Threading a path to the new normal.
The Thai fashion industry looks at ways to adapt its retail sales.
Almost every business has been affected to a lesser or greater degree by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the fashion industry is certainly no exception. Now, with economies opening up the world over, both the industry itself and retailers will need to be more creative, proactive, and resilient in their marketing strategies if they are to appeal to customers.
The “new normal” is impacting not only the entire supply chain, but also customer behaviour. Priorities have shifted as a result of the uncertain economic situation, and the lockdown has led to minimal social interaction, with many of those who used to shop in their leisure time turning to watch streaming services and, when they feel they can spend money, opting for online shopping.
Yunyong Thaicharoen, Ph.D., a First Executive Vice President of the Economic Intelligence Centre, gave an interesting analysis during his talk organised by the Siam Commercial Bank three months ago, noting that in times of crises, similar patterns can be seen in the demand for certain types of products for daily use. A survey in Asia, he said, found that consumers were buying 48% more personal hygiene and health products, 45% more supplements, and 40% more household cleaning products. Online shopping had seen a rise of 32%, video streaming services 42%, and food delivery 30%. On the downside, tourism had dropped by 56%, and entertainment and clothing purchases by 30%. For Thailand, he expressed the opinion that the New Normal would see increasing online use across the board and thus business after COVID-19 must focus on the rapidly changing consumer behaviour and on improving styles to match new needs.
Polpat Asavaprapa, Creative Director and founder of the Asava Group, which owns fashion brands luxury label Asava, stylish and youthful ASV, men’s fashion Moo Moo, and the restaurant Sava Dining, also serves as President of the Bangkok Fashion Society, a collective of leading Thai fashion brands.
Speaking about how the coronavirus has affected the fashion industry, he pointed to the increase in online sales and a bigger interest in ready-to-wear. “For the past few months, online shopping has been the only platform where transactions have been possible. Despite having our own and well-established e-commerce platform, BFS has recently joined with Lazada, one of the biggest online shopping platforms, which acts like a big department store. Thailand is fortunate in that the lifestyle here is now close to normal. However, nobody knows what will happen further down the line. Will there be a second wave of the Coronavirus? We don’t know. For sure, though, we will face an economic recession,” he says.
“Since the shops could not open for several months, some of the collections that were created in advance now have to be adapted to the situation and lifestyle. We have to redesign. Also, as there are no fashion shows or events, we’ll have to develop marketing gimmicks suited to the online platform. What is more important, however, is how to make customers’ experience of the brands’ products and their images as good as in the physical store. Brands have to design methods and channel the online platforms to give them the same mood and tone as much as possible, or at least with as little difference as possible.
“In these difficult times, the fashion sector as well as all other kinds of business, must not simply say, ‘let’s just do something to get through this year’,” he stresses.
“That means you are giving up. You mustn’t. You have to be a fighter. Business opportunities can happen to any individual brand. We have to create the highest competencies in restarting our businesses and make the right adjustments to suit these different circumstances,” he says.