5 Things Your Competitors Can Teach You About Fashion Posted on 20 Jun 00:39 , 0 comments

No doubt you've heard the news about The Gap and J. Crew. Sales have become so dismal that they have had to lay off workers and are in the process of closing up some of their previously successful retail locations. There are quite a few factors to point to in this current economy and several worth noting. 

Retailers such as H&M came in and changed the game with inexpensively made and trendy garments that clearly fit the bill. Old Navy, which used to be regarded as the tacky, poor step-sister in the Gap familia just came up and turned 'cheap' to 'chic' at affordable prices -  making the Gap and J. Crew just seem sort of you know, stuffy and useless.

In my own personal estimate, I have loved the Gap since forever but lately I just haven't been feeling them. I'm bored with their khakis. Okay, I can't blame it on the khakis but if I can head down Market Street and find a super-cute summer dress at H&M for half the price, why would I want to fool with you Gap? The thrill is gone (and quality)...I have denim shirts and long sleeve pullovers that I purchased from them over a decade ago, and they still hold up quite nicely. Recent purchases? My washing machine has eaten every last one of them alive.

Add to their woes a set of ingenious, social media-savvy marketing efforts from the likes of Old Navy and the influx of inexpensive clothing across the board and it's become fairly clear to see why they're struggling. I'm a small, one-woman business and their situation has truly taught me a few things - no one rules the kingdom forever. With that, I want to share a list of things that have made me evaluate my own position.

  1. No one rules the kingdom forever. I said it before, I'll say it again. Slow to change and adapt and reliance on traditional marketing and distribution channels can spell trouble in our current marketplace. Keeping an eye on who holds the purse-strings and what those individuals value will ensure a business's survival.
  2. Pick a strategy. It's easy to try to be all things to all people, but all you'll end up with is a bunch of unsold merchandise. A recession economy and job scarcity will make folks more reluctant to shop, and when they do, they'll want the biggest bang for their buck. Unless you are a well known luxury brand like Mercedes that just has to basically open the showroom everyday and nothing else, you want to make sure your brand is accessible.
  3. Social media will win the war. Some of the most recent and best advice anyone ever gave me was to develop a strong and solid presence on the internet. Let your customers get to know who you are, what you represent and above all, let them know that you have them in mind, first and foremost. 
  4. Never stop investing in market research. It's true that not every design is going to be a hit. That ruffled wide-wale-corduroy-hot-pink jumpsuit probably looked great on a sketchpad. If you really want the truth though, the only thing standing between you and the consumer, aside from money, are trends and appeal. We all have to look up from our sketches occasionally and check in with reality.
  5. Compete with yourself. It's so easy to feel defeated by a larger competitor, especially if you're going solo. The one advantage a small operation has though, and this is very important, is that you are far more nimble. You don't have to run around the country closing stores and explaining to people that you have to let them go. You're a free agent and thanks to the internet, the world really is your oyster. It's all in what you do with it, so after you go by and pay your respects to the Gap, get to work building your own fashion powerhouse.




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