Cruise, resort or pre-collection: No matter the moniker, the season is fast becoming a huge share of the luxury footwear business.
Retailers now devote up to two-thirds of their entire buying budget to pre-collection styles, which sit on the selling floor longer than any other season. And more designers are jumping on the resort bandwagon, hoping to use it to drive their top lines.
“There are a number of factors at play [for the rise of pre-collections],” said Pierre Denis, CEO of Jimmy Choo. “People want fashion faster, retailers and consumers are constantly looking for newness in the stores and the seasons have blurred.”
Leading buyers said the market’s growing importance is due to its value as an early indicator of spring selling trends.
“The greatest opportunity that still exists for pre-collection deliveries is in developing more novelty and fashion in the offering,” said Jennifer Sunwoo, EVP and GMM of women’s at Barneys New York. “Our customers are always looking for something fresh and differentiated, and while runway collections can address this need, the product delivers so much later in the season.”
At the Pedder Group in Hong Kong, where resort represents about 60 percent of the seasonal buy, there is an opportunity to repeat orders of best-selling items, said Pedder Group President Peter Harris.
Harris noted the arrival of resort creates a sense of visual excitement inside the store when it’s cold outside, and it entices customers to open their wallets for that special item.
“The colors, materials and ornamentation of resort result in high shelf appeal. This is the commercial advantage of a ‘delight’ purchase in the midst of winter,” Harris said. “Many of our customers are [vacationing over] Christmas, the New Year and Chinese New Year in warm places.”
With retail demand at an all-time high, more designers are getting into the market, too.
Natalia Barbieri, co-designer of Bionda Castana, which debuted its first resort collection last month, said the timing was right for the label.
“In some cases, resort sells better than the main line, and buyers can’t stress enough the importance of it in their season,” she said. “It was necessary to provide it as soon as we feasibly could.”
Isa Tapia, who also launched resort for 2014, said it was a good way to establish the core styles of the season and get a read on which products are gaining traction.
“We talked to our stores to see what types of product they tend to do well with this time of year. The great thing about having that retail support as an emerging brand [is] our accounts are pulling for us, too, and we approach everything as a collaborative effort,” she said.
Having a resort collection makes good business sense for Alejandro Ingelmo.
The designer said bridging the gap between fall and spring is a way to ensure that “retailers budget more for the brand, both by dollar and SKU. The result is an increased presence [for the brand] on the sales floor.”
He added, “[There are] almost five months before [pre-collection styles] are marked down, [whereas] if you ship only a main delivery you have less than three months of full-price selling time. It’s challenging when you are a small company and you are held to the same margin goals as big brands. It’s really important to have that additional time.”
Designer Jerome Rousseau noted that ideally he would have launched pre-collection two years ago, and that he’s already asking his retail partners to shift 60 percent of his spring buy into resort.
“The resort and pre-fall seasons are actually easier to produce as their lead times happen during typically slower months at the factories. Our factories and suppliers are happy to have increased orders,” he said. “For us, the key challenges are designing and developing the samples on time, collecting orders promptly to submit to our factories and reworking our cash flow to allow for these additional deliveries.”
Other designers said they relish the opportunity to get their creative juices flowing during pre-collections.
“We have a lot of fun with cruise as it ties in with the sparkle and glamour heralded by the pending holiday season,” said Jimmy Choo Creative Director Sandra Choi. “Since the pre-collections were launched, there is definitely no breathing time in our schedule, but this keeps us energized and [ensures] we are constantly evolving and keeping things fresh.”
Bionda Castana’s Barbieri said she is embracing the chance to experiment with the label’s strongest styles by updating them with new color palettes, fabrications and heel structures during resort.
For Alexandre Birman, the extra season encourages him to push the design envelope.
“Resort is a great time to share all my inspirations and creative ideas in a concise collection. If anything, it is less stressful than a main collection,” he said.
Birman also said he believes pre-collections give newer designers a chance to stand out, something that’s more difficult during the traditional fall and spring seasons.
“Showroom appointments during the main collection times are always hectic, as appointments are back to back, budgets are set and time is restricted. [With] resort, buyers have time to peruse different lines and pick up new designers,” Birman said.
Retailers noted the resort ’14 collections were especially strong, characterized by color and the reinterpretation of the lower heel.
Ken Downing, SVP and fashion director of Neiman Marcus, said, “Longer hemlines on dresses and skirts make this the perfect season for the return of the mid-heel. Espadrilles and jute wedges, accented with lace, a continuing trend from the resort collections a year ago, give a garden party romance to the season ahead.”
Barneys’ Sunwoo singled out Gianvito Rossi for the breadth and range of his assortment. “The collection was feminine with beautiful new silhouettes, a wide range of colors and materials, and [various options for the different] lifestyles of our customers. Proenza Schouler also presented a sophisticated collection, utilizing iconic hardware details from their handbags,” she said.
Elizabeth Kanfer, senior fashion director of accessories at Saks Fifth Avenue, said she was particularly excited by the offerings from Sophia Webster, Giuseppe Zanotti, Manolo Blahnik, Jimmy Choo and Valentino.
“Each collection captured the tone and feeling for who they are and what they do best,” she said. “They were able to represent who they are and incorporate the season’s trends, such as strappy sandals, lower and chunkier heels, prints, novelty heels and ankle wraps and straps.”