Flipping through fashion magazines and perusing social media sites gives the impression that bright colors and loud floral prints are essential for the latest must-have looks.
While it’s true that reds and whites as well as purple and other colors resonate well with shoppers, there is a disconnect between what people say they like in fashion trends versus what actually sells at retail.
This disconnect also rings true for merchandisers who often complain that there’s not enough color in the pipeline, yet when measured in unit volumes, dark and muted colors in women’s and men’s wear are what sells most of all.
According to recent data by Edited, the “top movers” in global unit volume at retail of color groups for women’s wear from March 2015 to February of this year were blacks with 35.2 percent market share, grays with 14 percent, whites with 13.3 percent and browns with 6.3 percent. Pinks garnered 5.3 percent, while navys and blues came in with 5.2 and 4.9 percent, respectively. Neutrals were 3.7 percent, while reds came in at 2.2 percent. Tenth was purple with 2.1 percent.
By comparison, the top color group movers for the March 2014 to February 2015 period were blacks with 33 percent; whites with 15.2 percent; grays at 14.4 percent, browns with 6.1 percent; pinks with 5.8 percent; navys with 4.6 percent; neutrals at 3.9 percent; reds at 2.2 percent, and purples at 2 percent.
Men’s wear mirrored the women’s color trends — except for green, which made an appearance in the top 10 groups in the year-ago period.
Katie Smith, senior retail and fashion analyst at Edited, said the disconnect between what’s on runways, in fashion publications and in stores is complex and involves a variety of economic and consumer behavior factors.
“Magazines need fresh content, so they’re going to report on the most interesting and ‘newest’ trends from runway,” Smith said. “Sure, there may be a captivating red story coming through, but in terms of runway volume, there’s undoubtedly more navy. It just doesn’t make for such a sexy story in fashion mags. And as a consumer, do you want to be reading about stuff that you’ve already got in your wardrobe? Probably not.”
For merchandisers, Smith said they are “well attuned” to the nature of content, freshness and the bottom line. “Much like a content editor, they need those pieces which are fresh and scream ‘new season,’” Smith explained. “But in most cases, they’re not going to sell as well as the consumer favorites of black, gray and dark blues. Thankfully, there’s the core segment of a retailer’s offering, where slower-moving color trends and replenishable product live. That’s a retailer’s secure zone — the bread and butter of the business.”
But Smith was quick to note that the size of the core offering varies, according to Edited’s data analysis. “At fast-fashion retailers Zara and H&M, zero percent of their offering is older than five months. At Macy’s, 23 percent of the offering is more than six months old, and at Saks Fifth Avenue, that figure is 43 percent.”
In regard to color trends on the runway, Smith said “[colors] actually sells better than some other runway trends such as print trends or fabric trends.”
“It’s a good way to update existing shapes — shapes which are tried and tested with the consumer,” Smith explained. “It makes the store look in-season, without moving the consumer way out of their comfort zone. However, retailers will likely have to discount at the end of the season and therefore, buy depth should reflect this.”
Smith said a recent Edited study examined color trends at Topshop, Urban Outfitters, Forever 21, Zara and H&M. It revealed that “red stocked in fall 2015 sold well, with 55 percent of red products stocked selling out in-season.”
“However, it was maroon that fared best in retail for fall 2015 — 57 percent of products at those retailers sold out at full price — and it wasn’t a major runway trend for the season,” Smith said.
In summary, Smith agreed there’s a disconnect. “Runway color trends are a critical communication tool, but retailers buying into them should do so armed with data,” Smith said. “There could, and likely will, be color trends with more retail potential out there.”
In regard to if retailers are using data in the right way and if it is being properly incorporated into the merchandising decision-making process, Smith said “best practice retailers are using market data on a daily basis to power their decision-making.”
“Buyers use it to detect product trends early, ensure their assortment leads the market and know how to price new products,” Smith said, while also noting that real-time data dashboards can replace “a lot of the guesswork” and bolster sell-through margins.
“To fully reap the rewards in insights, data needs to be respected companywide,” Smith said, adding that many retailers are still using outdated comparative analysis tools.