With the change in season we (consumers) change our wardrobes, foods, and drinks etc. When consumers look for change, it becomes almost mandatory for retailers to facilitate that change by offering, merchandise that goes with the season, in short, seasonal merchandise.
Seasonal merchandise, this Summer
Seasonal merchandise that was earlier considered a secondary business option has now become the prime focus in the organised retail. Jay Gupta, MD, The Loot shares, “This hot and humid summer, The Loot is offering all its consumers a brand new collection of tees to chill with. These tees are available in summer friendly colours such as whites and pastels and are made of cottons, linens and light weight fabrics that will make you feel fresh and cool this summer. We are also introducing two new private labels – Road (casuals) & IOU (formals) with new price points.”
Shriti Malhotra, General Manager, The Body Shop says, “We have recently launched Sweet Lemon Bath & Body range, which is a line-up of six products to cleanse, exfoliate and moisturise, for all skin types. We also launched our first certified organic skincare range Nutriganics. In the next few months, we will be launching several new breakthrough products like Moisture White Shiso Skincare Range, Naturalift Skin care Range and Rainforest Hair care.”
Seasonal marketing strategy
For some retailers it is the merchandise that changes every season, for others it is a programme or a promotional strategy that acts as a differentiator in a new season. With the advent of a new season retailers either launch the seasonal merchandise or follow a marketing strategy to enhance the footfalls. Seasonal merchandise is not just an offering to the customers. There is more to it.
Apart from enhancing the customer traffic, seasonal merchandise generates some extremely high-margin sales. This is the reason why retailers determine the price-points of the new collection that they launch in a season, carefully.
Ekta Saran, Brand Manager at Sisley opines, “We have also worked on introducing entry price point products to complete the product offering. While we have worked on introducing entry price points and reduced prices in certain categories, we have ensured that we retain the brand characteristics of style and sophistication.”
As a part of its marketing strategy The Body Shop slashed its prices this season. “To extend our brands’ reach we have launched ‘The Body Shop Loves You Campaign’ which communicates the message about the 35 per cent reduction in prices offered to our Indian consumer,” says Malhotra.
Woodland, the nature friendly retail brand stands out from the clutter, when we talk about the pricing strategy. When contacted, Harkirat Singh, MD, Woodland India affirmed, “Our focus remains to be offering value-for-money products to our customers. For this we use eco-friendly, organic and recyclable materials. Eventually, it means less wastage, which affects the pricing too.
Though most of the retailers shied away from commenting on investment made on an average on the seasonal merchandise and/or seasonal marketing initiative, but Malhotra coolly replied, “We invest in all The Body Shop global product launches to make sure that Indian consumers also have an access to the great new products that are launched in The Body Shop stores elsewhere in the world.” However, for Woodland it is a year-round process and they do not do it for any one season. Research and development forms a crucial factor for them and they invest in it. Singh comments, “We spend a lot on R&D and our R&D team forms a very important part of our strategies and plans.”
Whenever a new season is welcomed by new merchandise, what remains at the back of retailers mind is the clearance of the old stock. The old stock is mainly cleared by increasing the level of discounts and holding clearance sales. “The sale implies either breakeven or loss but the quantities of such merchandise is small at The Loot,” says Gupta. On the other hand, Saran says, “Sisley offers deep discounts during the ‘End of season’ clearance sale; this helps us clear the stocks in season itself and leaves us with very little stock.”
“Woodland discontinues selling the old stock with the change in season. We sell the out-of-season merchandise in the clearance sale through our factory outlets, twice a year,” reveals Singh.
Any short-term initiative needs to be promoted way in advance so that the customers can make the most of it while the stock lasts. As seasonal merchandise may last only till the season lasts the retailers advertise well in advance and invest a lot in promotions. As the introduction of new merchandise has more to do with the retail outlets than the brand on the whole mainly BTL advertising is preferred to woo the local customers. Window displays, POPs, media campaigns, store window events, in-store demos, sampling activities among other things include the various communication tools and mediums that are being used by brands.
Malhotra says, “The Body Shop invests in promoting its new products through in-store communication and VM, outdoor advertising, website, new product emailers, loyalty member previews, customer trials and several other ways. We also do PR stories around our new products, product seeding, online activities through our website and social networking sites.”
Gupta opines, “We have started off with online / Internet sales and about 20 per cent walk-ins have increased and we have noticed that the East zone is doing better, with respect to seasonal merchandise.”
For Woodland, the communication mainly remains outdoors. They have a club called Woodland Adventure Club and they let their customers participate and offer products that are functional. The products are used and felt by the customers and they have also tied up with professionals for the same.
Saran, however, opines, “We keep our communication, fairly simple and to the point. This helps us convey the message really quick.”
Ensuring adequate availability of inventory across various retail points is a challenging task and a check on the logistics is required at all times. It is to be constantly ensured that through regular replenishment process-the right stocks are at the right places. So how do the retailers cope with it?
Malhotra comments, “Over the last three years, we have invested in developing an efficient supply chain which is the backbone of our business since we are in the fast moving consumer goods category. Our supply chain network enables us to reach to the farthest towns and cities within a maximum of three to four days. We make sure that we deliver products to all our stores at least once a week and ideally twice a week.”
However, Gupta seconds us when we say, logistics and SCM (supply chain management) are tough to match; but they have ways to fix it. He says, “Though it’s tough but we have an auto replenishment system. As we have a single point of distribution the communication is smooth and dispatch is easier.”
Woodland plans, for every season, a year in advance and decides upon the material etc to be imported as early as possible. Singh comments, “The stock is distributed zone-wise and country wise. This makes the job much easier.”
Whether it’s the season or the merchandise at retail, no change is sudden and without any logic! It takes a lot to change but is always worth it!