Look out, U.S. retailers, the flamboyant Topshop has arrived on our shores, and with its first flagship store in New York’s chic SoHo, the hot U.K. chain plans to grab as big a slice as possible of the American teen market.
This is no minor event. As one retailer put it, SoHo hasn’t seen such a retail phenomenon since Bloomingdale’s opened its annex for contemporary fashion in 2004. Its product cache of cheap, irreverent clothes and its in-store dramatics of at-the-moment hot happenings make Topshop a tough competitor.
Indeed, this is a store that knows what it is doing. The new SoHo space itself is pretty spectacular, covering four floors and 40,000 square feet with about 2,000 stock keeping units of everything from sexy sequined dresses to skin-tight body suits and color-blinding accessories, all at a broad price range.
There are trendy looking mannequins everywhere, and specialty shops within the shop catering to a wide spectrum of tastes and interests, from Goth to Romantic. There’s a Trend shop for the latest fashion buzz, a shop for hot graphic Ts, and a Voodoo shop for all things dark and dangerous, to name just a few. On the mezzanine is a DJ booth for wild rock music, played on every big shopping day and special occasion.
YOU CAN LEARN A LOT FROM THIS EUROPEAN RETAIL INVASION. ZERO IN ON YOUR MARKET, REV UP YOUR SELLING WITH ON-TARGET SIGHTS AND SOUNDS, AND TREND-PICK YOUR PRODUCTS WITH GREAT CHOICES LIKE THESE:
- Faceted Swarovski crystals hang delicately off an ankle bracelet of fine beaded chain. A swinging trend item!
- A stretch bracelet with all-around little rectangles left open for photos. Fits the teen mode perfectly!
A New Business Formula
Topshop is one of several major international chains revolutionizing the business of ready to wear. Its big innovation is Cheap Chic: offering trendy fashion at reasonable (and often dirt-cheap) prices. It also offers a big plus for the young crowd: QUICK PRODUCT CHANGE.
Instead of buying products in quantity, discounting those that are slower sellers, and reordering faster-selling items, the NEW RETAIL IDIOM is:
- buy thin (i.e., small orders)
- sell fast, and then
- buy brand new items.
The stores don’t discount. They always have new merchandise, which makes them incredibly attractive, especially to young buyers.
How can Topshop pull off this wizardry of making the trendiest of styles affordable and then bringing them to market fast? According to Associated Press, this is the basic formula: They design, manufacture, and deliver their up-to-the-minute stocks to stores worldwide within weeks, in contrast to the months of lead time department stores and most traditional retailers require.
Who are these big time Cheap Chic winners? Well, the whole new idea started with H & M, a Swiss company that brought its new retail philosophy to the USA in 2000, giving The Gap (the world’s largest clothing retailer) incredible competition. As New York retail consultant Howard Davidowitz puts it, “Gap has been underwater for six or seven years. It simply can’t compete with these new Cheap Chic shops.”
Other fast fashion shops, like Zara’s and Mango, are doing just as well, even in the present recessionary atmosphere. Of course, good pricing is an added element of their success. Some products, like t-shirts, can be extremely cheap, running just a few dollars. Others can run up to a couple of hundred dollars, but they are usually the fast-fashion shop’s interpretations of couturier products; i.e., sandals that mimic an Yves Saint Laurent $1,000 design are less than $150 at Topshop.
YOU CAN LATCH ON TO THE TOPSHOP WINNING SYSTEM! START BY CHOOSING TEEN-SMART ITEMS WITH A HIGH QUALITY TO PRICE RATIO:
- A prom sensation! This stunning 3″ pageant tiara features clear crystals in scrolling designs. Show it off NOW!
- Design-savvy with the current formal fashion trends is this luxe silver leatherette evening clutch. Just right for the big-dance night!
Revamping Shipping Schedules
American companies are running fast to catch up with the new retail formula and at least equal if not outsmart these new European fashion merchandisers. American Eagle says it is shipping new merchandise to its stores every two weeks. Abercrombie & Fitch is also straining to deliver product with shorter lead time. Not everyone is able to pull this off, but for many, mastering the new formula could be a matter of survival.
Consider this: Today’s teenagers are living in a whole new world where “fast” is taken for granted. Time, alternative publications shout out, is “speeding up.” Listen to the music of just a few decades ago, like the 60s, and then listen to today’s music. Wow! That old stuff sounds like a dirge! Today’s generations speak faster, move faster, think faster, and buy faster. From a retail point of view, it comes down to this: If it doesn’t sell NOW, it isn’t going to sell later. Scary.
Of course, not everybody wants new merchandise every couple of weeks. Older customers, in particular, are traditionally much less mesmerized by the marketing hurricane of NOW. They often latch on to a great look, and want to stay there, with just a few concessions to trend. But to kids, immediacy is where it is at. And kids buy. And buy. And buy.
It’s something to really think about….