Rethinking Business as Usual

Lisa Casinger, Carole Sloan, August 10, 2009

There have been a lot of interesting conversations in the last couple of months — especially within the vendor community.

It seems as though with the fast changing scene at retail, because of new consumer ways of shopping and traditional retailers responding to these trends as well as the global business tsunami, the supplier base is relooking at how they are building their own businesses.

We're hearing more about "direct to retail" as it applies to licensed products. Retailiers are boasting about how they are offering the same styling and quality to consumers — albeit at prices points up to a third or more lower than just in the past year or so. Then there are the off-shore producers who supply both the U.S.-based suppliers as well as retailers who are talking up their remarkably lower minimums as well as higher quality standards.


One wonders what all these folks are taking that makes them think that all these "trends" will be more than just a dream.

Already, on the retail scene, we have executives up and down the ranks wondering what these "dollar guys" are all about. And the off-pricers that used to be viewed as the ones sort of picking up the discarded trash of the "legitimate" retailers are now the ones with the strong comps. But even more, they are the ones that suppliers of all stripes are courting.

Just the other day we had a conversation with a supplier discussing his company's development plans for product with one of those "dollar guys." And this was not the first conversation of its type in the last half year. More and more new product programs are being tailored to the "dollar guys" — yes, at substantially lower price points and definitely with many of the bells and whistles found at more conventional retailers eliminated. But the resulting products will serve the needs of a major consumer base.

Then there are the "really big" conventional retailers that feel by dropping price points — even for glamour name brands — by as much as a third, they will attract more business from that quality/fashion customer. Only time will tell.

And for those "fashion forward" designer suppliers that bite for this bait, how will it sit with the customers willing to pay for the really fashionable, quality products?

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