Challenged by rising house prices, mounting education costs and the political landscapes that often don’t reflect their beliefs, millennial and Gen Z consumers are increasingly in pursuit of escape. On the back of that, festival attendance is growing.
Nearly a third of millennials will attend a music festival this year. And with 64 per cent of that same demographic using Instagram, even more will be hit with content that’s generated at these events. Fashion’s opportunity is enormous – and there is more than one way to go about it.
The hype factor: festival activation
Not that long ago, mobile phone batteries would die within the first eight hours of a festival. Now, not only we can charge phones on the go, but the batteries last longer, too. Festivals are now closely documented and have lasting impact – presenting both experiential and digital opportunities for brands.
This year’s Splendour In The Grass, held outside Byron Bay in July, included splashy activations from Revlon, The Iconic, Bonds, Herbal Essences and TOMs Organics.
Meanwhile, Byron home-grown brand Spell & The Gypsy Collective has been involved in the festival scene for a decade, beginning as a roadside stall on the road to Splendour. The brand aesthetic today is still closely tied to the scene and its activations at Blues Fest, Coachella and Splendour are standout.
Best in field
Looking globally, the best festival activations focus on one of four pillars: influence, exclusivity, convenience or experience.
US multi-brand retailer Revolve dominates the influence category, with 2500 influencers in their network, helping generate $500 million in sales in 2018. At Coachella, its “Revolve Festival” offsite is one of the most exclusive parties of the weekend, with headline acts of its own, including Snoop Dogg and A$AP Rocky.
Adidas partnered with Childish Gambino at Coachella, AirDropping sneakers randomly to attendees’ phones. On accepting the limited edition shoes, individuals had to commit to wearing them through the weekend.
Amazon installed its delivery lockers at Coachella this year for advance orders and same-day onsite delivery of camping gear and essentials like phone chargers, sunscreen – all shoppable from its Coachella edit.
The Iconic’s Laundromat, which debuted in Falls last summer and returned for Splendour, nails the experiential component. Long lines of eager festival-goers queued to enter into its laundromat shop front, climb through a washing machine and into the club behind, which featured a roster of buzzy Australian DJs. A content goldmine.
According to James Clarke, director of Aeroplane Agency, which specialises in music and brand activations, the big multi-brand retailers are spending between $300,000 and $500,000 to play at this level. Individual brands are looking at a $50,000 to $100,000 range.
Is it worth it?
“Having a a strategy that hits not one, but multiple touchpoints pre-, during- and post-event is the key to unlocking a return on investment,” says Clarke. While the on-ground focus is brand awareness through experience, leveraging the data from those engaged audiences post-event is where true loyalty builds.
Fashion’s category play
Brands can capitalise on festivals without dropping big money on activations. It’s the newest season on fashion’s calendar, with a multi-product and price point assortment.
Insight from retail data company Omnilytics shows a 49.3 per cent increase in new arrivals of festival apparel across the US and UK festival season this year, compared to 2018.
Retailers with featured shops or edits online and which use “festival” in the product name or description will convert better. Locally, there is a big opportunity here for General Pants and Sportsgirl – both currently have no festival section.
ASOS’ current shoppable edit encourages customers to “Reinvent yourself!” and has over 700 SKUs across men’s and womenswear. The Iconic has 385 SKUs described as “festival”, priced from $14.99 to $495.
Even Net-a-Porter has a festival offering with a $1850 Balenciaga bumbag and $1740 Moncler metallic shell jacket. In the Australian market, although the median price point on all items described as “festival” is a low $46.55, there are some standout categories. Festival dresses priced between $400 and $500 have a 75 per cent sellout rate, full price.
Spell’s bohemian dresses, which average at $324, are now globally stocked and worn by the gypset crowd. Its dresses have a 92 per cent full-price sellout rate at Revolve, according to Omnilytics. Jewellery brand Lovisa’s body chains were introduced in prime timing for Splendour, arriving on June 19 with a $79.99 style, selling out in just 16 days.
Striking products which play with identities perform well for the Gen Z and millennial market. Think lingerie as outerwear, daring net, extreme shine, statement prints like cow print, vivid tie-dye and creative camo. Menswear is equally escapist with sheer fabrics, coloured acid-wash denim, bumbags, sparkle, non-typical palettes and textures.
Don’t overlook things like rainwear, accessories, beach towels, picnic blankets and fans. How can your products tap into the market?
Timing is everything
Omnilytics data shows that in the northern hemisphere, the festival season picks up in March, peaks in July and begins its discounting in earnest in August.
In Australia, we have a really unique opportunity as the climate allows for year-round events. Currently data shows a peak in arrivals in May and again in July, but this should be followed up with summer season newness too. Laneway Festival in January is a great focus because it hits multiple cities around Australia and NZ.
Although there is a clear link between the festival category and fast fashion, it’s worth noting that this demographic of consumers is more educated on its impact, and is increasingly turning away from throwaway or single-wear fashion.
For the festival season consider options which have lasting function – such as outdoorsy apparel, performance and activewear from brands like Blundstone, Patagonia and Kathmandu – or apparel which reinforces the tribe and spreads its messages with bold statements.
From EDM to pinoy
You don’t need to have a rave-hungry customer to tap into the festival market. Consumers across a span of ages and interests are seeking out niche experiences. There is a huge potential for retail to align with events like So Frenchy So Chic, Mould cheese, wine festival Pinot Palooza and Wanderlust wellness festival.
Australian retailers need to go where the customers are, and increasingly they’re at festivals. Just don’t mention Fyre.
Katie Smith is a retail and trends strategist. Her research is used by brands and retailers on four continents to build out effective product offerings and connect with their consumers. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org