trying to get a better read on the fashion industry, some are turning to Charcy Evers for more of an insider’s perspective.
Having once headed up North American sales and marketing for Jil Sander and later worked as director of retail coordinators at Tse, she looks at retailers’ challenges with a judicious eye. Evers later took a post as a trend forecaster and analyst at Peclers Paris advising companies such as Nike, Boeing, Microsoft, Target, J.C. Penney and others. After venturing out on her own as a trend forecaster, consultant and stylist six years ago, she is now fielding more requests from financial firms that are interested in her analysis and predictions. Relocating to Los Angeles for a few years for Peclers Paris enabled her to work with more non-fashion firms, which resulted in a more sociological outlook of trend forecasting.
Now based in New Jersey, Evers works with The Coleman Research Group and is a council member with the Gerson Lehrman Group. “It’s the signs of the times that you have to read more than anything. Skirt lengths come and go, and Instagram is the best predictor of trends sometimes. But in terms of these subtle shifts that move slowly and lead to people asking ‘Why are we here?’ that requires thinking, reading the signs and putting the little pieces together,” she said.
In her nuts and bolts research for Abercrombie & Fitch, American Eagle, Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters and Coach, Evers considers management past and present, supply chains, business forecasts, earnings results, shortfallings and trends. Noting that some may invest millions with retailers, despite having never set foot in their stores, she said, “What they really appreciate is a point of view and a different perspective. Wall Street obviously is flooded with retail analysts and in-house specialists….They also like that the information is in real time — the immediacy of what’s selling, what’s not, what the stores look like — and then educating them about where things might go.”
While Amazon is definitely the company Wall Street is most interested in, online retailers in general are the current focus. “There is this perception out there that online is killing brick-and-mortar. If you really look at the percentage online versus brick-and-mortar, brick-and-mortar is holding its own and doing the bulk of the business and sustaining companies,” she said. “I like to think there is kind of a course correction in retail, in that where we focus and how we grow needs to change. When a retailer is growing and that is dictated by Wall Street, which is based on numbers alone, that’s not sustainable — as we’ve found out with many retailers like Michael Kors, Kate Spade. Companies become oversaturated because they’re basically selling the same product in their retail stores that they’re selling at discount and outlet stores.”
While everyone is trying to figure out how to do retail right, Amazon’s fashion focus is only ratcheting up retailers’ concerns, she said. Even “extremely successful” Stitch Fix, for example, is facing competition from Amazon’s Look. One shift she expects is consumers having a greater need for human contact. “There is all this online play but what’s going to happen is the need for social contact. The winners are going to be the ones who figure out how to have salespeople who work as stylists or specialists, giving people a reason to go in and have that human contact. But some of these big behomeths, it takes them so long to move into action. The timing, however, is a matter that it should have happened yesterday,” she said.
While publicly traded companies are understandably the focus for most of the financial clients she works with, lesser-known emerging ones should be given more attention, according to Evers. As customer service becomes increasingly important for retailers, companies that can figure that out like Stella & Dot will succeed, she added. Evereve, for example, a Minnesota-based e-commerce and retail operation that is essentially age-appropriate, affordable sportswear for moms, has developed a loyal following in the Midwest and the West Coast, she said. “It’s a very specific demographic but people know what they’re going to get. The stores have child care in a corner so the moms can drop the toddler off and try on clothes. The selling specialists are more like stylists,” she said.
And ath-leisure isn’t driven by comfort as much as it is a fundamental shift in fashion, Evers said. “It’s all about how we’re living. More people are in urban environments, we’re moving all around, not working in normal offices as much as we used to. When you start to look at the whys, that gives a company longevity or not.”