Conduct a store visit market research: when, where and how?

#Christine Tsui Fashion Community Group Discussion#

How to conduct a market research on physical fashion stores?

Date:07/06/2018

Time: 8pm to 10pm

Host by Amin-Shenzhen-Handbag designer

Amin is a handbag designer with five years working experience in fashion industry, four years of which in online fashion brands.
The following discussions are from the participants. They do not represent any views from Christine Tsui.

 

Pic from internet 

 

FORWARD

Store visit is an useful market research method to know about the business in a physical store as well as a technique to figure out consumer behavior.

 

DISCUSSION OUTLINE 

1. Preparation before market research

2. How to decide when and where to conduct market research?

3. What are the focuses in fashion store visit?

4. Conclusion

PART ONE Preparation before market research 

a. Research Objectives

1. Know about the operation situation of stores, including but not limited to sales performance, shopping atmosphere, and service experience.2. Know about competitors; Figure out the operation situation of competitors; Know about the products of competitors (categories, sewing techniques, patterns, etc.).

3. Figure out consumer preferences and buying power.

4. Verify the problems shown in the reports.

b. Research Team

 
Conducting a market research by store visit need both physical power and mental power. The focuses of this kind of market research vary from research teams. 

Macy’s group store visit (Pic from internet)

 

What kind of people would be involved in a market research team in terms of different research objectives? 

A market research team may consist of designers, pattern makers, merchandisers, sales and so on. Sometimes, all of them are from different departments, while they are from the same department more often.

c. Research Objects

 
According to different market research objectives, the research objects are correspondingly different. Stores of brands as well as their competitors are usually chose as the research objects. Also, products in different styles can be the research objects.

PART TWO How to decide when and where to conduct market research?  

Store visit would be conducted at different time in terms of different research objectives. For example, at the beginning of the season, the sales performance is the main research object, while at the end of the season, the unsalable is the focus of market research.

Gucci in different location and time (Pic from internet)

 

a. WHEN

Discussion shown as below

 

Tina- Xiamen-AGL
We always firstly talk with store managers to know about the peak time in stores, then come and observe stores at the peak time.
Ye Fangben-Nanchang-Shopowner
The best time to visit a street store and a store in shopping mall are different. The peak time are from 10:00 am to 11:30 am, from 4 pm to 06:30 pm, and from 7: 30 pm to 9: 00 pm.Amin- Shenzhen-AGL 
In working days especially at afternoon, there are less consumers in stores than usual. Thus visiting stores during these period is mainly for products researchWhen visiting stores at evenings or weekend, the research team will pay more attention to the sales performance.

Tina- Xiamen-AGL

Market research on store sales performance is best conducted in weekend. Because sales performance in weekend reflects on the real consumption power.

b. WHERE

 

(Pic from internet)

Sales performance in stores of the same brand but located at different business circles may be different. For example, there would be a number of consumers walking into stores in mid-range department stores while there are less consumers in stores located at top grade shopping malls. To gain a comprehensive market research result, the research team should visit and observe stores located at different areas.

PART THREE What are the focuses in fashion store visit? 

1. Store location

2. Store area

3. Store construction style

4. Customer service

5. Amount of merchandises

6. Visual merchandising

7. The proportion of new arrivals

8. The proportion of seasonal products

9. The proportion of discounted products

10. Consumer traffic

11. The dress up of consumers

12. Sales turnover

PART FOUR CONCLUSION 

Store visit is an important and necessary market research method to know the consumer as well as business situation in fashion industry. In terms of different departments, research focuses vary from store area, store location, visual merchandising, category merchandising, customer service, promotion and so on. Moreover, results from store visit market research conducted at different time would reflect various problem.

 

Q&A| Is it true that a Chanel cloth worth 35000 yuan will be thrown away after being worn only once?

By Christine Tsui

Translated by Rachel Wang

 

A question from Zhihu:

Is it true that a Chanel cloth worth 35000 yuan will be thrown away after being worn only once? (According to the following microblog)

The original micro-blog:

Poverty has limited my imagination… The rich do not consider how to wash the clothes at all:

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When I worked in a dry-cleaning shop, a guest took a Chanel coat worth over 600,000 yen (about 35,000 RMB). But it was faded after washing, so the guest complained us. We called the after-sales service center of Chanel, only to get an answer that “we have never taken washing into the consideration of designs.” … which means that the customers would throw it away after wearing the coat a few times… I could do nothing but be stricken dumb with the rich world…

In my opinion, even if the condition in the microblog is true, it at least should not be a common issue.

As a practitioner working in the garment industry for so many years, I know that none of the clothing brands dare to claim 100% reliable quality, for the quality inspection rate of clothing products could never reach 100%, but only in a certain proportion. So, sometimes the quality problems are possible.

As far as I concern, even if all the luxury brands in the world have quality problems, Chanel must be the last one of them.

  1. Old brand as Chanel is, reputation and quality are more important than anything else. Although, in general, the high-end product quality has regressed in many ways (such as the loss of some craft techniques for haute-couture). Chanel, in terms of either quality or service, however, is still the best of luxury brands.
  2. Most people probably know little about the staff training in luxury companies. Almost every company has staff training, but that of the luxury brands is much superior, especially in the training of front-line salespeople and VIP customer service staff. In most stores of common brands, if customers have any question to ask the clerks about price, dress material, washing methods or inventory, I dare to guarantee that nine times out of ten the clerks would know nothing unless to read over the tags or check in the system, let along their knowledge of clothes matching, fashion stories or brand history. But the service in luxury stores could be totally different. Of course, nothing could be absolutely, for I have also experienced poor service in luxury stores. , the salespeople of luxury stores have a better understanding of the products and services than the other sales staff. After all, the trainings are different. For the simplest example, if a customer enters the store, what distance to be kept is appropriate? It would be rude to be too close, for the customer feels overlooked to be followed closely. But too far, the customer would feel that the attention to himself/herself is not enough.
  3. Besides, it is unique for Chanel that it has not been listed yet. So objectively, it bears less performance pressure than LVMH or Kering. As a result, its marketing strategies are understated but luxurious, rather than extravagant and thunderous like other brands. The reason why I mention this factor here is that the quality usually gets worse when a brand is particularly eager to expand and gain in a short time. The too rapid development consumes the energy and time to ensure the product quality. Without this problem, Chanel’s strategy has always been steady, in some cases, too conservative in my point of view, which has made it miss some market opportunities (such as the opportunity to switch to a younger market). But maybe that is exactly why it can endure in a long time. So, I believe that the quality problem mentioned in the microblog could not a common issue for Chanel.
  4. Does the situation exist? Would the rich throw the cloth only worn once? The answer is yes, but mainly for the super riches in the Middle East (the biggest consumers of luxury goods in the world). Because their wealth is mostly easy money. So sometimes they have dropped the clothes to the laundry, they don’t even have a desire to get the garments back. Therefore, they really don’t care about the quality.

 

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Views| Is the Victoria’s Secret show an erotic show? How to treat the comment by Hung Huang?

By Christine Tsui

Translated by Rachel

 

Recently Hung Huang said on her micro blog that “The Victoria’s Secret Show is just an erotic show, relying on objectifying women and fulfilling the show with stars to seemingly increase its value.”. What does this statement really reflect? I want to say something about my view.

Actually, I don’t agree with Hung’s comments at all. (Any justified disapproval is welcomed; but all the other views without arguments are nonsense!)

The comparison of the Victoria’s Secret Show to an erotic show entirely reveals the viewer’s own mentality. The metaphor is similar to the ideology in 1980s, that any naked women or sculptures are supposed to be porn. The elegant arts sometimes have little discrepancy with vulgar businesses in somebody’s view!

According to Hung’s logic, almost all the fashion shows would be eroticism, for most of the time the models expose their thighs and shoulders. So, what’s the point for those editors, journalists, buyers, stars, going over to the show only for the flesh? Why are there so many designers diligent in producing new styles all the year?

So, please don’t humiliate the fashion industry! Don’t reckon the fashion industry practitioners as shallow crowds. Under the veil of fashion, there are indeed extravagant guys, hypocrisy ones and womanizers. But they are minority in the fashion world. The majority, just like any other industries, would work hard to devote themselves to the job they love and earn the money they deserve!

Although the products of VS are in quite low quality, and the organization of the showcase this year is said to be a mess, but the production and professionalism of the show itself should not be in doubt. The professional level of the models (except for someone) is also the world-class. But Hung’s comment completely diminishes the professional devotions of the directors, models, musicians, dressers, stage designers and even audience. What backs the fantasy show is the decades of consistent efforts of these people!

The fashion industry is easily to be misunderstood. Outsiders always hold two extreme views of the industry. Some people admire at fashion for working with stars, wearing fancy clothes and participating in the noble parties or something like that, when the other disdain it, for they think fashion is only extravagance.

In fact, the industry is neither that enviable nor that shallow.

The fashion world is essentially a female world. In this industry, eighty to ninety percent are women. Meanwhile, female consumers are the major forces of fashion consumption market. In fashion history, the woman once indeed was the role of “the object consumed by men”, in other words, dressing up only to please the man, in a certain period. But how many women nowadays can not survive if they do not want to please the man?

Q&A| Why the consumerism of fashion is easier to influence females than males?

By Christine Tsui

Translated by Rachel Wang

 

(The question from Zhihu.com)

Why the consumerism is easier to influence females than males?

For example, if advertorials boast the effects of some skin care products or list the must-buy bags of XX brands, many a girl would immediately set up for shopping at any cost, some even involved in nude photos as loan guarantees. But boys are hardly to be persuaded to purchase.

 

Actually, the question is not accurate enough. The questioner puts up with “Why the consumerism is easier to influence females than males?”, but his or her description only involves clothes and cosmetics stuff, in another word, living goods of fashion. So, the examples could not be comprehensive. Is buying a car not consumption? Is it still dominated by the female?

Therefore, it’s not appropriate to label consumerism as women’s priority, for it is only the discrepant consumption habits. The male chases quality when the female chases styles; the male resents shopping the living goods when the female is crazy about it in instinct; the male targets clearly the necessities when the female always pay for impulse…

As to the reason, I suppose only the consumption psychologists hold the right answer.

So, if the questioner is confused with female consumption behavior, I would recommend adjusting the question itself, to be more precisely, “Why the consumerism of fashion is easier to influence females than males?”

Above all, compared with men, women more intend to dress themselves up. Other than the instinct elements, women also need to be beautiful to live in this world for long historical periods, which could not be separated from the evolution of female’s social positions.

Not until the World War II could the independence of the female realize. For thousands of years, women could not survive without men. In order to outperform the other women, one must show off herself with appearance advantages, when the education opportunities are not always open to the female, which means a woman is hardly able to attract men with knowledge. By the way, men may not admire clever women at all. In the appearance competition, girls dress up and make up as much as they can, so the consumption is reasonable.

From this view, apart from the instinctive pursuit of beauty, the male’s hunting for pretty girls stimulates women’s passion for fashion. Girls pay for fashion and boys pay for the girls.

However, an answer like this is not comprehensive enough.

For example, more and more independent females live on themselves instead of males, so it is increasingly not necessary for these girls to cater for men’s tastes. But many of them still have much passion for fashion goods. So, what does fashion mean for them?

Many people, especially men, would like to label the women who are passionate for fashion as shallow ones. This sort of judgement obviously is out of the ones who do not understand the true fashion. In fact, fashion affects people’s behaviors and inner world greatly, instead of only function as decoration.

For instance, a woman in the high heel shoes would feel differently when in the sneakers, elegant the former but energetic the latter. I know it may be confusing for males, so gentlemen could image the feeling in a suit. Is it the same to the feeling in sports wears? Would even your way of walking change?

From that, fashion functions not only decorations but also communication—a channel to one’s own heart and to others’ inner world as well. Just like the first impression on a person is mainly rely on his or her appearance.

Obviously, females are better at express themselves through appearance than males.

Yet, in the recent years, more and more men would like to pay attention to the appearance and dressing, for they have become aware of fashion as communication functions that more than languages do, and the emergence of fashion consumption of men may also make a difference.

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Views|Where would the Double Eleven Festival go?

By Christine Tsui

Translated by Rachel Wang

 

Do you know the Double Eleven? Nov. 11th, the day before yesterday, is the largest shopping festival for Chinese. The information of it floods in my WeChat and it is reported that almost all the brands have broken their sales records. So, this time I would like talk about my own view on the Double Eleven Festival from the perspective of industry and consumption.

From the perspective of industry, several elements of Double Eleven have quite a reference value. First, I think Jack Ma, in the group of post-70s entrepreneurs, not only holds the best understanding of the post-90s and the Internet, but also is outstanding in the communication with customers. Originally the Double Eleven was only a point of shopping, but now it has become a grand carnival.

In addition, the festival promotes all the industries to some extent, which is held by one of my friend, Zhu Gangqiang, the founder of the Jacob Special Column. In his view, the explosive of the sales volume in one day or one week may cover the volume of the rest of a year, which would force all the industries to promote the efficiency of the whole supply and logistics chains. For instance, over 160 billion RMB goods needs to be delivered in 1-2 weeks. This volume would cover the annual GDF of some provinces. As a result, the supply, logistics and even online systems bear high requirements to deal with so many orders. Meanwhile, for many companies, the departments, from online system to customer service, would work overnight, so the severs also need to be fast enough to avoiding halting and delay of the orders.

As a result, hardware and software systems and even manpower faces a huge challenge, breaking the limits of a company repeatedly. From this view, the Double Eleven Festival rises the efficiency of the who industry, which is a positive effect.

However, I think this shopping mechanism has many negative effects at the same time. For myself, I only placed one order on the Double Eleven last year, and it was not a rush, but to book in advance. That’s all.

One of the side effects of this carnival is that some company would make their deals for whole year rushed into a single day. The insiders of online stores would know that the explosive sales would be followed by a high refund rate, 40% as far as I know of Double Eleven. Alibaba only exposes their sales data without the following issues.

Refund is a complicated business, immersed in the checks of each sections, costs of extra affairs and works of classifying. It can be imagined that the refunded goods may be only used once and sent back in wrong packages. For the sellers, this process is a kind of waste. The cost may never be calculated, or to say, exposed before. It would be a kind of harm for the companies.

Besides, the concentrated marketing is the same to a man full of leisure suddenly bounces up to fight overnight, which is far from common sense. Historically speaking, all the explosive stuff would not last for a long time, and the ones slow and steady would have a lasting vitality. In my opinion, the Double Eleven is not healthy as well, for it has no use in the long-term development of a company. Many companies only recruit staff for this particular day, and sometimes even a qualified courier is hard to find.

In conclusion, a large invisible cost hides behind the big day for shopping. It includes the cost of refund, marketing and temporary recruitment. , I think the extremely explosive sales mechanism is undesirable. Although there were offline activities before, 72-hour-sale from Dec. 30th to Jan. 2nd, the volume could not be as extreme as the Double Eleven, equivalent to a month’s sale.

In a word, I do not hold an optimistic attitude towards the future of Double Eleven. Comparing the explosions and long-lasting sales, I would support the later mode. But in this period, to be long-lasting is not as hot as to be fast. In the age of Internet, people would like to attach more attention to the myopic benefits. Above all, the money in hand is the best proof of success.

Views│What’s the uniqueness of the post-90s designers?

By Christine Tsui

Translated by Rachel

 

Recently I have interviewed some post-90s designers in the Shanghai Fashion Week, so I would like to write this essay about my feelings of them.

In my book China Fashion, I only interviewed a group of post-60 to 80 designers. But I have been observing the emerging designers of the post-90 generations for a long time. The eldest post-90s should be at their 27, newly maturing. To interview them in the Shanghai Fashion Week, I did some observation and research in depth.

Compared with the designs of the previous generations, the 20s-year-old designers share some obvious uniqueness. The most distinct point is their overseas background. Many of them graduated from Central Saint Martins College and Parsons School of Design, with apparent signs of their alma maters, especially the ones from Saint Martins. They feature the spirits of revolt and subversion, which is evident no matter what path they follow respectively.

Meanwhile, the era they were brought up in is an Internet one, a westernized one, and an abundant one, which makes them different from their predecessors.

Above all, they are bolder, or as mentioned above, feature the spirits of revolt and subversion, which can be seen from the themes of their designs. They would pay more attention to the social events, such as the equality of labor and the gender issue, as their designs, models and advertisements tends to obscure the genders. The clothes they design could suit both the male and female, which indeed partially from the trends. The model they choose are also with vague gender features, girls without obvious breasts and boys in slim shapes, and even the makeup on the models’ faces could not distinct the gender. All of them could be a kind of discussion on their gender values.

The politics and social issues are the realms that the elder designers would not engage in for the sake of many concerns. So, I would like to say, the youngsters are brave.

In addition, they care little about judgements.

The designers of the post-90s have a kind of self-admiration, and they usually would not be bothered with whether others like their works or not, as long as there is a group of fan, no matter a great pack or a small group, support them. This attitude may be shaped by the customers at the same age.

Specifically, the customers at their 30s to 50s would like to suppose the judgements from others when they are in something new, when the 20s do not take it much seriously at all. The youngsters now only focus on their own style, nothing to do with others. As a result, the combination of brave designers and the brave customers inspires a diverse fashion world for the young.

In this Shanghai Fashion Week, I was an audience of several designer brands, all for young ladies. But the styles are utterly diverse. Some are cute and adorable, and some are neutral, like SHUSHU/TONG, with exquisite sweet style. I also take an interview for MUKZIN, a brand I admire a lot, whose style can be a melting pot for all kinds of cultures, deconstructing many cultural elements. Just like the theme they launched out, “Mountains-Seas Book and the Jurassic Park”, combining the ancient orient legend with the western film. They break the edge of cultures and rebuild them as a mixture, which surprised me a lot. That a brand for ladies could goes like MUKZIN is such a unique style other than the typical lady garment.

In a word, courage and variety should be the best inclusion of the designs of the post-90s designers. They involve all kinds of theme in their designs and chase to be exclusive themselves. They are unique, but how far on earth they could go in the future, I think, may also rely on opportunities.

Q&A│Is it true that the major customers of luxuries have been the people aged between 25-35? Why?

By Christine Tsui

Translated by Rachel Wang

 

A view posted on the Zhihu.com goes that “according to Pinault, Kering’s major customer group has been the people aged under 35.” For Gucci, 50% of sales volume is thanks to the millennial generation, when in Saint Laurent, 65%, which means our key customers are only at their 25-35. This customer group pays more attention to the ready-to-wear than the last generation. However, what increases the youngster ratio in luxury consumption? Does it mean that the youngsters are growingly affluent?

It is only a trend, as I see, instead of a fait accompli.

In fact, the view of the questioner lacks the support of rigorous statistics. Objectively speaking, the average income and success in career of the 20s to 30s is not as much as the 40s to 50s. But it is trendy that more and more youngsters turn to be the luxuries customers, which can be proved by the following two points.

1.  In general, the luxury brands are under great sales pressure. Even the brands like Chanel have suffered from the slowdown of growth. In contrast, the brands mentioned as examples above are exactly the ones having made a hit on the sales performance. Their common measures in the recent years are to cater for the demands of this era, in another word, the tastes of the 20s and 30s, changing the design styles, with the elements of street fashion, sports, animated and mixed cultures, and diverging from the previously treasured styles of grace and elegancy. Meanwhile, the designs lunched against the young tastes all brings sales challenges to their brands.

2.  In addition, the luxury brands’ choices of spokesmen and the guests to their activities leans more towards to the young stars, like Angelababy, Zanilia Zhao, Kris Wu, Karry Wang, which was impossible in previous, for the luxury brands were only fond of the world-class top stars. Reviewing the choices of spokesmen before, we can find out that it is conventional for luxury brands to engage the mature males and females.

So, what makes the change?

1.  The youngsters’ great consumption ability is out of doubt.

2.  In my observation, though the luxury goods brought by the young and old are all the same, the consumer psychologies are utterly different. For the older generation, to buy luxury goods is more likely to be conspicuous consumption, while for the young, they concentrate more on the product itself (especially the designs) instead of only the logos. It may explain the success only favors the brands converting themselves to younger ones, when the stubbornly grace and elegant brands are risking the gloomy sales.

3.  What’s more, the sense of fashion is where the youngers surpass their parents. For example, the looks Gucci lunched are usually not suitable for most common people, but the 20s and 30s are skilled in mix and match with items from both luxurious Gucci and inexpensive ZARA. In the traditional times, most luxury consumers would like to pile the pricy logos on them tastelessly and showily.

4.  Meanwhile, the customers aged 40s and 50s may convert to the haute couture, which makes the traditional luxury brands lose a proportion of customers. As a result, the customer group aged 20s to 30s occupied more in the sales volumes.

 

Q&A│Is Luxury Discrimination Common in This Era?

By Christine Tsui

Translated by Rachel Wang

 

A question goes that “Is luxury discrimination common?” on the Zhihu.com, the Chinese Quora.

The questioner puts his question in this way: “A colleague recently brought a handbag for his college-graduating son, but only to get refused. The boy said he would be discriminated by the peers if he, at his 20s, used the LV things.

It is said that the college guys would judge the LV consumers are tasteless parvenus,showing off with luxuries. However, as I know some craftsmanship of the luxury brands, especially that of Hermes, I admire them a lot. So I feel such a pity that the society, to some extent, discriminates luxuries, and I would like to put up with the questions:

1. Why some people would take the person with LV handbags or Hermes belts as lacking taste?

2. As a customer of LV handbags, what kind of outfit could diminish the parvenus style? How can I avoid the blame of showing off?”

This phenomenon is quite interesting. Most people would explain it from the views of their observations or senses, so I, hoping to be inspiring, prefer a more academic approach to this issue.

Fashion is associated with class, which has been proved by many socialists, anthropologists and psychologists. You can find the reference from the following classic works.

The Psychology of Clothes  by J. C. Flugel

The Theory of the Leisure Class  by Thorestein Veblan

La Distinction : Critique sociale du jugement  by Pierre Bourdieu

Fashion and Its Social Agendas: Class, Gender, and Identity in Clothing  by Diana Crane

Besides, System de la Mode by Roland Barthes is also worthy to read.

This book reveals the methods of brands or fashion medias to confirm the readers that their social attributes, such as status and class, can be reflected by their clothing. Barthes classify clothing into three types. The clothing of material attributes, on the fabric, craft and colors, is the first type. Another type is the imaginary clothing, existing in the fascinating descriptions or pictures on fashion magazines, which persuades the customers to feel themselves sexy, slim, tasty, and belonging to a certain class or social positions. It is the clothing of symbolic meanings, embracing certain spiritual meanings. The last one should be the clothing which have been worn.

Among all three types, Barthes focuses on the imaginary type.

For example, the term of “a printed silk dress” can only indicates the material attribute of clothing.

When it comes to “a printed silk dress of grace and elegancy”, the readers would weave the “grace and elegancy” with this dress. The power of language may goes beyond our imagination. In this dress, people would label themselves with “grace and elegancy”, so these two words can represent the dress in the imagination.

In a word, it has been proved that fashion can never separate from class and status.

Now we can go back to answer the question that why does “some people discriminate luxuries”?

Above all, as an academic researcher, I would not take it as a common phenomenon. As the questioner mentioned it was his son who sniffs at LV handbag, I prefer to owe it to the diversity of consuming propensity deriving from the change of population structures. Though the age of the son is not mentioned, we can approximately calculate that he should be one of generation after 90s, even after 1995.

Actually, this generation are not as eager as their parent generation for the luxuries, which does not necessarily mean discrimination.

1. These youngsters have not experienced material shortages. They have a wide vision of handbags and clothing. The rarer the stuff is, the higher the price goes. Now that luxuries are not rare to them, they would not take luxuries seriously.

2. This generation are less restrained by other’s judgements. Their parents may deliberately show off the luxuries to prove themselves in a certain class, status or tastes. But, being more sensitive to their own feelings, the young people now would like to take the dressing issue as a personal one, nothing to do with others.

3. Luxury brands intend to be conservative to maintain an image of classics and traditions keeper. The conservation makes them lag behind the recent fashion trends and the consuming preference change. For instance, the generation after 90s are fond of the fashion-sports styles, blurring genders and going for mix-and-match dressing instead of the traditional ones, away from the classic and elegancy routine that the luxury brands emphasizes on. So, for the youngsters, luxuries are too old for their styles, or to say, more suitable for their parents.

Indeed, the luxury brands are currently challenged by a younger market, but it would happen every time the population structure fluctuated in the history. So it does not mean these brands are doomed to death. Besides, LV, as a single case, is affected severely by fake products issues, which cannot be extended to all the other luxury brands.

Q&A∣Is it possible to have an overall grasp of a certain industry in only one week? How?

By Christine Tsui

Translated by Rachel Wang

 

I believe it is achievable as long as appropriate research methods and resources are used.

Most of people could only put up with several prevalent methods, which makes most reports are virtually the same without any inspiring ideas. So I would like to share some effective but not widespread methods here.

1. Reading the financial reports of the listed companies.

The reports from the financial agencies and consulting institutions are mostly second-hand information, accessible not only to you but also to others. Actually, if you tend to learn about a certain industry, you should gain an overall view from the classification and analysis on the financial reports of the top ten firms in this industry. The report by management teams and the core financing data are the worthiest part to compare and analyze. The management reports normally contain the following parts:

* In the performance of the last year, what business area does the company achieve a lot in? What are the challenges? And where the challenges come from?

*What is the general situation of the industry? What is the trend?

*What measures would the company take to deal with the challenges and the problems?

*The core data of sales, COGS, gross margin, operating expenses and cost breakdown, the number of stores(retail performance), regional performance, product category (brands) performance, and the increase or decrease from last year and the major reason are worthy to be aware of. For an retail company, the stock is also critical, including stock-to-sales ratio, and inventory turnovers etc.

*Other financing data: debt, cash flow conditions, etc.

*The management structure deserves your attention as well.

The introduction of management (board of directors) structures and members are normally attached in the end of the financial reports, which is also crucial to learn about the industry information and make judgment of the trend. For instance, the education and career backgrounds of the management indicate a lot. If the management consists of mainly family members or school fellows, it can be easily estimated that the managing style would be the family-owned one.

2.Taking interview with experts is common to be mentioned, while few of people would suggest inviting a stranger to answer your professional questions online.

The app ZaiHang is indeed an approach to the experts, but what if you do not have much budget for that? You can write letters. However, many youngsters are not familiar with the rules of letters. Some people may have similar experiences to me, being reluctant to answer the piles of emails without clear appellations, self-introductions and even the aim of the email (with uneducated language), the sender seemingly not to knowing how to write a correct letter or email.

The expert here means the observers and insiders of the industry, staff in the upstream and downstream firms and even the separated employees.

3.Observation

Observation proves effective, especially in the retail industry. You can intensify the perceptual knowledge of this area by observing the deliberately selected representative firms or places with the passenger flow, entering rate, rate of bags, per customer transaction, monthly sales, and service or performance of clerk in the stores.

4.Research on the internet

It is widely known that internet is a giant information base. Nevertheless, the quality of the information is not uniform, so the key to online research is to distinguish the valuable from the waste.

*The reliability of the information sources

We all know that publishing house can be a guarantee of the quality publication. Each industry usually has its own certain publishing houses. For example, I would only read the economic books published by economic press, like social sciences press, instead of ones by literature and art press. So it is same to the We-Media. The professional level of the author of We-Media should be highlighted when you go for information. In general, I prefer the printed sources, for the reporters and editors are more professional than the ones online.

*The background of authors

Actually, vague background information is not my preference, for instance, “years of working experience in a certain fortune top 500”, or “a senior executive of an international prestigious brand”. But what is the firm on earth? What brand? Position? If it is not appropriate to indicate the present position, the previous career routine should be given, or I, as a reader, would doubt the reality of the background.

* Cross check of information

If you get any information from a news agency, you can check other sources whether they have mentioned the same issue. If nothing can prove the reality of the information you have, you should doubt what the original source of that information is or whether it comes from an independent investigation. Dealing with the significant details, you should trace the first-hand information.

*Logical reasoning

Much data from the industry analysis is concluded from logical reasoning of the writers. Without definite correct standards in the business field, the basic logic of business is essential among the various data.

If a company claims the number of its stores and the gross sale of a year, you can calculate the income of each store, comparing the results and with the average level with the same distribution channels and store area. In fact, many media reports data with misunderstandings, for some journalists do not comprehend the business logic, so they only to write whatever other people say.

5.In addition to the professional consultancy and securities reports mentioned above, some professional academic websites are also very worthy of attention.

Such as CNKI( Chinese National Knowledge Infrastructure), the biggest e-library in China, has a collection of national newspapers, magazines, periodicals and papers(not all in high quality though) etc, so you can search the information you want conveniently, and at least much more reliable from most We-Medias. If English is not an obstacle for you, you can search some academic database of English materials, which, however, may demand certifications. Besides, some local libraries are free to access.

6.Appropriate research methods

In the terms of methods, I recommend the contextual analysis and text analysis. (Both of them are qualitative analyses, and quantitative analysis methods have been widespread.) They are quite hard to acquire. But if you master them, it would be useful to analysis information and make you a truly outstanding consultant. For myself, I could perceive what others ignore in reading through this method.

How to judge the Chinese designers? Is Yohji Yamamoto right?

By Christine Tsui

Translated by Rachel Wang

Recently an essay about the comment of Chinese designers by Yohji Yamamoto seemingly struck a chord, and even several of my friends have re-posted the article. However, it may contain some misleading descriptions and analysis, so I would like to post my view on it below.

The original source:

How do you judge the Chinese designers? Yohji Yamamoto: It May be Inappropriate to say on TV.

Utterly getting rid of Japanese style?

In the original text, Yohji Yamamoto holes that, in the 1980s, he never identified himself as Japanese, and eliminated any Japanese elements in his design.

On this issue, we can refer to the book The Fashion Conspiracy published in 1989. Besides, in the book of Japanese Designers’ Fashion Revolution in Paris, written by a Japanese author in 2005 when Yohji Yamamoto had just built his fame, an interview of him and Rei Kawakubo recorded can be the evidence.

In the interview, the two designers were organizing their first show in Paris. In the consideration of the deliberately variation from the typical French fashion, they sought for the inspiration from the dressing of Japanese peasants at last. At that time, few of Europeans had met Japanese peasants, so it was definitely a crafty way of innovation.

They were shrewd indeed, utilizing a series of different design strategies from French ones. Symmetry was highly valued in French fashion, so they designed in dissymmetry; colorful in French fashion, pale colors of black and grey only in their designs; exquisiteness in French, rough looks in their design, which is also out of Japanese appreciation, deliberately to show the semi-finished dressing on the stage; emphasizing the curves of women in French, covering the body in their looks; luxury in French styles, simplicity in their styles.

In a word, the design strategy that won the fame for them was indeed partially from the Japanese culture and aesthetics.

How to interpret nationalism?

1.  The interpretation of nationalism in the original text is much narrow.

Actually, nationalism matters in all the countries around the world. “It is the USA that values nationalism most, instead of China.” The only discrepancy lies in the various educations and expressions.

2.  In the fashion industry, Chinese designers are thought to be heavily burdened by the traditional elements, and the western designers are free from it.

However, this ideology may come from the lack of historical knowledge. In the fashion history, the designers from the US, Italy and Britain once competed with the French designers, aiming to overwhelm the French and spread the US fashion, Italian fashion or British fashion in the world. What they utilized to break the ceiling were exactly their local cultures.

3.  “Dynamic is a common feature for all cultures of, instead of being still.”

In the dynamic evolution, exchanges and influences never stop, which makes cultures consistently interpenetrate. In the latest 100 years, western fashions affect the east, but 100 years ago, the eastern fashion was the symbol of luxury and power in the west.

4.  Nationalism is not an error. We should embrace all sorts of nationalism with different cultural positions, but not to be supercilious or self-conceited standing on our own nationalism.