As the lines between nightwear, loungewear, outerwear and activewear become increasingly blurred, brands and retailers will be offered new and exciting opportunities to grow their businesses, according to an industry panel of experts.
On the panel:
Jens Noll: Product director, Jockey Europe & International
Stéphane Guerin: Director general, Marjolaine
Mark Tweed: Brand director, Cyberjammies
Ashley Spendlove: Sales and marketing manager, Slenderella
Trudy Pijnaker: Manager of operations, Seraphina by Leg Avenue
How has nightwear evolved over the last couple of seasons in terms of new innovations, shapes and styles?
Ashley Spendlove: We have noticed a change from the traditional styling and shapes. The industry has become more fashion driven and consumers are now comfortable buying stronger prints and colours. New technologies have also developed in recent years, allowing us to source unique and exclusive fabrics made from materials such as bamboo and silk. I know the ladies in our design team work tirelessly sourcing new fabrics, prints and designs to keep the ranges fresh and innovative.
Trudy Pijnaker: Women now look for nightwear that’s suitable for wearing around the house. Clothes are a means of self-expression, and this extends to nightwear as well. Fashionable women want to look good day and night. Nightwear has to be comfortable, but it also needs to look feminine and fashionable at the same time. Seraphina meets these expectations like no other brand has done before. The fabrics are comfortable to wear and the styles are fashionable and feminine.
Jens Noll: Nightwear has moved more into a cosy, multifunctional loungewear in light and soft fabrics. Modern and fashionable loungewear is the key, with different styles offered to mix and match. For example, sporty styles like jogging pants combined with cuffs and A-line shirts create a new look.
What is driving innovation in the market?
Mark Tweed: For us, it’s always about fabric. In a price-sensitive market there’s really no substitute for having beautifully soft products that look great. We’re all about developing gorgeous nightwear that the customer falls in love with the moment she touches it – before she’s even noticed the price. There are certainly some interesting fabrics out there that specialise in moisture management/temperature control and even moisturising. From our perspective, softness is key.
Ashley Spendlove: Contemporary, younger styles are certainly becoming more prominent within the market place. Consumers are looking to dress younger whilst still feeling that they are wearing a quality garment. In 2014, the main trend in nightwear was garments crossing over into outerwear. Has this trend continued into SS15 and AW15?
Jens Noll: Yes. Outerwear is also moving more into loungewear, especially with new knit qualities.
Mark Tweed: Absolutely. Jogger pants continue to be hugely popular, particularly in lightweight fabrics. The lines between loungewear, yoga clothing, sportswear and nightwear have become really blurred. We also find that many of our pretty camis, shorts and chemises are being bought as beachwear and sundresses.
Stéphane Guerin: Yes. Each season our customers sell more of our products, not only as nightwear, but also as day wear. I think that the apparel sector is not going to stop moving in that direction any time soon.
What other trends are you seeing in this sector?
Jens Noll: We’ve seen a mix of different styles. For example, sporty mixed with romantic elements ,like lace in combination with jogger pants in American fleece. We’re also seeing a trend for a mix of prints, such as vintage styles in combination with modern graphics.
Ashley Spendlove: Consumers still look for natural fibres, such as 100% cotton, which is something Slenderella specialises in. We have also noticed an increased demand for alternative natural fibres, such as Modal, especially within our export markets. Loungewear has been a growth area for us, with consumers looking to relax in a luxury dressing gown or leisure pyjama when they arrive home after a hard day at work.
How have you seen retailers’ and consumers’ buying habits change over the past few seasons?
Trudy Pijnaker: It used to be a gift-driven business, but nightwear has now become a more of a self-purchase business. Consumers buy nightwear throughout the year. Buying fashionable, feminine and comfortable nightwear is a treat for women. It can make women feel good about the way they look and it boosts self-confidence.
Mark Tweed: The market remains price sensitive and there’s so much choice available. It’s a challenge to build brand loyalty as more and more new labels appear. Unless you can really make your products stand out, customer’s will often leave as quickly as they’ve entered. Customers have so many buying options now that you have to get the basics absolutely right both online and in stores. Great products at reasonable prices with good stock availability and, of course, regular newness are key in this tough market.
Jens Noll: The most important change in consumption habits is that nightwear is moving into multifunctional loungewear. These items can be worn at night, but also at home, in the garden and on the beach. Retailers and brands are capitalising on this to make more business.
Has the Fifty Shades effect had a negative impact on sales of comfy and functional nightwear?
Mark Tweed: Not for us. We’ve had our best year to date over the last 12 months. In fact the launch of our new collection, Nora Rose, which is definitely more of a classic, timeless range, would suggest the reverse. It’s gained instant traction and sales in our existing Cyberjammies customer base. That said, I think the trend towards the provocative side and the adult offering of lingerie and nightwear started before 50 Shades burst onto the scene. It’s rare to see a brand with these product areas with an empty stand at the trade fairs. As the saying goes, sex sells!
Ashley Spendlove: I suppose there has been some effect, but I think that the two areas are polarised. It’s like comparing high heeled shoes to wellington boots. You wouldn’t walk through a muddy field in your six inches stilettos, would you? I think there will always be a place for practical, functioning nightwear, especially during winter to keep the heating bills down!
What more can retailers do to push the sales of nightwear and loungewear?
Stéphane Guerin: Retailers can push the sales of nightwear and loungewear by encouraging consumers to use the products in different ways. For instance, a nightdress can be worn at bedtime, but the same product can also be worn as a slip under a smart suit. By offering these multi-use ideas, I think retailers will be able to sell more nightwear.
Jens Noll: The best way to push the sales is to create fashion themes. Fashion is important and the consumer needs to get inspired by this.
Trudy Pijnaker: They should always come up with fresh new ideas, be authentic and true to the brand’s identity. The market is constantly changing and brands must adapt quickly to these changes without losing the brand’s identity. For Seraphina, its brand identity is already established by designing styles that are feminine, fashionable and comfortable all in one.
Mark Tweed: I think this question is best aimed at us as brands and suppliers; what more can we do to excite our retail customers with products they love? If we constantly update our offer, our retail customers are instantly engaged in the brand and product. The rest is easy.
Where do you see the future of the nightwear and loungewear markets heading?
Ashley Spendlove: Onwards and upwards, hopefully! I think it’s very important to consider new styles and trends when designing new garments. Ultimately though, at Slenderella, we find that the quality of our products and excellent customer service is very important. This gives buyers the confidence to support the company season after season.
Trudy Pijnaker: Leg Avenue believes that, within the nightwear market, there is room for a fashion brand. Customers will seek out more diversity within this market. Even though the market won’t grow, there is room for change. The nightwear market has room for something different, and this is the reason we created Seraphina, a new fashionable nightwear band.
Stéphane Guerin: We predict that nightwear and loungewear markets will continue to grow as more consumers seek out different and unique products. We are constantly seeking to adapt and evolve to meet the demands and expectations of all of our special clients.
Mark Tweed: Nightwear will always be a tough market and is unlikely to see significant total growth. However, the blurring of outerwear and nightwear will continue and offer new opportunities for active brands to gain incremental growth and business.