As Burberry And Tom Ford Dip Into Fast Fashion, Will More Luxury Retailers Do The Same?

While luxury fashion retailers have traditionally built their business models on hyping long-awaited clothing lines and accessories, Burberry will take a page out of the fast fashion playbook with the launch of its “see now, buy now” collections.

While consumers usually have to wait months after a fashion show to purchase items displayed on the runway, Burberry is taking the opposite approach by enabling shoppers to buy items as soon as they appear. The luxury retailer recently launched its first advertising campaign to promote its Burberry 2016 line, which will be showcased at London Fashion Week in September 2016.

Burberry isn’t the only retailer to forsake long lead times: Tom Ford cancelled his planned New York Fashion Week show in February, revealing that his namesake brand also would wait until September to present the retailer’s fall 2016 men’s and women’s clothing lines. The release will coincide with the delivery of the clothes in stores, enabling consumers to purchase the products the same day as the runway show takes place.


“In a world that has become increasingly immediate, the current way of showing a collection four months before it is available to customers is an antiquated idea and one that no longer makes sense,” Ford said in a statement. “We have been living with a fashion calendar and system that is from another era. Our customers today want a collection that is immediately available. Showing the collection as it arrives in stores will remedy this, and allow the excitement that is created by a show or event to drive sales and satisfy our customers’ increasing desire to have their clothes as they are ready to wear them.”

Nordstrom has taken a similar “see now, buy now” approach, enabling consumers to shop for accessories worn by celebrities at the Tony Awards as soon as the show airs on TV.

The evolution of Burberry, Tom Ford and Nordstrom and their rethinking of the fashion calendar aligns with the rise of fast fashion brands. It’s no secret that brands such as H&M, Uniqlo and Zara have flipped the apparel vertical on its head. As fewer consumers look to shop at traditional apparel brands, the retailers offering the trendiest items at both a reasonable price and with decent quality are winning out.

“Technology has allowed these luxury retailers to preview these items with consumers, get them excited about them and say, ‘If you want it, preorder it now,’” said Robert Cuthbertson, Vice President at consultancy Boston Retail Partners. “With the technology to be able to track and reserve that order through the supply chain, it makes that a unique experience for those consumers who are willing to pay the premium — even in light of fast fashion today, where brands are cranking out new items every other day.”

While it may seem shocking that luxury brands would follow this route given their exclusivity, Burberry and Tom Ford are more than likely aiming to avoid the pitfalls that are plaguing department stores. Since prices for the showcased items are unlikely to be discounted, the retailers would still be providing the luxury experience their consumers expect, thus keeping the brands’ status intact.

Promoting The Brand, Not The Labels

The Burberry ad campaign also is designed to showcase Burberry’s attempt to streamline its brand. In November 2015, the retailer said it planned to drop its three private labels, Prorsum, London and Brit, by the end of 2016, opting instead to consolidate them under the unified Burberry brand name.

In a company statement, Christopher Bailey, the CEO and Chief Creative Officer at Burberry, highlighted that the move was made for consistency’s sake: “The behavior of the luxury customer is evolving, their style is more fluid and this is reflected in the way they shop. The changes we are making allow us to serve this new behavior more intuitively. By unifying our three lines under one label we can also offer a much more consistent experience of Burberry’s collections.”

The acknowledgement of changing behavior among luxury customers further indicates the need for these retailers to evolve with the times. Although luxury retailers have often made their name on their own manufactured labels in the past, consumers are making it clear that they will make purchases based on the brand itself and the products’ quality.

“It’s a way for retailers to innovate,” Cuthbertson said in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “They’re trying to differentiate themselves from the Zaras and the H&Ms of the world. The only way you can do that is by doing it yourself and preventing other retailers from getting to your consumers faster than you. It’s another tool that they’re leveraging to be able to get consumers excited about their brands, providing them with a service level they would expect out of a luxury brand, and be able to provide them with products they feel good about buying.”

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