Style parties, direct mail catalogs and dressing-room-to-go are just a few survival tactics for women’s fashion.

    While talking with a retail futurist for Walmart in September she predicted a lot of outcomes. People will change where they live, home anything (office, school, gym, entertainment, security) will thrive. And women’s fashion? Gone. Gone like your dad’s acid washed denim cargo shorts gone.

    So where does that leave the Talbots, Ann Taylors, Evereves and Christopher and Banks of the world. Female apparel retailers are testing new ideas to see if women can be cajoled into buying at their previous rates. A difficult request given that most professional women are only seen these days from the shoulders up.

    Nevertheless, you have to give them credit for these creative ideas. Other retailers could benefit from looking at these ideas and test adapting them for their shops as well. I can imagine bookstores, hoe decor shops and gift stores using similar ideas.

    3 Tactics for Fashion Retailers

    Style Parties at C&B

    Christopher and Banks/C&B has a loyal following with the over-50 set and school teachers everywhere. I have enjoy their tongue-in-cheek ugly sweater Christmas ornaments. This year, they reached back to peer pressure-filled home parties that sold millions of dollars of Tupperware to create “Style Parties.”

    Style Parties offer shoppers 40% off their purchase when they schedule shopping with friends at stores before, during or after hours. Presumably, women will feel more comfortable in a brick and mortar store when they are surrounded by people they know. It is shopping combined with catching up with friends. Honestly, I think this is a win-win when the parties occur during selected store hours. Let’s face it, the stores are not busy. So making them available for private shopping parties brings in traffic and the 40% off discount might actually be enough to get women to mask up and leave the house.

    But C&B did not execute it well on their website. There is nothing on their website to help a shopper set up one of these “style parties.” Which is an example of how retailers struggle to bring omnichannel to life. Retailers must recognize that shoppers expect to be able to access anything from any platform.

    Nevertheless, this store event could help them lift traffic during off-peak hours.

    The private shopping experience is an idea that could be adapted by most independent retailers who have a strong email list and loyal shoppers who are nervous about entering a brick and mortar store.

    Dressing Room To Go At Evereve

    Buried 32 pages into the fall 2020 direct mailed catalog from Evereve, is the “take your dressing room to go” concept. Evereve was formerly “Hot Mama” (Can we say what an upgrade that name change is?) It skews to a more youthful and trendy woman than C&B. Shoppers are instructed to:

    1. Select a store location and pickup time
    2. Answer some quick questions about their shape and style
    3. Choose the items they love (plus the store stylists will add a few more items the “love for you.”
    4. Pick up the “dressing room” in store and try on the pieces at home – without waiting for a package in the mail
    5. Shoppers have 2 days to try before they buy. Then they can keep what they wish and bring back the rest.

    First, what Evereve gets right in this approach is the “ways to shop” tab on their website which help omnichannel shoppers find a seamless shopping experience. Shoppers are charge $20 on a credit card (on file) making it easy for shoppers to “keep what they love” and complete the sale. It also puts some skin in the game for shoppers to make up their minds quickly. Thus, solving the problem that stitchfix and others have found that delays sales.

    What Evereve is banking on is that inventory out of the store is inventory sold. And, that unsold products will quickly return to the store. So, its a calculated risk – but a low risk when in store traffic is as low as it is.

    Direct Mail Catalogs

    Women’s fashion and even home decor are pumping more money into their direct mail catalogs than last year. They are amping up content and mailing lists as they search for every way to pump volume back to pre-covid rates. Holiday gift guides will flood America’s mailboxes at levels unseen in years. For a country that has turned its back on paper catalogs, they bring a sense of nostalgia and careful, comfortable entertainment to home-bound shoppers.

    For retailers whose shoppers long for the physical satisfaction of “going to the mall,” reaching even further back to catalog shopping could be an effective channel. Certainly, instagram and pinterest shopping channels are critical for women’s fashion retailers, but direct mail is not to be counted out for delivering holiday sales in 2020.

    Because let’s face it: it’s a weird year.

    Will it work?

    So the big question is: will these survival tactics for women’s fashion work? Can retailers break through the clutter with direct mail catalogs? Can they motivate shoppers to buy from brick and mortar with a private party? Is the BOPIS twist of “dressing room to go” going to resonate with female fashion shoppers? What do you think? Do you hav other examples of survival tactics for women’s fashion?