There ain’t no cure, or is there?
Maybe it’s the weather or the precarious state of the world (when isn’t the world in a precarious state?) but there seems to be an awful lot of complaining going on these days: a lot of yearning for the good old days and much dreaded anticipation of price increases, late deliveries, no deliveries, consumers totally abandoning brick & mortar stores for online shopping, ad infinitum.
Granted, much of this concern is legitimate. (And trust me, I’ve been complaining as much as anyone…) As an industry friend of mine who took a year off recently observed, “All of the problems that companies didn’t address in 2010 are still here in 2011, but worse…” And according to a recent NPD report, while total apparel sales have grown only 1.4 percent for the year ending April 2011, factory outlets are up 17.9 percent, warehouse clubs are up 24.7 percent, and online is up 12 percent. Is there any doubt where the business is headed?
Still, in an increasingly impersonal era, there’s always a place for retailers who make caring and customer service their top priorities. There’s also always a place for innovative product, something that seems to have been lost in the shuffle these past few seasons as too many merchants cut back their inventory to bare bones.
Clearly, now is the time to build it back up, carefully of course, and with fashion rather than commodity product. At this writing, I’ve not yet started on the trade show circuit for spring 2012 but in previewing a few menswear collections, I am totally excited about the season’s potential. Among the standout collections I’ve seen: Scott James, Samuelsohn, Elie Tahari Men, Hickey Freeman and St. Croix, five very different concepts but with a common denominator: fabulous uplifting inspiring wearable salable COLOR! Those merchants who shop the trade shows with open eyes (and an open mind) should have no problem finding great product.
Another cure for the summertime blues: giving back! With so many wonderful industry organizations (I just learned about Dignity U Wear), there are unlimited opportunities for all of us to give of our time or talent or money or product to make the world better. One example: with more scholars than ever, YMA is in desperate need of industry mentors for some very talented young people. As Paul Rosengard points out, this needn’t be top executives but rather young people in your organization who will appreciate the honor and personally grow from the experience. Just ask Brooks Brothers’ Paulette Garafalo, who singles out mentoring as her favorite part of her job.
One way or another, let’s pledge to get out of this “summertime blues” much-too-negative mindset and make good things happen!
“Look forward and be hopeful.
Look backward and be thankful.
Look downward and be helpful.
Look upward and be humble…”
—Words to live by from Ms. Esther-Ann Asch, FEGS Health and Human Services System UJA-Federation