Designers might be dancing at the edges of instant fashion by sending some looks straight down their runways to their stores, but even that has them just starting to catch up to consumers.
This story first appeared in the October 12, 2016 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Experts say shoppers are already working with a buy-now mind-set and are being trained to expect more of the same. And it’s not just the Zaras and H&Ms that are feeding the trend, but the rest of the consumer world as well.
“Everyone is striving to up their game to take it to the next level, so apparel and fashion brands need to look at what’s happening in the broader consumer landscape,” said Marcie Merriman, executive director of advisory services at EY.
While Baby Boomers or Gen X shoppers are more patient sorts, Millennials are used to getting more of their own way, while with the youngest cohort of shoppers — Gen Z — it’s my way or the highway.
“They’re going to expect you to immediately produce it, get it to them and do it for free,” Merriman said, referring to Gen Z and their expectation that shipping will be complimentary.
“It’s only going to get worse,” she said. “Gen Z especially has just grown up in a world where they expect to get anything now. They’ll be shocked if they can’t get it now. I think they’ve already been trained.”
Golden Gate University consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow said that training is going to stick.
“Our brains have changed because of our use of technology, partially that we just demand more immediacy, partially that we get bored more easily so we just crave stimulation and new things,” Yarrow said.
Not knowing exactly when something will be available and having to wait for it increases anxiety, she said.
“In general, the world is a more anxious place,” Yarrow said. “Anticipating is harder when you’re anxious. We used to like it. Delayed gratification used to be fun, it used to be more exciting, but now it feels more stressful to people.
“The idea that [consumers] would see something, love it and love it six months from now is passé,” she said. “It’s gone. I don’t think it exists. If you see something you want and then you have to wait, you don’t get the same level of emotional intensity of see, have, wear right now.”
But designers rushing looks from spring into stores in September found themselves walking a fine line, and they have to give customers looks they can use.
Shoppers don’t just want to buy now, they also want to wear now.
A June survey from London-based Verdict Retail found that 86.7 percent of apparel shoppers said they like to buy looks they can wear straight away, while 51.4 percent of shoppers do not like buying apparel well ahead of the season — such as buying summer looks in March when many retailers change over.
While three quarters of shoppers in the study felt merchants offered enough “trans-seasonal” fashions, retailers can still do more to sync up with shoppers. “Ultimately, product buying and phasing cycles will have to be fundamentally altered to become more flexible, frequent and responsive, but retailers must make quick wins with marketing and visual merchandising in the meantime,” said Nivindya Sharma, senior analyst, clothing and footwear, at Verdict.
So designers just have to know what shoppers want and get it to them the instant they need it.