Whether it's cutting-edge streetwear, everyday essentials, or accessories like handbags and jewelry, the entire fashion world is red hot through the holiday season, followed by a significant cooldown period.
For fashion brands worldwide, the final quarter of the year is prime time for sales, but why can't January and February be just as lucrative?
Let's highlight some strategies from real-world fashion pros to see how they improve early-year numbers against all odds.
A glaring reason why retailers struggle to keep sales high in the new year is simply that they don't put in the effort. Just by mapping out a game plan and applying it, a fashion brand can leap ahead of the competition in January and February.
"You don't need an excuse or an event to reach out to customers for the sake of making an offer or simply connecting after the holidays," says Yuvi Alpert, Founder and CEO of Noémie. "These months may not be known for big spending, but you can definitely boost revenue with some effort and creative thinking. Many competitors are not even showing up in this regard."
Having a successful first quarter also means providing employees with the necessary resources to succeed and continue a high level of service on all fronts.
"When planning your post-holiday ecommerce strategies, ensure your team has the tools they need to respond," said Emma Kimmerly, Partner Marketing Manager at Gorgias. "For example, if you are expanding your social media campaigns or working with influencers, you should have customer support processes in place to be able to respond to new customers across those channels in case they have questions."
If your brand had a successful holiday season, why not encourage happy customers to showcase their fashionable new fits on social media? User-generated content is hugely effective and a great tactic to employ after the December rush.
"Everyone is looking for some excitement and connection after the new year hype dies down, so create some fun and engaging social media content with customers in the spotlight," says Fred Gerantabee, Chief Experience Officer at Foster Grant. "Throw in a few special offers throughout, and watch your January revenue spring back to life."
While most ecommerce brands are exhausted after a long holiday season, the new year may be a good time to introduce a new product or service, seeing how customers respond and gathering useful intel along the way.
"It's not a bad idea to try something new and take a risk that maybe would not have made sense during the holiday rush," says Chris Cronin, Co-Founding Partner of Kitanica. "You can test out some different ideas and maybe have an unexpected hit product in the process. Customers are willing to try new things in the new year, so this may just work to your advantage."
More generally, the early part of the year is a great time to test out new themes for your brand, experiment with CTAs, or try various tactics for the purpose of trial and error.
"I like to view January and February as 'sandbox' months where things are slow and we can try a wide range of different things with the brand," says David Wolfe, Founder and CEO of Oliver's Apparel. "Use this block of time to learn more about your audience, take some risks, and see if you can uncover a winning formula to fuel your efforts the remainder of the year."
Introducing fresh products isn't always possible in January, of course, since most creative energy is depleted just getting through the holiday season.
Brands might be better off remixing some old favorites, switching up messaging tactics, or teaming up with other big names in the industry to combine forces on a collaboration.
"Improve your sales numbers by getting hyper-specific on messaging that is relevant to your core demographics," said Sebrina Pereira, Head of Growth Marketing at EasyStandard. "By focusing on your core consumer personas you'll be able to message your products in ways that speak to them more deeply. Another method to try is launching a limited-edition collection that speaks to a new demographic. Look to see if there is something you can add or extend that will attract new customers. Think about maybe a collaboration or limited edition. Just be sure you remember that the goal with the new collection is to attract new customers while not alienating your existing customers."
A little bit of creativity goes a long way during the slow part of the winter season, and customers are craving some originality! Give them what they want and you'll be rewarded with a welcomed spike in sales before spring has sprung.
There is a growing number of services allowing customers to receive products for the holiday season while leaving the bill for January, February, or further in the future.
Smart ecommerce strategists will proceed with caution using these tactics, but they're becoming more common and less risky as a tactic to keep sales up through the winter.
"As long as the terms and services are clear and you trust the processor, you can safely allow customers to buy now and pay later with several different platforms," says Mike Pasley, Founder of Famous IRL. "Some plans let people split payments up into chunks, or finance items in different ways. You'll need to decide if this approach is worth pursuing and sensible for your business, so research plenty before committing."
The post-holiday cooldown is also a great time to bundle products together for a slight discount and give customers no excuse to miss an excellent deal on their favorite items.
"Try mixing and matching different products and spin up new offers once the holiday craze has calmed down," says Dylan Trussell, Co-Founder of Culprit Underwear. "You can sell a lot of products in a short timeframe and quickly move on to your plans for the year to come."
The flagship ecommerce store should always be the main focus of any brand, but when January rolls around and you've still got some inventory laying around, it may be wise to seek other channels to offload in bulk.
"There's nothing wrong with using Amazon or a similar big-box company to help you get rid of products left over from the holidays," says James Ville, Chief Product Officer at GunSkins. "It takes a lot of pressure off you and your team, and you can focus on bigger projects that move the dial. Plus, you'll get a bunch of quick sales in rapid succession and that's always a bonus."
Believe it or not, using these alternative sales channels can benefit your company in more ways than one, simply broadening your potential audience.
"It never hurts to expand your reach as a brand, even if that means sacrificing a bit of profit in the short term," says Max Greenberg, Co-Founder and CEO of Stoggles. "Selling at scale for discounted prices can help your company in the long haul because you'll connect with tons of first-time customers and make a good impression. Before long, they'll return to your main site and see what else you offer."
If you want to keep things close to home, a good old-fashioned sale is always a smart tactic.
"Don't hesitate to put some items on sale or reconfigure your shop a bit to keep things moving," says Designer and Founder Daniel Patrick. "There may be a certain portion of your customer base eager to grab those sale items in a flash, so that speeds up your business cycle and allows you to focus on the next steps."
Marketing teams still have a job to do in the new year, so keep them occupied with plenty of campaigns to keep the pressure on.
"It's common to cool down on marketing at this time of year, but that doesn't mean you can shut it down altogether," says Ryan Craver, Founder and CEO of Mallary By Matthew. "Campaigns can have a more relaxed tone and CTA's don't need to be so aggressive. In fact, this laid-back approach will likely lead to more success."
In terms of budgeting, the new year is when tough decisions must be made, so more affordable marketing options could be a better call for many brands.
"Retailers sometimes cut expenses when sales fall, for good reasons," says Armando Roggio, Senior Contributing Editor for Practical Ecommerce. "Spending a lot of money in a relatively small sales market is not wise. However, there is a difference between right-sizing a marketing budget and eliminating it. In January, look for ways to keep marketing to customers and prospects. Affordable options include email marketing, content marketing, and off-season advertising."
No matter what you do, fashion and retail sales in January and February will never match the extravaganza of the holidays.
But with these tips, your brand can certainly bounce back strong in the new year and set a strong tone for the next 12 months.