Burberry’s big news: How luxury brands are waking up to the needs of the customer

For those beings who live outside of fashion’s bubble, the announcement by Burberry that it is to re-align its catwalk so it promotes products it can sell immediately rather than in six months time, may elicit a response of, to put it bluntly “ Well, durrr …”

But for Burberry to be able to make an announcement like this, something BIG has to have happened, something that the world’s luxury houses have found it hard to acknowledge but difficult to resist, something, that is shaking up not just fashion but the whole of retail and beyond, and it’s simple,

“power has shifted to the customer”

The customer is the point of sale, not your store, not your online website, not even your amazing app, and everything a retailer or brand does should make sense to and service the customer.

The days when brands could organise their business to suit their own timelines, the timelines of their suppliers, wholesale customers or in fashion’s case, traditional media, have gone. The demand side of the distribution curve has changed, forever, and Burberry’s move is a better late than never acknowledgement of that.

A sizeable chunk of distribution in the big luxury brands was once wholesale but direct selling is becoming more the norm. Goodness, even Chanel bowed to modernity last year and announced it would start selling directly online. (Forgive me but this was an announcement I found hard not to laugh out loud at).

Burberry has a knack of posing as the great democratiser of luxury while being fashion’s most rigid top down marketing machine. It’s pulled off another coup here, in the nick of time; just before New York’s CFDA came out with their way forward on catwalk timelines.

So will the herd follow? They’ll hate not being first and we‘ve seen many today are scrambling to explain how they were already doing or contemplating this in some way or other.

But in the end this makes sense, it is all just marketing, the really interesting stuff is to come when we see the supply chain shift and this move may be the nudge needed to drag that part of the industry kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

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