Australian Retail Outlook: What are some of the things Witchery worked on in 2021 that you’re most proud of?
Simon Schofield: Witchery has had an incredible 2021. I’m most proud of our new concept store design, which we premiered in both Westfield Bondi and Westfield Doncaster this year, designed by our very own in-house teams. The feedback from customers and media has been phenomenal. They have absolutely loved the new look and layout and we can’t wait to roll this out even further in 2022.
Customers can also now shop Witchery on The Iconic, which gives us an opportunity to bring the brand to even more customers through this famous marketplace.
This year also marked our 13th-annual White Shirt Campaign, in partnership with the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation. Comedian and social-media sensation Celeste Barber faced the campaign, and Australian designer Toni Maticevski designed the iconic White Shirt, raising over $500,000. To date, Witchery has raised over $14 million for the OCRF, with all funds going directly to the charity to fund vital research into finding an early detection test for ovarian cancer, something we are incredibly proud of.
ARO: What are some of the interesting challenges Witchery is focusing on for 2022?
SS: Witchery’s biggest focus has been welcoming customers back into our stores in the safest way possible. Our retail team has co-ordinated a huge piece of work here, ensuring team members are educated and confident about managing the ever-changing regulations head on. It was a tricky year with extended delays in delivery schedules, which is no surprise, given the shift in customers shopping online more than ever.
In 2022, we’re hoping to put all the shipping delay and delivery issues from last year in the past and we’re focusing on our online delivery timeframes being quicker than ever. With shipping lead times and availability continuing to be a global challenge, airfreight costs at an all-time high, we’re also looking at our critical path to make sure we have enough buffer to account for this and still get our range months into store on time.
ARO: What are three of the most exciting opportunities for the Australian fashion industry in 2022?
SS: The fashion industry has been very quiet since this pandemic started and we have really missed seeing those large-scale consumer and media events. Whilst we’ve seen some amazing virtual events, particularly fashion shows, I think 2022 is going to bring the re-introduction of all major fashion events and I personally am really excited for that.
Sustainability is top of mind for all major retailers at the moment and whilst it is one of the biggest challenges for our industry, it’s also one of the biggest opportunities for brands to showcase what they are doing in this space and their plans well beyond 2022. For Witchery in particular, we’ve been working on some incredible Australian designer collaborations for 2022, with our first-ever designer collaboration launching early in the new year, so stay tuned.
ARO: Now that WFH is likely to be a permanent part of life, how has that impacted Witchery’s store network? Are you looking outside of the CBD and into more suburban and regional areas?
SS: Witchery already had a vast store network pre-Covid, covering all major CBDs in Australia and New Zealand, as well as larger outer suburbs and regions; however, we have seen a shift in the way our customers are shopping, with less traffic in our CBD and airport locations but increased footfall in bigger suburban centres, such as Doncaster in Victoria and Castle Hill in New South Wales, strip sites like Camberwell and Balmain, and our regional locations. This is something we’re mindful of and taking into consideration for future refurbs, relocations, and closures.
ARO: What are some of the interesting changes you’re seeing in your customers’ lifestyles and wardrobes, and how is Witchery responding to these changes?
SS: There has been a distinct shift since lockdowns have eased. Her mindset has changed and she’s definitely ready to dress up again, so we reflected that in the collections ahead of the Christmas and party season. We’re embracing print and colour and ensuring the key runway trends are translated in a way that is easy for her to replicate in her own wardrobe. We are leaders in 24/7 style and aim to have her entire day-to-night wardrobe sorted, with versatility being key. Whether she is heading to work, or to brunch on the weekend with friends, Witchery has her wardrobe covered and she can rely on us for that.
ARO: Please share some insights into new product categories Witchery is exploring that you’re excited about – what innovations will we see?
SS: Over the coming months, you’ll see a shift into sustainable fabrics, with a focus on recycled polyester and recycled polyester blends. Swim is another exciting category for us, where we see the introduction of recycled nylon and organic French linen in our resort pieces. It’s important that we empower our customers to make informed choices when it comes to the sustainability of the garments they buy.
We want to re-shape her wardrobe as she heads back out onto the social scene post lockdown, so we’ve lined up some incredible Australian designer collaborations for 2022 and we’re also looking at expanding our range to a size 20 next year. This is something our customer has been asking for, so I think she is going to be thrilled to see this in-store and online for Spring Summer 2022.
ARO: Diversity and inclusion are top of mind for many people in the fashion industry right now. We know Witchery has been working on formalising its Reconciliation Action Plan in 2021. What are some insights into the work the brand is doing to support the First Nations community and ensure that diversity and inclusion are a genuine part of the business?
SS: We want to ensure that our customers feel that our product, our stores, and our community are accessible and inclusive. As part of the Country Road Group, we are currently developing a comprehensive diversity, equity and inclusion strategy that will guide our approach to how we are inclusive of the diversity of our employees, customers, and community. We are also finalising our first ‘Reflect’ Reconciliation Action Plan, focused initially on how we build our own cultural awareness and competency around First Nations knowledge and culture.
ARO: What are the key elements for excellence in fashion retail in 2022?
SS: An impeccable customer service approach for both online and in-store is the most obvious. If we can ensure her shopping experience is seamless and enjoyable every time, then we know she’s going to continue coming back. For Witchery, it’s about staying true to who we are. We are a brand who stands for inspiring and quality-led design, with the objective of empowering women to look and feel confident every day. Being a source of daily inspiration and dressing women every day sits at the heart of what we do.
This article was orignally published in the 2022 edition of the Australian Retail Outlook, powered by KPMG.