As the lingerie industry prepares to push into 2014 and a brand new year of trading, Sarah Blackman looks back on the major issues of 2013 and the key lessons to be taken from the last 12 months.
1) The highstreet isn’t dead, yet
In September, Mary “Queen of Shops” Portas warned that big chains will never return to the high street due to a rise in online shopping, and blamed government ministers for not acting on her plans to rejuvenate town centres.
She was later criticised by veteran retailer Bill Grimsey for failing to tackle the rapid closure of high street stores since publishing her retail review, which he labelled as “little more than a PR stunt”.
But despite predictions of death on the high street, 8,769 independent stores opened between January and July – 424 more than the 8,295 shops that closed in the same period.
On another positive note, high street sales rose for four months in a row between April and July, boosted by the warm weather. In fact, like-for-like retail sales rose 2.2% and total sales 3.9% in July, the best performance since July 2006, the British Retail Consortium said.
Sales fell unexpectedly in October, but UK retailers are set to see sales levels reach £85.2 billion in the Christmas trading period, the highest growth since the financial crisis, according to market research specialist Verdict.
2) Ethical lingerie could change the world
A survey by YouGov revealed an increased consumer demand for ethically-made apparel.
The poll, conducted on behalf of the Global Poverty Project’s “See Through Fashion” campaign, showed that 78% of participants believe UK clothing companies lack transparency concerning the conditions under which their goods are made.
Meanwhile, 74% said they would not mind a 5% increase in apparel prices if it meant labourers received fair wages and had safe working environments.
In an interview with Lingerie Insight back in September, sustainable brands spoke about the importance of looking after their supply chain and making sure they think about the impact that their business decisions have on the environment, without compromising on the quality of their designs.
Pants to Poverty, which focuses on organic farming to improve biodiversity in Indian cotton fields, said it wants to prove how fashion can change the world.
3) Online showrooms gave retailers a new place to trade
Former Maidenform executive George Hardy set up an online space for retailers and brands in the intimate apparel industry to buy and sell lingerie, hosiery and swimwear.
Intimates247 cuts the cost of attending a trade show and allows buyers to order stock 24/7, 365 days a year.
The company joined Pop Market and Yourbrandspace, which were set up in the last two years, in their quest to allow fashion wholesale retailers from all over the world the chance to find new labels and products for their stores.
The internet transformed the consumer world, giving the public a platform to shop away from the high street. Now, buyers and vendors could reap the same benefits.
4) The Fifty Shades effect is still strong
EL James’ best-selling trilogy sent erotic lingerie sales soaring in 2012, with Leia Lingerie reporting an 82% increase in basque sales year-on-year. And in 2013, the Fifty Shades effect showed no signs of fizzling out.
In July, Lingerie Insight learned that Bluebella would launch the official Fifty Shades of Grey lingerie and underwear collection in the UK and Ireland in SS14.
The brand said the range will be available to consumers ahead of the trilogy’s hotly-anticipated first film, to be premiered in the UK on August 1, 2014.
5) The laws of work-place monitoring
Following allegations made by a former MJM International employee that a bugging device had been placed into his office plant pot, fashion lawyers were inundated with questions from clients as to the extent to which employees may be lawfully monitored.
Tim O’Callaghan, a partner in Druces LLP, addressed the matter in a column for Lingerie Insight, stating that “placing a recording device in an employee’s plant pot to record conversations will rarely be justified, and if employers and potential employers want to gather information on staff they should do so in a way that is both proportionate and transparent.”
6) One size never fits all
Swimwear labels including Su Marie launched mix and match collections to ensure that all body sizes and shapes are catered for and not limited by a ‘one size fits all’ approach to sizing. Meanwhile, Charnos Hosiery released a range of tights and knee highs that are custom-made for plus size women.
The brand is doing away with the industry-standard small to extra large sizes and introducing Light Shape (dress size 16-20), Medium Shape (22-26) and Full Shape (28-32). New approaches to sizing were also tapped into this year, including ‘thermovision’.
Polish lingerie manufacturer Corin said it has created the “perfect” bra cup model after teaming up Lodz University of Technology and a leading breast disease specialist. The researchers carried out a thermographic study to visualize interactions between the surface of a bra and a woman’s body to create the model. Corin intends to use the results as a guideline for its future manufacturing processes.
7) How to embrace digital retail
Sales of lingerie made through mobile devices jumped 341% globally in the first half of this year, according to research by Rakuten Marketing, indicating the need for retailers to concentrate on pushing web sales.
A study by marketing expert Tradedoubler also found that 70% of connected shoppers use their mobiles to research the best possible price.
Dan Cohen, regional director for the UK and Ireland at Tradetoubler advised in September that “implementing an effective multi-channel approach” via blogs, social media, email marketing and microsites to support retailers’ high street presence is crucial.