Inside Retail Weekly: How have you found the past few months as a retailer?
Alice McCall: One of the things I have found really important in the last few months as a retailer is being reactive to the consumer’s demands in terms of what product and styles they want and need in the current climate and their current lifestyle choices. It’s been interesting to see that bestsellers at the moment are styles that have a multi-end use. We’ve noticed consumers are purchasing and investing in styles that have a true purpose in their wardrobe and daily lives.
Our relaxed tailoring has been a sell-out story for us. We instantly made the decision to recut these sell-out styles and have therefore been able to capitalise on this.
I’ve also taken this time as a retailer to diversify and leverage the revenue opportunities through the digital space of the business to not only grow and move forward but also communicate and stay connected to the consumer.
IRW: What are some of the interesting insights you’ve gathered since the pandemic hit?
AM: I definitely think understanding consumer demands. The products that consumers are purchasing and wearing at the moment are much more relaxed and leisure-focused rather than event-focused, due to the pandemic. Understandably, the Alice DNA is always important, but I’m also very conscious of offering products that are more suitable for right now. We’re pivoting design features to suit the consumer’s wants and needs.
IRW: What are some interesting things you’ve discovered about yourself, both professionally and personally, this year since the pandemic?
AM: Since the pandemic, I’ve learned to identify the stress that the pandemic has brought upon myself and I’ve been able to understand how to counteract that stress with self-care and things I enjoy doing, like yoga, breathing, nature and good food – always!
IRW: What are some of the interesting things you’ve done in the business this year as a result of the pandemic? Have you made any long-term changes to the way you operate as a business?
AM: First and foremost, I have recognised the importance of profitability and accountability with every department in the business. In an environment that’s in a recession, it’s so important to look at expenses, costings and margin to keep a business sustainable. This is definitely a long-term change to the way I will operate moving forward.
Also, this year due to Fashion Week being cancelled, I knew there was an opportunity in leveraging the digital channels through marketing content. We offered an online pre-order module on selected Resort 21 collection styles to the consumer, the collection that would have been shown at Fashion Week. I’ve implemented this strategy before, but this wasn’t something that was originally planned to take place in 2020, until the pandemic hit. I’ve also had a strong focus on business strategies on the digital platform and maximising these opportunities to increase brand awareness, exposure and revenue this year.
IRW: What plans do you have for the business this year?
AM: Throughout this year I have been working on getting the balance right between having a solid foundation but also remaining innovative and ensuring a clear point of difference in the marketing and industry. It’s forced me to look into new and different avenues and opportunities for growth. Stabilisation is more important than ever, but at the same time so is innovation.
IRW: How would you describe the fashion industry right now? What would you like to see happen or change in your sector?
AM: The industry and consumer are very aware of the impact on our industry. Consumers are more open to re-wearing products and their fashion choices are less driven by seasonal trends and more so on purchasing styles that have longevity and quality. I think this is a really positive change to the industry and consumer fashion choices, which will continue to develop and evolve over the coming years. I’ve noticed rental clothing companies are becoming more and more relevant to the industry, and consumers are selling or swapping clothes in an effort to reduce waste and make more conscious fashion choices.
In saying this, my designs have never been based on following trends. However, I have definitely pivoted the way I design and what collections I bring to the consumer for the rest of 2020 and going into 2021, of course ensuring the Alice DNA is present across my designs while offering a product that is more suitable for right now.
IRW: How do you think the customer has changed lately in terms of what they want from fashion brands, given the current climate and their changing lifestyle?
AM: The customer now wants more of a back story about the brand. They want to know if the brand they are purchasing from is giving back to the environment or charity or making a change in the world.
Consumers’ purchases are more life choices rather than a fashion statement. There is a consciousness in the purchases they make, which is certainly a positive in the world we are living in at the moment.
IRW: Do you have plans to continue the digital model throughout other Fashion Weeks this year?
AM: I am really looking forward to what Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week looks like in 2021 and I’m excited to see what they come up with, given the current climate. I think digitising Fashion Weeks in the form of live streaming and content feeding is incredibly effective in reaching a broader audience around the world, so I do believe that it will be extremely significant – even when we reach the other side of the pandemic.
There will always be a relevance of Fashion Weeks as a form of creative expression and function. They are a fantastic platform that enables me to showcase the art of dress while taking the consumer and viewer on an exciting journey into the Alice world. We are moving towards a place where digital platforms are increasingly relevant and powerful, however I don’t think this should detract from a live experience of watching a runway show and the emotions evoked for the viewer and consumer.
This story appears in the August 26, 2020, issue of Inside Retail Weekly.