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On Trend

It’s fair to say, today’s consumer has never had more choice. As international retailers arrive on new shores and the online world continues to dissolve market borders, demand for real time access to the latest fashion trends has become ingrained in the psyche of the global shopper.

“Everything is so much more accessible now - shoppers are tapping into what’s happening all over the world regardless of the season or the market,” says Craig Webb, Cotton On’s Menswear Trend Forecaster

“Trends are becoming global very quickly. If people are looking at US sites, for example, then very soon they are going to see what trends are popping up there. If people in Australia start buying into that trend, then it has reach and very quickly we start to see things spread around the world,” he says.

The new shopping landscape

Keeping up with the demands of increasingly savvy customers in a retail market that is becoming more and more saturated is no easy feat. International retailers like H&M, ASOS, Uniqlo and Top Shop have arguably been the trail blazers, emerging as industry power houses thanks to their capacity to capture the latest trends and deliver them into store at an affordable price.

The rise of these global brands has shaped a new shopping landscape – one that no longer centers around seasonal or quarterly drops but rather continual injections of what’s ‘hot’ and, most importantly, what’s ‘now’.

Deloitte’s 2015 Global Powers of Retailing report highlighted Fast Retailing as one of the five top trends in the industry, continuing the decade long shift towards a faster fashion environment.

“In 2015, expect retailing to get even faster to meet consumers’ desires. Millennials will be driving much of this as they are the largest generation, with a lot of spending power, and carry a lot of influence. They prefer fast response and immediate gratification, and retailers will cater to that.”

Tapping into this demand has been one of the key factors in helping the Cotton On Group establish its position alongside the industry’s big international players. Underpinned by its founding proposition of on-trend, value products that continue to drive its eight brands today, the Group is now one of the fastest growing retailers in the world.

“Our success is based on our ability to stay ahead of the retail curve,” says Julie Christy, Group Executive, Business and Product Innovation for the Cotton On Group.

“We intrinsically understand what our customers expect across each of our global markets and have the right model, systems and people in place to allow us to meet those expectations.”

The trend spotters

Ensuring the products that are delivered into the Group’s network of over 1,300 stores are up to the minute, whilst reflective of each brand’s DNA, is the core focus for the business’ in-house trend forecasters.

The team is charged with the responsibility of scouring the globe to identify the latest looks as they emerge.

“Being a global company really helps as it give us an opportunity to always be travelling and seeing what is popping up in regional areas, so we’re able to get good local insight,” Mr Webb says.

Information gathered from scouting missions, which take place four times a year, are bolstered by local insights provided by the Group’s country hubs in Singapore, South Africa, New Zealand, USA and Brazil. They play a critical role in feeding back real time information, allowing global trends to be continually engineered to meet the needs of the local customer base.

With trends popping up as fast as the latest fashion blog, social media post, or online publication update, Mr Webb says the digital space is also an invaluable tool in understanding what’s happening on the global scene.

“Not only trend forecasting websites like WGSN but fashion bloggers and street photographers online really help to identify what is happening too, particularly from a street level perspective.”

Translating these trends to best fit the aesthetics of its individual brands is one of the ingredients to the Group’s success. Clearly defined positions in the market and an innate understanding of the expectations of their customers helps determine what trends need to be picked up.

“(For Cotton On) we have a specific filter that we put over all decisions, a list of questions that we use to make sure it fits with the brand DNA. Casual Australian style is at the top of the list. If something doesn’t quite fit that description, then we have a problem,” Webb says.

This is an excerpt from the Cotton On Group's publication The Issue. To read the full article click here.

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