How brands adapt to impatience
Burberry and Louis Vuitton accelerate their release strategies to take better advantage of the announcement effect.
Two major brands in the luxury field, Burberry and Louis Vuitton, have announced new release strategies in quick succession. Their objective: to match high-end products with the era of immediacy inaugurated with the digital revolution.
For decades, traditionally a new collection is presented during a fashion show or a fashion fair and commercialized six months later. On this schedule, the production chain could provide the pieces, wholesalers could order them and fashion magazines could cover the launch while the end-customer was waiting with impatience.
The digital revolution has hijacked the concept. In a time when fashion shows are broadcasted online and the supply chain only takes several weeks to market the products, the challenge is to make impatient customers accept the long wait. More seriously, how can we make sure that the ‘spirit of the moment’ captured in the creation will not be outdated six months later?
In March, Louis Vuitton has been the first to diverge from the ancient model by announcing its absence from Baselworld 2016, the international fair of watches. The decision illustrates a new release strategy. From now on, the presentation of new watches at the Baselworld fair several months before its sale is perceived as inefficient, and even counter-productive. Instead of making clients wait for months, Louis Vuitton now presents its new products in preview to a restricted audience at the occasion of prestigious events and immediately makes the novelties available in stores in order to fully benefit from the announcement effect.
This strategy has previously been used for the high-end jewellery industry and it is based on events which are ‘purely Louis Vuitton’ and fit into the company’s agenda. Of course, only few watch brands have the means and the retail store networks which enable them to emancipate from the rules of the luxury industry. However, Louis Vuitton has taken the initiative to become a pioneer in the new era of product release and distribution.
Winning the battle of immediacyIn the prêt-à-porter sector, Burberry has also entered the battle of immediacy. The British brand has announced to present its entire collection at the occasion of one winter and one summer fair per year instead of revealing its men’s and women’s models on separate occasions. The dresses will be on sale online and in stores immediately after their presentation. Tom Ford, Paul Smith and Tommy Hilfiger have already announced that they wish to follow Burberry's example.
Even if the primary motivation of this revolution is to adapt to the end-customer, the consequences for businesses are profound and reflect a tendency towards disintermediation which accompanies the digital revolution.
The brands emancipate from the media by organizing events on their own and by providing a live broadcast dedicated to the restricted community of their followers. The luxury brands also free themselves from the influence of wholesalers by promoting the vertical integration of distribution. Through this integration, market time is reduced significantly. Moreover, stores and online shops have replaced the wholesalers on the negotiating table concerning the Burberry revolution.
The third motive behind the quest for immediacy, although of lesser importance is that it reduces the menace coming from the Fast Retailing sector whose strategy is to commercialize dresses which are inspired from the big fashion shows several months before their original’s release.
Slow Fashion ?The revolution of immediacy is related to three developments. First, the fusion of men’s and women’s collection which matches the tendency towards cross gender.
Second, a weakening of the concept of seasonality which appears outdated in the context of an international market. Those who have already looked for a sandal in a luxury store in Singapore in February will benefit from this.
But for Burberry and Louis Vuitton, this shouldn’t be a problem. Both brands have a media coverage that is wide enough and their new strategies of commercialisation are more likely to succeed than to become an industrial accident.
Finally, the accelerated rhythm of annual releases has decreased the costs and it has tired the distribution chain starting from the designers themselves. This could be one of the main reasons for the recent departures of Albert Elbaz or Alexander Wang.
How to benefit from the announcement effectThe luxury industry adopts a method in commercializing which has already been successful in other sectors. Apple uses its ‘keynotes’ events to present new gadgets which are available for pre-order immediately afterwards and can be bought in stores within short delays as well. Its competitors have reacted quickly and it has become a general rule that the presentation of new products must go along with its availability on pre-order.
In the music industry the announcement effect has become a remedy against the decrease in album sales. Nowadays artists such as Beyoncé, Prince, WIlco and Rihanna release their albums without warning to generate a maximum buzz.
Immediacy, a focus on customers, disintermediation, a supply chain under pressure: The transformation of luxury has begun and it continues under the auspices of its leaders!