FEATURE: What’s Hot in Apparel Licensing

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Retailers are becoming increasingly savvy, understanding that in this digital, globalized age, almost anything can be found online, oftentimes at a lesser cost. Luring a customer into brick-and-mortar locations is also becoming more challenging thanks to the multitude of choices, and retailers are being forced to evolve in order to keep a toehold on sales, both in the virtual and physical worlds.

According to global market research firm The NPD Group, the women's apparel market is back on the rise after experiencing a several-year slump. Women's apparel sales grew 3 percent in 2012, with total sales exceeding $111 billion. NPD also notes that the sales were driven primarily by "higher-priced apparel, as the average selling price was up 5 percent, while unit volume was down 2 percent."

The gains topped those for the men's apparel market, which only grew 1 percent in 2012 to $57 billion dollars.

Further NPD research found that overall trips to retail locations–whether online or to brick-and-mortar stores–were down 6 percent in 2012. Online shopping, however, still brought in $14.3 billion in sales, up 13 percent from the prior year, with women choosing department, specialty and online stores and shopping national chains less often.

These facts are by no means grim, and the sales growth is promising, especially following the lack of momentum at retail in 2009 and 2010. The truth is, retailers are looking to fresh and innovative partnerships, strategies and marketing methodologies to diversify offerings. To do so, many retailers are pairing with licensed properties and designers, facilitating additional value to apparel and accessories, and many times granting customers access to more aspirational fashion labels.

Consider Target's high/low collaboration strategy, which brings fashion's most cutting edge (and most expensive) designers to mass retail. In 2011, Target caused a fashion feeding frenzy with the debut of its Missoni collaboration, crashing its own website and selling out retail locations almost immediately. The collaborative strategy, which has been implemented at the retailer since 2000, has served as a model that many retailers continue to emulate, and hopefully capture similar success, again and again. …

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