Somehow, we’ve navigated the choppy waters of 2020 and found ourselves thrust into a brand-new year. The theme of uncertainty looks to continue – at least for the time being. Many of us are still trying to process the events of March and may be left bewildered to think about planning ahead. What are experts predicting for 2021 and what do we need to bear in mind?
A small silver lining is that much of what we can carry forward into this year are things we’ve already learned – albeit the extremely hard way. In the wake of social and economic destruction, a strong determination was formed to try and guide the industry through the worst. Brands are now much more streamlined, with operations, business models and customer propositions sharper than ever. According to the McKinsey State of Fashion report, the most successful will continue to be those with a firm grip on the trends to come, with digital means still leading the way. Our usage and digital consumption has jumped years ahead in a monthly timespan, making it one of the most important factors in a business toolkit – alongside having a good focus on the Asia-pacific region. We also know that the post-COVID demand for fashion has undoubtedly changed, meaning the outlook must shift to those categories performing most successfully and doubling down on them. There is now a great need to balance both speed and discipline in order create a peak of innovation. This, alongside flexibility in decision making and optimisation the mix of online and personal experience remains the core of the incoming year.
An important factor to bear in mind is that quantity of product no longer means guaranteed profit. Many industry experts cite the need for a demand-based approach, with brands needing to limit inventory for ultimate simplicity and drive a full-priced sell-through. This is coupled with the attention needed for localisation, as travel-centric fashion looks likely to be subject to continued disruption and consumers look for offered security within the businesses they choose to invest in – now highly aware and wanting change. We can also look to the change of power in physical retail, which is now increasingly falling in favour of the retailer. Many brands could now be in a position to rethink their relationship with retail to improve their store ROI as landlords seem to lose their grip. We can even begin to see changes and trends in products themselves, with early predictions including aqua colouring, influencers focusing on message over engagement and a circular runner model for sneakers.
Many of these factors indicate a need for a business model fit for endurance, deeper partnerships with third parties that allow for agility and accountability. 2021 is likely to see a renewed interest in investing in skill, highlighting employee purpose alongside the quest to achieve the perfect online/offline sales blend.
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