A Year of Change
As a tumultuous year dawns, we ponder what could be making waves over 2019 as it unfolds
One hopes you are refreshed emotionally and spiritually at the start of a New Year. This point is frequently a point of reflection, coming fast on the heels of the thoughts and summaries of last year’s problems, excitements and arguments.
We live in a period of utterly unprecedented societal, materialistic and economic change and uncertainty; as one area of our lives becomes ever more internet based, another area collapses – the endless debate about high street retail has risen in the public consciousness and is a discussion that is not going to go away.
In our own little microcosm, we can see at Riddle the impact of far larger economic and historical trends clashing together, no individual can completely escape them, that same individual is also the immediate consumer so brands must be aware and, they hope, ahead of the curve.
So what of this coming year…?
The problems afflicting the high street and the potential dominance of internet retail has raised questions galore about shops’ survival. That consumers now spend on experiences rather than goods has been an accepted trend for some time now. When shopping people demand an experience, they demand engagement, attention, conversation, education – all those small human interactions that create a bond. Traditionally British firms – especially at the high end of the market – have excelled at this. The problem for smaller internet-based brands is how to replicate this distinctive service in the digital sphere. We know of several firms who have sent hand written thank you notes with orders, expect those who go the extra mile to thrive in 2019.
Specialism and control:
With the increasing maturity of the internet, why struggle at a soulless shop or one stop internet site full of concessions and multi brand listings when searching for an item? Nike announced at the end of 2018, it would favour a very small number of retail partners – 40 as opposed to the current 30,000 – moving forwards so the emphasis would be on e-com via its own site and controlled, and experience driven, physical retail via preferred partners.
At a smaller British craft level, the search for concession placement – the holy grail of Selfridges – may be getting less important. A direct to consumer relationship through your website and a focus on a very small number, or single stores, that become a mecca for both the curious and loyal will be key in 2019. In your own space you can control to quality of the service, the atmosphere and the ambiance.
With the internet allowing consumer research alongside the widely covered backlash of Burberry’s burning of £28 million worth of stock, the era of growing a brand by adding product lines galore just stamped with your lapel could well be coming to an end. Tightly curated and specialised lines with controlled supply from the design to workshop construction to the client offering will be the name of the game this year.
The rise of e-com has led to the rise in courier companies, ever worse congestion and increased pollution – especially in London. Not only are all courier companies not equal (Riddle had several deliveries go rogue at the end of last year), as work gets more frenetic, do we have the time to wait around all day for our package?
The Blue Planet inspired awareness about our environmental impact will also begin to hit e-com. Frequently their packaging is ludicrously over the top; on top of the actually brands packaging and wrapping, you then have an unnecessary extra layer of boxes and tissue paper simply to show you got your brand through another brand – which when put down in plain English makes you wonder why you didn’t deal straight with the original brand, and allow them to keep a little more of their profit in return for the pleasurable purchase.
Big e-com players will have to tackle their waste, less will be more in 2019.
The flip side of the coin to specialism, those companies that know their mind and their specialism will do well in 2019. Those that are bloated, have strayed too far from their raison d’etre cannot survive in the current market place where there is so much choice and the consumer has the pick of specialist retailers in every area from leather, adventure travel, drones to sparkling wine. With economic storm clouds on the horizon those firms who know who they are, what they stand for and tightly control their product are winners.
We all know Facebook had a terrible 2018 and saw out the year on stories swirling around about how it could track you even if you very deliberately opted out of all it’s own location trackers. Twitter has recently had a lot of confidential information about German politicians leaked all over it. Expect privacy and security to continue to merge this year. If brands want ever more digitally aware people to part with their data they are going to have to work harder to prove trustworthy of it.