Analyst Insight by Rob Walker - Contributing Analyst
The first quarter of the year is a challenging time for fashion retailers in the UK. The January ‘sales’, which used to give a big boost to footfall, are now widely seen as gratuitous in a climate of year-round discounting. People are also feeling cash-strapped. It’s not only the hangover from Christmas spending. It’s the endless stream of bills that arrive at the start of the year (utilities, credit cards, tax). This is why, for many British consumers, the post-festive winter period is a time to hunker down and tighten discretionary spending. Small wonder, perhaps, that big name retailers, like Marks & Spencer, have been struggling with their apparel sales.
Tough times call for an innovative marketing agenda. Or, in the case of upmarket department store Selfridges, an innovative marketing ‘Agender’. That is the term the store has coined for its latest ploy to liven up, liberate even, the shopping experience. Here's how it works: For six weeks (during March and April) the store will merge its womenswear and menswear departments over three floors, doing away with what it calls the “limitations and stereotypes” of shopping. Out go the male and female mannequins and in come androgynous ones dressed in non-gender specific clothes. Think David Bowie meets Grace Jones, but in a modern retail setting.