What Fashion Retail Professionals Need to Know Today

Discover the most relevant industry news and insights for fashion professionals working in retail, updated each month to enable you to excel in job interviews, promotion conversations or perform better in the workplace by increasing your market awareness and emulating market leaders.

BoF Careers distills business intelligence from across the breadth of our content — editorial briefings, newsletters, case studies, podcasts and events — to deliver key takeaways and learnings tailored to your job function, listed alongside a selection of the most exciting live jobs advertised by BoF Careers partners.

Explore global job opportunities in retail on BoF Careers today, from a sales manager at Bloomingdale’s and a store operations assistant at Burberry to a client advisor at Prada Group or a retail merchandiser at Carhartt WIP.

Key articles and need-to-know insights for retail professionals today:

1. European Retailers Risk Dressing-Down From Investors as Consumers Flinch

European retailers have been unlikely stock market stars this year, but a long spell of high borrowing costs and inflation has started to bite, so wary investors will be looking for reassurances from the likes of H&M and Zara-owner Inditex when they issue business updates this week. Last year, investors and strategists expected retailers’ margins to take a hit, as inflation eroded households’ discretionary spending, and some of the region’s heavyweights warned of tough months ahead.

This gloomy forecast did not play out, with retailers largely able to pass costs on to consumers as demand proved more resilient than initially feared. Much of what happens next will depend on how the economy holds up, according to Florian Ielpo, head of macroeconomics at Multi Asset Group Lombard Odier Asset Management. “To see the sector’s further progress, we need this late cycle context to continue and not become a recession: there, a soft-landing is of the essence,” he said, referring to the central bank’s ability to bring inflation down without pushing the economy into recession.

2. How Adidas Is Introducing a New Generation to Its Oldest Sneakers

The new campaign will shine a light on the different subcultures that have adopted the cult sneakers over the years

Adidas Originals is getting a makeover. This month, the German sportswear giant will launch a new campaign along with a fresh “visual identity” for Adidas Originals, its 51-year-old fashion and lifestyle division. It’s part of the brand’s strategy to capitalise on the surging popularity of franchises like the Samba and Gazelle, which have replaced Nike’s Dunks as the latest “it” sneakers among young, fashion-forward consumers over the past year and a half.

The resurgence of Adidas’ lifestyle sneakers came at an opportune time for the company, which was left with a €1.2 billion ($1.3 billion) hole in its balance sheet following the costly termination of its Yeezy sneaker partnership with rapper Ye in October 2022. (The company has since recouped a significant amount in orders since it began selling its backlog of unreleased Yeezys in May).

3. Inside the Transformation of Retail Careers

Two employees working in a fashion retail store

As a result of physical retail’s shifting fortunes over the past five years, the nature of a career in retail has changed significantly, encompassing new responsibilities to reflect new store experiences. Store staff could now be expected to: host in-store events and community experiences; offer service touchpoints for consumers’ educational and omnichannel needs; provide digital clienteling and style advisory services; manage distribution and online returns; even contribute to some brands’ social output.

Such responsibilities reflect the potential for more varied opportunities within a retail career path today — but they are increasingly foisted upon an employee cohort that already feels undervalued and underpaid. Consequently, many retailers are struggling to fill store roles or effectively retain those on their shop floor. The latest BoF Careers’ white paper delves into how retailers can reimagine staffing practices to unlock growth, increase retention and improve the perception of retail careers as in-store talent becomes more critical than ever to success.

4. Birkenstock Files for US IPO

Birkenstock storefront

Birkenstock has filed for an initial public offering with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. The German footwear brand, which is owned by LVMH-backed private equity firm L Catterton, plans to list on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol BIRK. The number of shares as well as the expected range of the share price, was not included in the filing, though previous reports estimated the brand could be valued at as much as $10 billion. That number would represent a significant jump from 2021, when L Catteron acquired Birkenstock for €4 billion (then about $4.3 billion).

In the filing, Birkenstock reported €1.2 billion ($1.3 billion) in revenue in the 2022 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30. As well, it reported a profit of €187 million ($201 million). There has been a bit of an uptick in IPO activity in the fashion and beauty space as of late. Most recently, beauty tech platform Oddity, which was also backed by L Catterton, went public in July, fetching a valuation of $1.5 billion.

5. Fast Fashion’s Bright Present and Cloudy Future

Zara store exterior with customer entering in the store doors.

These are good times for Zara and its owner Inditex. The chain is one of the lucky few outside the luxury space whose customers stayed loyal even as prices rose and Shein steamrolled other fast-fashion retailers. Zara is investing in more stores to meet surging post-pandemic demand for physical retail, and has room to grow in the US, where its brand is well known but not yet ubiquitous. Consumer appetite for fast fashion looks set to grow and grow.

But regulators have cheap clothes in their sights. In July, the European Commission called fast fashion “highly unsustainable.” It is drafting some 16 pieces of legislation to force retailers to assume financial and legal responsibility for the environmental footprint of the clothes they produce. California and New York are also considering tougher eco-regulations for the industry. No wonder then that Inditex and its chief rivals talk almost as much about resale and textile recycling initiatives as booming sales. The difference in scale is staggering, however: earlier this year, for instance, Inditex invested €3.5 million ($3.75 million) in Moda Re, a Spanish company that processes used clothes for resale or recycling; that’s roughly equal to the sales Inditex generates in an hour.

6. Why Student Loans Are Retail’s Latest Headache

Forty-five million American consumers will have to account for a new expense this fall as the three-year pause on student loan interest accruement ends. Retailers resilient to the shock will be those that offer a distinct assortment of products while conveying a sense of value.

The US moratorium on student loan interest ended this month, which means 45 million consumers will face a new monthly expense come October — dollars otherwise earmarked for new clothes, vacations and other discretionary purchases. About 62 percent of people with student loans said they will cut their budgets when payments resume after the three-year pause that began in March 2020, according to Cowen’s consumer survey conducted in June. Of these consumers, 48 percent expect to spend less on clothes, 43 percent on personal care products and 34 percent on luxury goods.

So far this year, consumer spending has remained resilient despite concerns of a possible recession. In July, US retail sales unexpectedly rose 0.7 percent from June amid cooling but persistent inflation. By comparison, in the UK and Europe, sales decelerated in June, the latest data shows. But, economists say American consumer spending is bound to slow down more significantly at some point in the future, not only because student loan payments will resume this fall but also due to the accumulation of other forms of debt. Americans have racked up more than $1 trillion in credit card debt as of the second quarter of 2023, according to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

7. US Retail Workers Are Fed Up and Quitting at Record Rates

US retail workers are fed up and quitting at record rates.

To be a US retail worker in 2023 means fielding an onslaught of growing American anxieties about everything from high prices to politics. Increasingly, some workers say the job isn’t worth the wages. Low pay, erratic schedules and monotonous tasks have long been a challenge for the nearly 8 million Americans working in retail, but the pandemic years have added a host of taxing new duties. Employees must cope with an uptick in shoplifting and customer orneriness. They manage online orders and run up and down the aisles to unlock items as quotidian as toothpaste.

The declining worker experience follows a tough decade for retailers. Stores that survived the “retail apocalypse” have had to find ways to cut costs and boost profits with fewer shoppers. For many, particularly small brands, that has meant reducing headcount, or finding other ways to bring in money. Physical locations increasingly double as returns and logistics centres, as companies build out hybrid online and offline services. The early years of the pandemic brought a slight respite, as people stuck at home spent their time — and stimulus checks — on online shopping. But that quickly gave way to supply chain issues that snarled inventories and the era of high inflation.

8. H&M Taps Heron Preston as Creative Menswear Advisor

Preston will consult on H&M's mainline menswear and also create his own signature collections for the retailer.

H&M has recruited streetwear designer Heron Preston to be an in-house advisor, forming what the company calls a “long-term partnership” that will yield Preston’s own seasonal capsule collections for the brand as well as his input on H&M’s main menswear line. The Swedish fast fashion giant, like many other accessible brands, is no stranger to collaborations. Since the early 2000s, H&M has brokered annual collaborations with some of fashion’s biggest names, including Maison Margiela, Stella McCartney and Versace.

But with Heron Preston, H&M is breaking its decades-old playbook on collaborations. Instead of investing in the short-term hype that comes with one-off tie-ups, H&M is betting that Preston’s continued presence at the brand will boost the appeal of its core products in the long run. The company has dubbed this partnership “H2.” H&M could use the boost: In recent years, the retailer has come under increasing pressure from more agile, online-only fast-fashion juggernauts like Shein.

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