This week, brands are downplaying Black Friday deals in favor of drops and Nike reframes its pro athlete apparel for the everyday consumer.
At the end of November, brands find themselves inescapably pushed toward slashing prices and heavily discounting their inventory in the name of Black Friday. For companies and consumers, the opportunity is just too good to pass up. Last year, shoppers spent nearly $9 billion on Black Friday in the U.S.
But some in the fashion world have begun to wonder if there’s a way to join in on the Black Friday bonanza without slashing prices, or at least without making discounts the main appeal. For those fashion brands, new product drops are an increasingly good option.
California Cowboy, a San Francisco-based apparel brand, is launching limited-edition drops of its core flannel shirt throughout the week of Black Friday. These items will be heavily featured in the brand’s Black Friday marketing and sold at full price.
“We’re dropping new products as a way to drive excitement during a time that has heavy discount messaging,” said CEO Drew Clark. “We wanted to offer something besides a discount to add some fun to what would otherwise be a very transactional timeframe.”
The brand will still offer a sitewide 20% discount, but marketing director Bianca White said the drops will become an increasingly important part of the brand’s annual Black Friday strategy.
“It’s a way for us to differentiate from other brands’ deals and offers,” White said. “Everyone shares a discount, but this creates hype for Cyber Weekend.”
Saint Art, a streetwear brand started by Carbon38 founder and SoulCycle alum Caroline Gogolak, is saving some of its largest product drops of the year for the week of Black Friday, Gogolak said. The brand will drop a faux-shearling collection for Black Friday with another drop coming in the first week of December.
Gogolak said discounting has intentionally never been a big part of the year-old company’s business. Instead, much of the growth is attributed to novelty and limited release drops. Gogolak said regular product drops accounted for a 200% increase in sales in the last quarter.
“There’s clearly been a trend, in the last five years specifically, where discounts are so frequent even outside of the traditional markdown season,” Gogolak said. “An overabundance of discounts really hurts our margins. So we’re always trying to push a strong full-price business.”
According to Gogolak, constant reliance on discounts to move inventory trains the customer to only shop when something’s on sale. But since Saint Art operates with a low inventory, with limited drops being made in a short 30-day cycle, there isn’t a backlog of product to move at the end of the year.
Set Active, an activewear brand, is planning a week of drops beginning with Black Friday, that features new colors, returning colors and one-time designs that won’t be seen again. Additionally, the brand will be putting gift cards of random amounts in every box ordered, encouraging people to buy multiple orders to increase their chance for a higher value gift card. These strategies are all meant to bring customers to the brand for Black Friday without relying on sales.
“The more you discount, the less they’ll buy full price,” said Lindsey Carter, CEO and founder of Set Active. “Brands need to get creative about communications on Black Friday to get the consumer to not rely only on discounts.”
3 Questions with Janett Nichol, Nike vp of apparel innovation, and Nur Abbas, Nike design director of apparel men’s lifestyle
On Thursday, Nike debuted its latest wave of FIT ADV, the suite of innovations that are built with insights from professional athletes and that power the brand’s Dri-fit and Therma-fit technologies. Innovation labs and high-performance materials are standard for sportswear brands like Nike, which sell product to pro-level athletes and teams. For example, FIT ADV was previously used primarily for professional athlete jerseys. But increasingly those high-tech innovations are finding their way into everyday consumers’ products. That’s the goal behind the new FIT ADV initiatives, according to Nike’s Janett Nichol and Nur Abbas.
What is FIT ADV?
Janett Nichol: “It stands for Functionally Innovative Technology. It’s the materials that let athletes stay dry, warm, cool, whatever they need. It’s designed with data taken directly from athletes. We can track athletes as they’re performing and use digital data capture to get insight about what they need. Then, our creative teams turn that into apparel.
But traditionally this technology has been for elite athletes. It was what we used for basketball players, runners. [It’s] very separate from sportswear, but now we’re trying to use that technology in regular sportswear. So if you want Tech Fleece [one of Nike’s consumer-focused materials], you can get that with FIT ADV technology like Dri-fit embedded in it.”
How important are high-performance products for the average consumer?
Nichol: “We think it’s extremely important. Sportswear is interesting because, depending on who you talk to, what people need varies. Not everybody needs a super warm, sweat-wicking T-shirt, but regardless of where you are on the spectrum, the apparel can transcend beyond performance. The whole idea is that anybody can be an athlete. Our pitch is: ‘If you have a body, you’re an athlete. You don’t need to be professional in order to want high-performance gear.'”
Nur Abbas: “There’s a huge spectrum of activities that people can be involved in that are athletics. They all need to feel like they matter. It’s about inclusivity for us. We have a reputation as a brand, and it’s important that we maintain the highest standards for our product. For a high-tech jacket from a high-tech brand, it’s critical that it actually performs.”
What are your future plans for FIT ADV?
Nichol: “We work several years in advance, several projects in flight at any one time. A lot of times, one project we’re working on will lead us to something else that we hadn’t even anticipated. Right now, the focus is on FIT ADV and bringing its technologies into consumer products. Many of the things we’re working on are geared towards that.”
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