H&M, ZARA, and other fast fashion brands that were once popular have significantly reduced the number of stores in the past two years.

Why are foreign fast fashion brands less popular?

Xu Peiyu, Wang Yazhe, Yu Yuexin

How long has it been since you visited a foreign fast fashion brand store? Have you found that there are fewer fast fashion stores in big cities?

In June this year, the flagship store of Swedish fast fashion brand H&M in Taikoo Li, Sanlitun, Beijing, officially closed; Previously, H&M's flagship store on Shanghai Middle Huaihai Road, which is H&M's first store in the Chinese market, has also closed. Not only H&M, but also Spanish brand ZARA and American brand GAP have also closed many stores in major cities in the past two years.

What changes in consumer preferences are reflected in this? Where is China's apparel retail market headed?

Consumer demand upgrades, fast fashion appears "aesthetic fatigue"

It is understood that "fast fashion" originated from Europe's "Fast Fashion", which refers to the production and operation mode of some brands around the latest design of the current seasonal fashion week, processing and production at low production costs, and quickly entering the store, so that customers can quickly feel the latest international fashion trends. In the United States, "fast fashion" is also known as "speed to market", a model often compared to McDonald's-style fast food.

In the past 20 years, foreign fast fashion brands have quickly seized the Chinese market by virtue of their advantages of low prices, multiple styles, keeping up with trends and fast upgrading. At present, foreign fast fashion brands such as H&M, ZARA, GAP and other foreign fast fashion brands still have a high reputation among consumers, but the degree of popularity is not as popular as before. In interviews, many consumers said that these fast fashion brands are difficult to meet the new needs of consumers in terms of quality, fit, personalization and green environmental protection.

Ms. Zhang, a 43-year-old Urumqi resident, was a big fan of ZARA, "When I was about 30 years old, I often visited ZARA, almost once or twice a month, the price was not expensive, the style was very suitable for work, both simple and stylish." But in recent years, the frequency of consumption has decreased significantly, Ms. Zhang said: "After entering the age of 40, I no longer pursue how fashionable clothes are, and I have higher requirements for the quality of clothes, such as fabrics and tailoring." And these are not the main products of fast fashion brand clothing, naturally not in my consideration. ”

Generation Z pays more attention to personalized design, and many people are less interested in fast fashion brands that are easy to "bump into clothes". "Although ZARA and H&M are fast, they lack some unique design sense and are more casual." Mi Rui, a post-00 generation from Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, said that his friends around him are all Generation Z, who grew up in a diversified environment and pursued more personalized clothing. "We all prefer niche brands, like bosie or PSO, and the brand's recognition can also show unique taste." Miri said.

Fast fashion focuses on "fast", and the new is fast and the update is fast. And with consumers' pursuit of green environmental protection, this production model is also being challenged. Yu Wenwen, who works in the education industry in Jinan, Shandong, said: "The clothing industry is an industry with large water consumption and carbon emissions, and the production rhythm of fast fashion will bring a certain load to nature. These garments are thrown away after a few wears, resulting in a lot of waste of clothing. She practices a minimalist lifestyle philosophy, buying only a handful of clothes every year, and is committed to creating a simple, versatile and high-quality "capsule wardrobe".

Some consumers believe that some foreign fast fashion brands do not study Chinese consumer groups enough, which affects brand loyalty. Chen Changxu from Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, makes it difficult every time he enters a fast fashion store to buy clothes: "There is only one size information on the price tag, and the shoulder length, chest circumference, waist circumference, and clothing length are not indicated, and I often have to try on several sizes one by one." European and American versions are loose, and although there are many sizes, some clothes are always a little closer to a complete fit, and people need to adapt to the clothes. ”

Sinking + high-end, brands look for new growth points

A number of well-known fast fashion brands have closed stores one after another, making consumers wonder: Will foreign fast fashion brands withdraw from this?

Wang Peng, head of H&M's Greater China business, said: "When we talk about the future of fast fashion, we should first make it clear that the fashion industry will never die, and what needs to be iteratively updated must be its development method. ”

It is understood that foreign fast fashion brands are working hard to change and have made new strategic adjustments.

Adjust the store layout and set your sights on the sinking market. H&M said that it will continue to rebuild and adjust stores in 2023, and the group plans to open 100 new stores and close 200 stores per year, with a net reduction of about 100 stores. Among them, most of the new stores will open in growth markets such as second- and third-tier cities, while the closed stores are concentrated in more mature markets.

"There is a new H&M near my house, which is stylish and practical for new professionals, and I love to visit it." Ma Yaan, who returned to her hometown of Lanzhou, Gansu Province, to work not long after graduating from university, said that compared with first-tier cities, there are some gaps in the style and design of clothing brands in shopping malls in second- and third-tier cities, and when the price is similar, it will be biased towards fast fashion brands such as H&M. ”

Introduce its new brands and focus on the high-end market. In recent years, ZARA, H&M and others have focused on their brands to find new growth space. COS, & Other Stories and ARKET incubated by H&M Group have entered the Chinese market. Among them, ARKET opened its first offline store in China in September 2021, and & Other Stories entered the Taikoo Li store in Sanlitun in February 9. H&M's first quarter of fiscal 2022 report shows that brands including COS, Monki, & Other Stories and ARKET have gained momentum during the period and are making increasingly important contributions to the Group's development. Among them, COS has upgraded its product range and strengthened its positioning in the high-end market.

Yang Dajun, a brand expert in the fashion industry, said: "With the change of people's consumption level, it is a good choice to focus on the high-end market. China's high-end market has considerable consumption potential, which also contributes to the growth of brand added value. ”

Develop online operations. Well-known foreign-funded fast fashion brands have entered e-commerce platforms such as Vipshop and Tmall, and opened Xiaohongshu social media accounts. H&M Group's report for the first half of fiscal year 2023 shows that while the number of physical stores declined, the number of online stores in the COS period reached 47, an increase of 9 compared with the same period last year. Zara started live streaming on Douyin at the beginning of this year, which is the first time that ZARA's cooperation with a third-party e-commerce platform has been carried out since Zara's entry into Tmall in 2014.

"To meet the diversified needs of contemporary young consumers, fast fashion brands need to pay attention to the combination of online and offline diversified channels, accelerate online layout, and adapt to changes in China's consumption environment, so that enterprises and brands can grow sustainably for a long time." Cheng Weixiong, a brand management expert in the footwear and apparel industry and founder of Shanghai Liangqi Brand Management Co., Ltd., said.

New brands enter the market quickly, and the Chinese market is very attractive

While old brands are showing fatigue, new brands are accelerating their entry into the fast fashion space.

Among them, there are new foreign brands. Chuu, a sweet and cute Korean fast fashion brand, has a comprehensive layout in major business districts in China's first-tier cities. In 2021, Chuu opened its first store in China, and by January 2023, the number of Chuu stores in China has reached 1. Brandy Melville, an Italian fast fashion brand positioned as a sweet and girly style, is also popular with young Chinese. After entering the Chinese market in 141 and opening its first store in Shanghai, Brandy Melville opened a second store in Sanlitun, Beijing in May 2019, and has maintained its high popularity.

CHINESE FAST FASHION BRAND URBAN REVO (UR FOR SHORT) IS ALSO ON ITS RISE IN A LOW-KEY MANNER. The core advantages of rich products, fast update and affordable price make UR stand out in the fierce fast fashion industry. In terms of brand style, UR adheres to localization and innovation, and the shape and design details are more suitable for Chinese people. In terms of product updates, UR pays attention to the tracking of trend hotspots. It is understood that the frequency of new products is maintained twice a week, and the number of styles developed in a year is 1,2.

"Tao brand" is forming a force that cannot be underestimated. These brands borrow from the fast-selling model of foreign fast fashion brands, combined with the mature domestic production supply chain system, to create an operation model with local advantages. With the formation of new industry formats, consumers' consumption behavior has gradually shifted to online, which in turn has contributed to the continuous growth of thousands of "Tao brands" on e-commerce platforms.

Yang Dajun believes that "Zara and H&M belong to the fast fashion brands that entered the Chinese market at the beginning of this century, and the new generation of fast fashion brands that grew up in the context of the mobile Internet can better adapt to the new changes in the Chinese market, using digital technology to form price, speed and cost advantages, so that consumers have more diversified choices, which naturally affects the competitive situation of these brands." ”

"As a traditional fast fashion brand, we must clearly see that the Chinese market has ushered in the era of omni-channel brands, and relying solely on offline physical business models can no longer meet the needs of young consumers for more reach." Cheng Weixiong believes that "we cannot simply copy and paste the definition of fast food culture of fast fashion products in foreign countries, but need to combine Chinese consumer preferences and version needs to do a good job in product development and procurement." In his view, China's clothing market has a large capacity and a high degree of acceptance of new brands and new fashions, which not only brings unlimited opportunities to enterprises, but also means fierce competition, which needs to be constantly optimized and adjusted to meet the needs of consumers for rapid upgrades. (People's Daily Overseas Edition)