What should retailers expect as they start thinking about next fall?

by Steve Pruitt

Q: Vendors are already pushing for fall 2021 orders. I don’t have a clear picture of the balance of fall ‘20 yet, and spring ‘21 seems like a mile away. What are your thoughts on fall of next year?

Steve Pruitt: Time is flying, but the trends we see today, like slowing clothing sales and acceleration in sportswear were in the cards before the virus. This trend has advanced perhaps as much as three to five years in just one year.

What will the work environment look like a year from now? Will travel resume as in the past? We still don’t know the answers to these questions.

I do believe that apparel sales could be dynamic in fall ‘21, assuming the vaccines get widely distributed and there are no surprises. But will it be the same? I for one am not counting on it. And will the growth be proportional across all the regions of the country? This too is unlikely.

Online distribution will continue to evolve, that is for sure. Are you ready for online retailing? Some vendors may not evolve quick enough, or go direct-to-consumer, cutting out retailers. So, new vendors are likely part of the new formula.

So, what are we to do? First, you have to be flexible, and welcome change. Vendors will be tightening their supply lines so you will have to commit to lock in the available merchandise. Think through your planning processes; flexible planning will be more important than ever.

This evolution will not be for the faint of heart. Focus on sell-thru rates, work with very defined receipt plans, and make sure you don’t get caught over-inventoried. High margin performance will be required to fund the changing environment.


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