Can Fashion Salvage Christmas Sales? | The Week Ahead, BoF Professional


Can Fashion Save Christmas?

Christmas shopping in Milan, Italy | Source: Getty

Christmas shopping in Milan, Italy | Source: Getty

  • Many European countries are cautiously emerging from lockdowns, allowing retailers to reopen as they head into the crucial Christmas shopping season.

  • Covid-19 cases are surging in the US, raising fresh concerns about the economy and the prospect of new restrictions.

  • E-commerce sales jumped over Black Friday weekend, but traffic at stores — where they were allowed to open — was light.

This Christmas is set to be a shopping season like no other. After a year of slumping sales, festive purchases are even more important, and less certain, than ever. On the plus side, forced store closures across much of Europe are set to ease heading into December. Most retailers will be able to reopen, though unlike in the summer there will be no full relaxation of restrictions.

There are signs consumers are in the mood to shop, too. In the US, the National Retail Federation optimistically forecast sales will grow between 3.6 percent and 5.2 percent in November and December compared to 2019. Online sales on Black Friday are set to hit a record this year, according to Adobe Analytics, though whether that will be sufficient to offset a downturn in in-person spending remains to be seen.

The outlook in the country is darkening as coronavirus cases mount at an alarming pace. Even if shops stay open, it’s unclear if consumers will feel confident going to them. Retailers have been grappling with how to persuade shoppers to spend as much online as they would in store for months, with many kicking off Black Friday sales early in the hopes of extending the traditional festive shopping frenzy. Most are doubling down on e-commerce and offering flexible delivery options like curb-side pickups or rewards for consumers who buy early to avoid the Christmas logistics crunch.

The Bottom Line: The next few weeks are make or break for many retailers. Few can afford to enter January with large amounts of unsold inventory, and a weak Christmas shopping season could mean many don’t make it through 2021.

The Fashion Calendar Rolls On

Nadja Swarovski, Dame Natalie Massenet and Caroline Rush at the 2016 Fashion Awards in London. Courtesy.

Nadja Swarovski, Dame Natalie Massenet and Caroline Rush at the 2016 Fashion Awards in London. Courtesy.

  • Chanel’s Métiers d’Art presentation will go ahead on Dec. 1 at a lavish chateau in the Loire Valley, but the brand’s clients will have to settle for watching when it’s broadcast online.

  • The Fashion Awards will also take place on Dec. 3, with a short film announcing this year’s 20 honourees instead of the usual gala dinner.

  • Balenciaga will present its Fall 2021 collection via a video game slated for release on Dec. 6.

Despite the pandemic, the fashion industry is pressing ahead with its December schedule, at a social distance, of course. Chanel’s Métiers d’Art show, designed to showcase the skill of the brand’s specialist ateliers, has in the past been a large-scale marketing event, with attendees jet-setting to locations like New York and Tokyo. This year, Chanel will stage a real-life fashion show at the Château de Chenonceau in France’s Loire Valley, but industry guests, clients and Chanel fans will have to wait two days for the online broadcast. Meanwhile, Balenciaga is launching its latest collection via a video game, moving on from the music video it used to launch its Summer 2020 collection, but a far cry from the live shows it staged pre-pandemic.

The pandemic has also proved a set-back for British Fashion Council’s ambitions to beef up London’s calendar. Its annual Fashion Awards, relaunched in 2016 in what former BFC chairman Natalie Massenet told BoF was a bid to create a “mix of the Academy Awards and the Met Ball,” will run as a short film documenting how the industry has navigated this difficult year.

The Bottom Line: Brands and organising bodies have generally seen lower engagement staging events online rather than in-person, but they’re starting to experiment with new formats. Gucci’s seven-day virtual film festival earlier this month got mixed reviews, but at least it got people talking.

VOICES Goes Digital With Gathering for Big Thinkers

VOICES 2020 storefront

VOICES 2020 storefront

  • BoF’s VOICES gathering, featuring talks and discussions from the most authoritative speakers inside and outside of fashion takes place Dec. 1-3.

  • The State of Fashion 2021, BoF and McKinsey’s annual report analysing the trends that will shape fashion in the year ahead, will be released Dec. 2.

  • This year’s speaker lineup includes Remo Ruffini, Samira Nasr and Virgil Abloh.

This year has radically reshaped the landscape for the fashion industry. Broadcasting live from West London, BoF’s VOICES conference brings together a diverse array of trailblazers, creatives, entrepreneurs and big thinkers to unpack a year of change and discuss the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. On the agenda are discussions on rewiring the fashion calendar, the future of retail and the new politics of fashion. Plus, The State of Fashion 2021 charts the road to a post-pandemic recovery.

The Bottom Line: Conversations about the state of the industry are more necessary, valuable and relevant than ever. Join us for VOICES 2020 to get the inside track on fashion’s outlook.


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