Wigley, S.M. and Sinha, P. (2012), "Guest editorial", International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, Vol. 40 No. 12. https://doi.org/10.1108/ijrdm.2012.08940laa.001Download as .RIS
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Guest editorial From: International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, Volume 40, Issue 12
It is a cliché to say that retailing is a fast-paced and dynamic sector, but perhaps this special issue on innovations in fashion retailing and distribution proves that the cliché is true: looking back over the seven years that have elapsed since this journal’s last special issue on fashion (Vol. 33 No. 4), it is clear that only one thing remains the same – the fact of constant change in retailing and distribution generally, and in fashion retailing especially. While the upheavals clearly evident in the financial and news media have undoubtedly caused much uncertainty, they have also provided a fascinating backdrop for the compendium of fashion industry research presented over the next pages. We hope this special issue may act as a snapshot of the fashion and textile retail and distribution sector in general, and of how economic and social changes will continue to shape the future of its participants, consumers and researchers.
Perhaps most momentous of the changes to the sector are those resulting from the global financial crisis of 2007 and the ongoing economic travails that have beset businesses and consumers, especially in Europe and the USA. Our first paper (by Lisa Donnell, Karise Hutchinson and Andrea Reid), which examines the role of Customer Relationship Management in making – or breaking – a fashion retail SME, underlines just how participants in the fashion industry must innovate and adapt in this challenging environment. Another truism says “retail is detail”: Donnell et al. confirm this, and emphasise the difficulty fashion retailers face in securing the structural integration, management commitment, customer communication and data management necessary in order to deliver that detail. While many fashion industry participants face hardship in the current climate, the luxury sector goes from strength to strength. The second paper, by Karinna Nobbs, Christopher Moore and Mandy Sheridan, considers the important role of flagship stores in helping fuel this growth, particularly internationally. Notwithstanding the continuing growth of online sales, Nobbs et al. underline the significance of “conventional” stores in creating environments which allow the emotional and interactive relationship consumers demand with high-end fashion brands to thrive.
Another significant change is in popular and governmental interest in environmental issues, and the corresponding effect on fashion consumption. Our third paper, by Helen Goworek, Tom Fisher, Tim Cooper, Sophie Woodward and Alex Hiller, considers the responsibilities of all fashion supply chain participants for minimising their environmental harm, and concludes by highlighting the need for fashion consumers to be familiar not only with environmental issues, but also with the potential personal benefits of responsible behaviour. This perhaps contradicts the UK government’s “Sustainable Clothing Action Plan” which places the emphasis for environmental change on fashion retailers assuming primary responsibility; instead consumer power must drive the issue. To continue the theme of the editorial: if “the customer is always right”, then perhaps industry as a whole will only act responsibly when well-informed consumers demand it do so. Consumers’ desire to be more ecologically responsible is popularly proposed as a factor fuelling the growth of vintage fashion, another sector that has grown considerably in the past decade. The fourth paper (by Marie-Cécile Cervellon, Lindsay Carey and Trine Harms) considers this proposition in examining the difference between characteristics and purchase motivations for vintage and second hand clothing and found that, contrary to popular opinion and previous research, eco-consciousness is not a direct driver in the search for and purchase of second-hand clothing. At a wider level Cervellon et al. demonstrate clearly that as the industry as a whole becomes more complex and inter-twined, so fashion consumer behaviour is becoming ever more multi-dimensional and informed by disparate needs and influences.
The final sea-change witnessed by the fashion sector is, of course, in the apparently exponential growth of the internet and digital technologies as not only a sales channel but as a platform for promotion and consumer interaction. Our fifth paper, by Rachel Ashman and Delia Vazquez, considers how the lack of human-to-human contact influences consumer’s perception of retailers and their resulting purchasing behaviour. They found strong links between various types of product representation online and consumer trust and loyalty, emphasizing that as the online market has matured, it is no longer simply enough for fashion retailers to operate a basic “online shop”. Again, ongoing success is predicated very much in managing the minutiae of the website design, the products on it and the interaction of the consumers with them in an attempt to replicate the trust engendered by traditional store experiences. The final paper (by Klas Hjort and Björn Lantz) further explores a phenomenon of online fashion retailing by investigating a possible relationship between lenient deliveries and returns policies. Their findings and very notable recommendations to industry serve to not only emphasise the differences between on- and off-line fashion consumer behaviour, but bring us full circle in re-stating the dynamism of the fashion retail and distribution industry – as technologies, economies and societies develop, this is only likely to accelerate.
The breadth of papers presented in this special issue reflects not only the diversity of the industry and its consumers, but the significance of research into them. By providing fresh perspectives, contemporary insight and very constructive recommendations for the industry, we hope the issue is of interest to both academics and practitioners. We would like to thank Professor Neil Towers and Emerald for the opportunity to compile this special issue, the reviewers whose time and comments were very gratefully received, and most of all the authors who submitted their research.
Stephen M. Wigley, Pammi SinhaGuest Editors