The thrill of buying cheap products is starting to fade – which has meant better business for EU brands.
It was refreshing to visit a trade fair where no one was focusing on price! While price is still a factor, an important one for the mass-market sector, at least in Europe it is not the dealmaker (or deal breaker) that it is elsewhere in the world.
Instead, the European brands are increasingly leveraging their expertise in creativity and quality to beat the market. But will consumers actually pay more for something better? From what brands told us, they will – but they have to be convinced that what they are getting has some added value, and that ‘added value’ must something that they feel is valuable to them.
“Before, people wanted cheap products. Now they realize that ‘cheap’ means poor quality,” said Sander Wisselink at LingaDore (Netherlands), adding that consumers ‘spending more for better quality’ was a growing trend.
“The European market is changing, retailers want more information about the product in order to be better able to sell it, and consumers want to know more details about products before they buy them,” he told Inside Fashion.
The move away from price-driven selling has resulted in an improvement in business for many brands.
“Business is better this year. The EU business is growing and our January to May sales are up 5 percent year-on-year, said Federic Pueyo at Aubade. “Most women don’t need a bra, they want a bra. Our products are not basics, they are more of an impulse buy,” he said, explaining the critical role that good quality materials and design play in driving sales.
American sleepwear brand Eberjey also reported that business was good. The company’s bestseller is a luxurious Model jersey knit pajama set that retails from $125-130. What makes it so appealing is the ultra soft, cool hand feel that comes from using Model in a knitted fabric.
“We’re having a great year, the sell through has been very strong,” said Alicia Bilbao, vice president of global sales.
“It’s not about the market, it’s about finding the right customer who understands your brand,” she said. “We keep looking for creative ways to engage and excite our customers in order to offset a more difficult retail environment. We are very customer focused…we really listen and understand what she wants.”
Part of the move towards better quality is improved fit.
“We are trying to encourage women to get properly fitted,” said Sophie Lacey at Panache Lingerie (UK). The company makes different style bras for different body types, including a brand called Sculptresse that offers fashionable, sexy intimates for plus-sizes.
“We pride ourselves on offering ‘everyday comfort with style’. A bra needs to fit, but consumers also want it to look good too,” she explained.
Cosabella has always relied on innovation to drive sales. One of their bestsellers is a maternity pajamas and bra. “We too our bestselling soft bra and made it into a maternity bra,” said Guido Campello, CEO and creative director. Extended sizes are selling well, as is fashion for plus sizes. The company has introduced a new size range called ‘Curvy’ for small women who have fuller busts. Being able to serve these niche markets has opened up new opportunities for Cosabella.
While the primary focus is on the European market, there is increasing attention being paid to Russia. Brands are reporting that the consumer market there is rebounding, particularly the better end of the market.
“Russia is complicated…you need good communication with your partners and need to work with them to find solutions,” said Andrey Prijma at Orhideja, referring to challenges such as payment terms, delivery times and quantities. The Latvia-based intimate apparel brand produces about 50-60 thousand pieces per month and exports most of its products to Russia.
Amoralle, a Latvian intimate apparel brand was also reporting that business was good.
“Lingerie manufacturing started during the Soviet Union days and continued after the nation broke up. Many small companies stayed in business and have good legacy craftsmen who can do handwork. It is this handwork that gives our products ‘personality’,” explained Kristine Lizandere.
Her company, which produces elegant nightwear in satin and velvet trimmed with rich lace, mainly sells to the Russian market and the Gulf region. Products retail from US$250-350 and business is good.
We’re now expanding into the EU and US market, said Ms. Lizandere, adding that she was getting a good response from both markets.