Jos Berry, CEO of Concepts Paris, and Justin Coates, Consumer & Retail Strategist for Eastman, were complementary co-hosts for this conference. In a bid to give brands crucial insight for adapting to changes in the lingerie market, Jos offered an emotion-based perspective while Justin focused on statistics.
Lingerie is unique: worn by and particularly popular with women, lingerie is made for them and remains invisible to the onlooker. Women cannot be judged on it, it is truly intimate. The market is currently experiencing a period of considerable upheaval. After the first radical change in the 1970s, and a second in the 1980s, when everything had to be minimal, simple and standardized, a third revolution is now taking place. And the cause? Social networks and their capacity to break down barriers.
A few key figures
According to research carried out by Eastman, lingerie sales will increase by 12% over the next 5 years, or 2% per year. That’s 3% less than sales generated in the last 5 years, i.e. 2 billion dollars less. The most significant growth decline will be concentrated in regions which have been enjoying the most impressive growth: China and Asia. This is compounded by the economic slowdown in Europe and the USA. Brand loyalty is also declining and brands are generally weaker. The ten largest brands in the US represent 58% of the market, 5 years ago they represented 60% of the market. The market is highly fragmented, even more so in Europe. Consumers are looking for something new. What’s the best way to attract them?
Retail and customer experience: proving your products are worth it!
Until now, the lingerie industry has seriously overlooked consumers. According to Eastman’s research, which involved interviewing 5,000 consumers in Europe, China and the USA, only 50% of consumers are satisfied with their lingerie. Justin underlined the importance of retail: department stores use restaurants and chill-out areas to deliver a customer experience. A number of brands, particularly in the sportswear sector, are now creating an immersive experience which takes shoppers to the heart of the brand’s DNA and identity. Canada Goose, for example, has refrigerated one of its stores to enable customers to test down-jackets. These brands use storytelling to encourage customers to invest their emotions and money in the brand. Today’s consumers want to know where products are from, what they’re made of, which advantages they offer, who made them and what their environmental impact is. The challenge of this omni-channel strategy is to ensure that the human connection is not overlooked. With this in mind, Harvey Nichols has started offering live-stream videos featuring in-store personnel on its website and Macy’s is recruiting its own sales staff as product ambassadors with whom clients can exchange online.
A new generation of designers is taking the industry by storm and shaking up established codes. They communicate directly with consumers via Instagram and focus on individuality at a time when most of the market is volume-focused. A very diverse group, they illustrate the huge potential for creativity in lingerie. They’re driven by an increasing awareness of the sector’s lack of diversity. Take Rihanna, for example, with her Savage x Fenty brand. In late January, The New York Times even wondered “Is Rihanna the Coco Chanel of the 21st century?”.
The Millennial obsession: establishing a relationship with them
The new generation, “Gen z”, is the world’s most important. They grew up with smartphones and social networks and have only ever known a declining European economy and growth in Asia. They want to be involved in the creative process and are keen to show off their individuality. Although half of them are inspired by social networks when making purchases, 85% of them buy from brick-and-mortar stores rather than online. A quarter are fast-fashion customers: Boohoo, H&M and Asos have already done the legwork and established good relationships with them. They are more loyal to brands that offer customization. Only 7% of them actually read the labels on garments purchased: 3 times less than other generations. The challenge facing brands is therefore to offer product customization and communicate brand messages through the shopping experience.
Including eco-responsibility within the shopping process
A number of major labels are already striving to educate consumers.
It all starts with fibres. Fibres are the key point and it’s important to communicate at each stage in the customer experience: starting with Instagram, then e-shops and websites and, finally, in-store.
Jos Berry, Concepts Paris