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5 Retail Strategies to Grow Apparel Brands in 2016

By: Anne Copeland

To improve efficiency, increase sales and better the shopping experience, successful apparel stores keep an eye toward innovative retailing strategies in a demanding consumer environment. According to Retailing Today, there are 5 top trends in retailing strategy to watch in 2016.

1. Expand Offerings to Meet Lifestyle Needs

Many apparel retailers are upending expectation by expanding their stock to include “lifestyle brands.” Such generalization makes these stores less specialists and more one-stop shop.

Ambitiously, H&M has launched a beauty collection as well as a home goods selection. The hope is that additional product lines will bolster sales as customers mix and match shopping categories in one convenient location.

A photo of H&M store

Many apparel retailers are overturning expectation by expanding their stock to include lifestyle brands.

However, the variety could reduce apparel sales; after all, there’s only so much room in the budget. It’s not worth forcing growth if the store will be spread too thin as a result. This expansive tactic potentially takes floor space away from products that are already tried and true. Whether or not lifestyle brands increase sales is still unclear, but stores like H&M are taking on the risk to find out.

2. Create an In-Store Experience to Lengthen Customer Visits

Encouraging customers to linger a while, some retailers have turned store locations into a destination spot. Beyond shopping, these retailers endeavor to offer something unique to draw shoppers in.

A tasty example of this trend, Urban Outfitters has established an in-store pizzeria. That way, customers in need of a break from shopping don’t have to leave the store to get a snack or a place to sit. Club Monaco has added libraries, cafes and even floral shops to some of its stores.

Besides adding another revenue stream, these clothing stores foster a more patient and in-person shopping experience through such diversions. With integrated and compelling services, retailers give shoppers a reason not to shop solely on their phones.

3. Implement Traffic-Based Staffing to Reduce Costs

Another new move by apparel retailers is to staff stores strategically to meet the demand of traffic. A traffic-based staffing model has become popular because of its successful and efficient management of resources. Under this system, retailers won’t be paying to have extra associates on the floor during non-peak hours or days.

Further, shopping assistance is being put under greater scrutiny to achieve maximum benefit in terms of not only time but also quality. Because what’s the use of having a staff person in the store if they lack expertise? A pioneering force in exemplary employee training, Victoria’s Secret teaches its associates to make optimal fit and style recommendations that will lead to a sale.

Through helpful staff scheduled more productively, retailers make shopping smooth and hassle-free.

4. Add Off-Price Stores to Tap Into Bargain Market

Off-price formats in stores are becoming increasingly common. In outlets and off-price stores, retailers separate out cost-efficient alternatives from the usual inventory. Outlet stores relocate discounted goods for the benefit of customers who enjoy value shopping. Brands like Lord & Taylor, Nordstrom and J.Crew have all cultivated an off-price line. The plus side of this is greater opportunity for bargain hunters to save money on a regular basis.

A photo of Nordstrom Rack

Nordstrom Rack is a great example of shopping for your favorite Nordstrom brands for less.

On the downside, if customers are too wild about outlet prices, it could cannibalize the original store. Retailers should be wary of competing with themselves. Reduced prices are wonderful for tapping into the bargain market, but not if a reduction in store profits is included in the bargain.

5. Personalize Offers to Draw In Consumers

Apparel retailers do an increasingly fine job of targeting individuals with deals custom-made to suit their shopping patterns or preferences. Rather than blast emails, there’s a growing trend toward personalized messages making a more specific appeal.

Personalization may be more time-consuming to put together, but when done right it’s awfully tempting to any consumer on the fence about a purchase. The main issue is in redundancy. Maybe that particular purchase was inevitable, and the email offer failed to persuade or prompt a sale that wouldn’t have happened anyway. Then all that research and targeting is for naught.

More New Strategies to Come

These retail strategies are in the infancy stages, and retailers are growing and learning as they go. With innovative techniques, retailers attempt to pull ahead in a competitive consumer market. However, innovation always comes with risk, and no strategy is perfect. We’ll be keeping an eye on these budding trends to see how they pan out long term. One thing’s for sure: Nowadays what it means to be an apparel retailer includes much more than just clothing.