The fashion industry is currently undergoing a period of stabilization after facing significant disruptions in recent years. Fashion retailers find themselves navigating not only changing consumer preferences but also the challenges brought about by inflation and supply chain issues that are remnants of the COVID-19 era.
The effects of inflation have raised concerns regarding overabundance and declining sales, creating a mismatch between supply and demand within the market. As consumers scale back on spending due to rising prices, fashion retailers are left grappling with surplus inventory, heightened storage costs, and reduced profit margins.
Consequently, these market dynamics have significantly impacted the pricing strategies employed by fashion retailers, resulting in dynamic shifts in pricing and competitiveness across different time periods, subcategories, and individual retailers.
Counteracting this impact requires fashion retailers to adopt a data-driven approach that leverages competitive and market insights. They must adopt agile and versatile pricing strategies that enable advanced pricing and assortment management. By understanding their market position and the competitive landscape, retailers can effectively react to reduced demand and inflationary pressures without compromising heavily on their top line and profitability.
At DataWeave, we harnessed the power of our proprietary data aggregation and analysis platform to track and analyze the prices of prominent fashion retailers to uncover unique insights into their price competitiveness over the past year, as well as understand how pricing strategies varied across diverse subcategories.
For this analysis, we tracked the average price changes among leading US fashion retailers over 12 months to understand how their pricing across several fashion subcategories altered in response to supply chain inefficiencies, inflationary pressures, seasonal effects, and changing consumer preferences.
While prices have generally been rising in several industry segments, such as groceries, due to inflation, the fashion sector has experienced relatively stable prices, with even a few periods of price drops. In fact, average prices in April 2023 are 1.2% lower than those in April 2022. The main reason for this trend is that consumers have become cautious about discretionary spending on fashion in order to prioritize other necessities, resulting in lower demand and overstocking by retailers.
In the first quarter of 2022, clothing accounted for only 3.9% of total expenditure by US consumers, down from 4.3% in 2019 before the pandemic. Additionally, in March 2023, 60% of fashion retailers in the US still had surplus goods, accounting for almost 20% of their entire stock. As demand decreased, fashion retailers started offering freebies with purchases, bundling products, giving away unwanted items, and notably, slashing prices.
Our analysis at a subcategory level reveals that in winter 2022, seasonal demand led to the largest price increases of 6-11% in coats, boots, and jackets. However, these prices quickly declined afterward. In 2023, stabilization of raw material costs and a continuing decline in demand for non-essential apparel and fashion accessories are factors contributing to a significant drop in prices.
Some of these trends vary among retailers as each faces different challenges and responds in distinct ways. Our data indicates that some retailers have chosen to increase their prices from Q3 2022 due to mounting pressure on profit margins, while others have further lowered prices due to increasing inventory levels.
Matching products across competitor websites is an essential part of tracking competitive prices and analyzing price leadership. In fashion, matching exact products is no mean feat. Websites often host a slew of variants in terms of size, color, material, etc. without any form of standardization in the way the products are represented. So fashion retailers often struggle with simply unusable pricing insights resulting from inaccurate and incomplete product matching.
DataWeave’s industry-leading product matching algorithm recognizes and leverages dozens of product attributes extracted from product titles, descriptions, and images to match products at very high levels of accuracy and coverage. What’s more, our platform can also match similar products based on a large variety of parameters, so our customers can benefit from a comprehensive competitive perspective.
For example, in August, Target reported a 90% plunge in profits during the second quarter of 2022, as shoppers concerned about inflation reduced spending on nonessential items. The company stated that its price cuts did not have the desired impact, resulting in a 1.5% increase in inventory compared to three months prior. As a result, we can see that Target’s average fashion prices spiked in August 2022 and have remained steady since then. Walmart also faced similar challenges and increased its prices in October 2022.
However, during the same period in August 2022, Macy’s announced increased discounts to clear out excess inventory in preparation for the holiday shopping season. In the same announcement, Macy’s highlighted how the rising cost of groceries, which had experienced a double-digit increase, was impacting consumers’ budgets, changing their behaviors, and increasing the need for discounts. Our data reflects this, showing a significant drop in prices from October 2022 to January 2023.
However, in January 2023, Macy’s successfully managed its inventory levels, reducing them from $6.4 billion in October 2022 to $4.3 billion in January 2023. As a result, average prices at Macy’s have started to rise.
For today’s fashion retailers, achieving a balance between expansion goals and profitability is crucial. It requires a meticulous examination of competitive and market insights on a regular basis to mitigate competitive pressures and navigate through these challenging times successfully.
DataWeave’s platform offers retailers the insights they need to gain a competitive advantage. With access to accurate, timely, and actionable pricing and assortment insights, retailers can make informed decisions and stay ahead of the competition. To learn more, reach out to us today!
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