Case Study: Vintage Fashion
This is a short case study about the rise of vintage fashion against mainstream fashion. There has been a steady rise in the number of vintage stores selling second cycle, used fashion clothing. Vintage clothing is not only more original but, given that it has been worn previously, is also sustainable and ethical. In this case study, by vintage fashion, we refer to those “garments and accessories which are more than twenty years old, which represent a particular fashion era, and which are valued for their uniqueness and authenticity” (McColl et al., 2013, p. 148).
We have seen a growing increase in vintage retailing in the fashion environment over the past 40 years. The 21st century especially saw a rapid increase in the number of vintage as opposed to ‘second hand’ or ‘charity’ stores. In the past two decades, the vintage movement has grown as a means of self-expression, providing inexpensive, high-quality fashion items. For some consumers, it has become a lifestyle choice based not only on nostalgia for a particular era but as a demonstration against overconsumption of fast fashion and disposable clothing.
Rather than price, the vintage consumer seeks differentiation and will often combine vintage pieces with mainstream items to create a unique and personal style. Moreover, unlike mainstream consumers, vintage consumers tend to be less homogenous in relation to age or interests. In recent years, consumer trends have seen the rise of the ‘hipster’. Hipsters have adopted all things vintage and made them cool, from drinking from jam jars to using typewriters, riding vintage bikes with no gears and wearing thick-rimmed glasses to seeking out workers’ dungarees and heritage brands.
It may be that the hipster as a concept has become mainstream. However, there is an aspect of sustainability, ethics and slow fashion that is associated with the hipster movement and is representative of vintage fashion. Like vintage consumers, hipsters are a group of people who embrace a more ethical and sustainable lifestyle.
Vintage fashion stores: Strategy and operation
Mainstream stores are driven by current fashion trends and sell very similar items of clothing which are often cheaply produced and can only be identified by their brand label. These companies compete primarily on price. A number of mainstream fashion retailers have responded to the vintage phenomenon by introducing vintage ranges within stores. Sometimes these are fake vintage replicas, and sometimes these are genuine vintage garments sourced from suppliers of vintage goods.
Traditional vintage fashion stores tend to be small businesses based away from central locations, now being joined by vintage cafés, hairdressers and home wear stores, in response to vintage lifestyle trends.
Vintage fashion retailers are amongst the most enthusiastic and dedicated of fashion store owners. They are often interested not only in the merchandise but in the whole era or genre that it represents. As small companies, they are generally the centre of all operations both in-store and online, including sourcing, merchandising, pricing, packaging, communications and customer service.
For any fashion retailer, large or small, vintage or mainstream, merchandise is the most important aspect of brand positioning and brand image. The more closely this merchandise meets the needs of the customer, the more successful the store will be. This is highly dependent on the owner-manager understanding the needs of the customer. Small stores are very close to their customer and can interact closely with them to meet their needs and wants. Vintage store owners can build a profile of their customers and can respond easily to developing trends. The vintage store owner is uniquely positioned to provide an exclusive, personalised customer service that is predicated upon a mutual interest and shared story between vendor and buyer.
Vintage fashion retailing is a relatively unique business model, especially in terms of sourcing, where the customer sometimes becomes the supplier. Vintage fashion retailers source from a variety of places. These include flea markets, car boot sales and second-hand stores. Some other sources of supply are from customers who are selling back worn vintage pieces and from people selling on the possessions of older relatives. Interestingly, vintage fashion retailers will source merchandise from each other’s stores; for example, it is not unusual for vintage fashion retailers from major British cities to buy pieces from stores in smaller cities.
1. Porter’s 5 force model
We discussed Porter’s 5-force model as a strong tool to analyse and understand industry structure and its power relations. Use Porter’s 5-force model to analyse the structure and power relations of the vintage fashion market
2. Segmentation and Positioning
In lectures, we discussed market segmentation and Positioning as important elements of marketing strategies.
a) Imagine you are the owner-manager of a vintage fashion store. Identify and profile 3 market segments for your business
b) As a vintage fashion store owner-manager, how should you position your business against mainstream brands such as Zara and fake vintage design brands such as Lady Vintage (www.ladyvlondon.com). Use the outcome of your analysis in the previous questions in answering this question
Note: Drawing a perceptual map for answering this question is optional.
3. Competitive Strategies
In line with your answers to questions 1 and 2, please discuss which strategies you would use (as the owner-manager of a vintage fashion store) to create competitive advantage in the marketplace.