To say the backdrop against which fashion brands must operate today is ‘challenging’ is an understatement.
Consumer confidence has never been more fragile and more sensitive to market movements than it has in the past 24 months. A perfect storm has been brewing in the UK thanks to a succession of seismic events from Brexit to the pandemic, the death of HM The Queen, and continued disruption to retail footfall and e-commerce deliveries, brought about by ongoing strikes across the Royal Mail and rail networks.
Political uncertainty has certainly not helped matters either and consumers are acutely tuned into it. Footfall across UK retail destinations dropped by 3.7% in October as Britons put the brakes on shopping trips following the announcement of former Prime Minister Liz Truss’s ‘mini budget’, which sent the Stock Market into a spiral.
As we head into the ‘Golden Quarter’ with a growing cost of living crisis and continuing strains on the global supply chain, retailers and brands face the prospect of being left with an excess of inventory and a weakening of demand. OC&C Strategy Consultants’ latest annual Retail and Proposition Index report reveals that 43% of consumers are planning to spend less in the next 12 months and will be seeking out value, if not bargains, when they do spend.
All this may seem overwhelming but there are proactive steps that brands can take – as part of a ‘mindful’ wholesale strategy – to meet these challenges head-on to ensure their inventories are well-balanced and that their retail partners achieve the best possible sell-throughs.
We spoke to NuORDER by Lightspeed on its key considerations for a ‘mindful’ wholesale strategy:
- Go borderless
While many of the issues facing brands and retailers are global, some markets are faring better than others. Make sure your brand is shoppable globally by taking a borderless approach to your wholesale strategy. Be sure to break down borders and barriers by providing regionally-tailored assortments, international sizing/conversions, translations of product descriptions, and local currency options, along with a variety of payment options and fulfilment capabilities.
- Leverage customer segmentations and historical data
Taking a segmented approach, rather than an individual customer approach, to inventory allocation, sale promotions, distribution, and customer service helps realise efficiencies.
By leveraging historical sales data, you can see what has been selling well by country and rep. Use this information to plan your seasonal wholesale strategy, targeting applicable regions with bespoke promotions tailored to their situation.
- Treat buyers of your brand as distribution partners
Don’t just think of your retail partners as mere buyers of your brand, treat them like a true distribution partner and give them everything they need to maximise sell-throughs, such as clear and complete information on sizing and colourways/variations, materials and composition, and garment care. Once again, don’t forget to provide translations of product descriptions and any marketing materials. (Check out the SPANX Case Study below for further inspiration).
- Shape demand as early as possible
Many brands wait until the end of season to offer promotions but you should consider taking a more proactive approach throughout the year via devices such as priority early access to new products, pre-orders, loyalty rewards and other targeted incentives. (See our section on how to drive immediate demand below).
How SPANX took a D2C approach to wholesale
B2B buyers aren’t just B2B buyers. More likely than not, they shop as consumers as well. With this in mind, SPANX knew it had an opportunity to better serve these buyers with an elevated shopping experience, just like they would receive from a D2C experience. The brand’s team started by tapping its B2C team to implement product imagery and lifestyle visuals into its B2B experience. Equipped with a functional and customisable B2B portal, it was able to easily update its Virtual Showrooms and Campaigns with fresh and visually-impactful materials to excite their B2B buyers.
Next, it took it a step further by strategically using a B2B platform that allowed it to create campaigns targeted at specific buyer accounts and send personalised, shoppable, and prefilled line sheets straight to their inbox. This innovative B2B outreach had significant results for the brand; one campaign received sales from 46 out of 48 accounts.
Ultimately, SPANX uses a ‘mindful’ approach to run its wholesale business successfully. It can create and track the results of all of its campaigns, while offering an elevated B2B buying experience that makes it easy for their B2B buyers to shop and stay in the loop with its latest products.
Driving immediate demand
Of course, no matter how well we plan for the long term, if we’ve learnt one thing from the past 24 months, it’s that we have to be prepared to take short-term action at speed to respond to unexpected events. There is often an urgent need to drive immediate demand and there are tactics you can employ to do so.
Here are some ways for brands to drive immediate demand from retailers today:
- Reduce excess inventory. Clear out or rebalance inventory with end-of-season and close-out promotions
- Increase order value. Encourage your top retailers to buy more by introducing volume and threshold discounts
- Drive Repeat Business. Offer new customers special discounts after their first order to incentivise their next buy
- Grab Your Buyers’ Attention. Run targeted promotions to give your customers even more reasons to buy
- Create Urgency: Incentivise buyers to order during specific delivery windows with flash sales on available-to-sell inventory and pre-order offers
- Reward your Best Customers: Grant your VIP customers exclusive access to products, promotions, and incentives
- Combat Currency Fluctuations: Get creative with how you allocate, price, and promote your inventory by region
Mindful wholesale strategies must be implemented in a considerate and measured manner. One way to do this efficiently and in real-time across multiple regions is by leveraging a robust, automated B2B e-commerce platform. These platforms can help brands run their global sales programmes and get creative in building targeted promotions at scale.
As a globally renowned platform, NuORDER by Lightspeed is well-positioned to provide brands and retailers with all the tools they need to buy, sell and collaborate online, including the ability to merchandise mindfully. The service is trusted by more than 3,000 brands and 500,000 retailers and to date, some £33 billion of orders have been processed through the platform.
If mindful merchandising is a priority for your team, please find out more here or click here to schedule a demo.
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