NEW YORK, United States — Over the past 10 years, fundamental shifts in how consumers shop have transformed the fashion and luxury industries, disrupting the traditional wholesale business model in the process.
From the global opportunity that the rapidly growing e-commerce market created, to the onset of social media and rising expectations that brands be in near-constant contact with their consumers, businesses that flourished by understanding local nuanced needs and identities have faced challenges within these unchartered territories.
As traditional connectors in the industry, trade shows are now distinguishing themselves by supporting businesses in their community and helping them navigate the disrupted retail landscape. While bigger industry players could take advantage of growth opportunities by investing in new technologies and communication strategies, smaller brands without flexible budgets were often left behind.
In addition, Coterie, owned by fashion events organiser Informa Plc, connects women's apparel, accessories and footwear designers to retailers. Through a series of educational initiatives, Coterie seeks to act as a conduit between its community and global insights on commercial and sourcing opportunities.
Its seminars seek to democratise best practices and growth strategies previously perceived as being available to only the biggest and best-funded businesses and apply them to commercial scenarios relevant to its community.
Now, BoF sits down with Danielle Licata, president of Coterie and east coast womenswear, to discuss why education is fundamental to the trade show business.
How would you describe the wholesale market today?
I think wholesale is challenged in the fact that many larger stores and online players were driving down prices for the past decade, becoming highly promotional and less service oriented. In turn, this made customers more open to looking for retailers offering a more personalised experience.
Consumers are going in two directions: shopping digitally, where there is an ease and speed to discover; and specialty, where there is high-touch personalised experience. Right now, consumers are investing more in travel than they are in actual apparel. So, specialty and resort stores in many small cities and travel destinations, like Nashville or Tulum, are gaining traction.
Disruption is also coming to the direct-to-consumer brands. We find it really interesting that, after a number of years or seasons, direct-to-consumer brands want to expand into wholesale as their next step of growth. We love that. We would much rather take a brand after they’ve been direct-to-consumer for some time, building their own database and customer following. It gives our specialty stores the kind of security that there is already a real draw for the brand.
How would you describe the DNA of Coterie?
What really drives Coterie is the DNA of being a connector. That’s something that has evolved significantly from its inception to now. The connection used to just be with stores and brands — now, we’ve added connection to people who sell for a living, people who help merchandise brands and services that help transform brands and stores. The scope and breadth of connection has grown and magnified. The exhibitors each have their own brand story and I think now our job more than ever is to amplify that story using all the technology and resources we have.
Why is education an important part of your strategy?
We started the education programme about a year and a half ago and we’re seeing fantastic traction with it. It covers subjects that we think are important to all stores but specifically specialty stores. We learned that sometimes we were talking too large — our stores don’t want to hear about what Google or Best Buy are doing. They want information that they can immediately take back to their store, activate and include.
What really drives Coterie is the DNA of being a connector. The scope and breadth of connection has grown and magnified.
We’ve taught on subjects such as, “how to include influencers in your local marketing plan,” “how to bring traffic into your store through activations,” and “how to include vintage in your assortment.” We’ve introduced stores to augmented reality in an approachable way that can affect their store positively and not break their budget.
I think taking the position of a connector and educator comes with always adding new experiences and segments — for instance, launching vintage, where, on one hand you could shop the neighbourhood and incorporate vintage Chanel bags into your store, and on the other, you could potentially begin ongoing collaborations with a vintage store and drive high conversion pop-up events and engagement opportunities.
What format of this training do you provide?
We do the seminar series in all of the focus countries; 20 countries will get a detailed seminar with Q&A and one-on-one meetings. The series describes the checklist on how to break into the US market successfully. Coterie is a global show — 20 percent of the retailers who shop with us come from outside of the US, but the bread and the butter of the show is American specialty stores. For the specialty stores, this access to global brands is something they would struggle to acquire through travelling on their own, in terms of both time and money. We enjoy bringing back these diverse global finds back to our shows.
How are you using technology to drive growth?
We have a database of 40,000 regular shoppers who are in and out of the Coterie marketplace within a 3 to 4 season span, which is about 10 to 15,000 each season. Our main use of technology into 2020 will be talking to our community on an individual basis. Soon our algorithms will be able to suggest products to buyers based on stores’ price points and stylist choices, which can help them discover new products on our show floor.
In the future, I believe the stores will lean on Coterie for further insights, and our main goal is to keep progressing them by putting the buyers and owners at the forefront of our programming and product choices.
This is a sponsored feature paid for by Coterie as part of a BoF Careers partnership. To explore careers at Coterie, please click here.