每日跟讀#585: Fast-Fashion Brands Outpace U.S. Stores
At 8:50 on a Wednesday morning, more than 20 shoppers hovered in front of H&M’s new global flagship store in Manhattan, eager to get inside.
Directly across the street, a Gap store was also preparing to open. A lone woman stood in front, handing out fliers for a Cuban restaurant.
One by one, Gap, J. Crew, American Apparel and Abercrombie & Fitch have reported slumping sales, while chic and cheap foreign fast-fashion brands like H&M, Uniqlo and Zara are opening bustling stores.
一家接一家，Gap、J. Crew、American Apparel以及Abercrombie &Fitch分別傳出銷售下滑，而H&M、優衣庫和Zara這些時髦又平價的外國快時尚品牌卻紛紛展店，而且門庭若市。
American midmarket fashion has lost its way. Gap – once so cool that the actress Sharon Stone wore one of its turtlenecks, with a Valentino skirt, to the 1996 Oscars – is closing a quarter of its 675 North American stores over the next few years. “We had our moments of glory, but they’re not followed with consistent moments of glory,” Art Peck, Gap’s chief executive, told investors.
Once the master of casual clothing, the company is finding that its American customer base has splintered. Luxury is booming; at the other end of the market, discount retailers like T. J. Maxx and Burlington Stores are seeing robust gains. Gap, Abercrombie and their peers are stuck in the middle.
Gap曾是休閒服飾的霸主，如今卻發現美國客戶基本盤已經支離破碎。精品業欣欣向榮；而在市場的另一端，T.J. Maxx和Burlington stores這樣的折扣零售店獲利也很豐厚。Gap、Abercrombie及同等級的品牌反而進退兩難。
The legions of teenagers and young adults now turn to juggernauts like H&M, based in Sweden, and Zara, owned by the Spanish company Inditex, which turn out cheaper versions of runway trends in weeks. H&M’s 368 stores in the United States, set to grow by 65 this year, get a fresh shipment of styles daily. Uniqlo, owned by the Japanese giant Fast Retailing, markets basics at low price points, in tens of colors in high-tech fabrics, and offers midprice collections by designers and celebrities.
“Back in the ’80s and ’90s, there wasn’t real access to higher-level fashion,” said Kate Davidson Hudson, chief executive of Editorialist, an online fashion magazine. “It was the heyday of business casual, and stores did well selling core staples. But now, everybody sees what’s on the runways on social media and on blogs, and everybody’s a critic, and shoppers want it as soon as they see it. Brands like Gap just feel very dated.”
Sales at Gap stores open for at least a year have fallen for 13 straight months. The Gap’s upmarket brand, Banana Republic, has also stumbled, though Gap’s cheaper Old Navy label has done well. At Abercrombie & Fitch, comparable sales have fallen for three straight years and the brand is in the midst of an overhaul
營運至少一年的Gap門市銷售額連續13個月下滑。Gap的高端品牌「香蕉共和國」同樣受挫，不過Gap廉價品牌「老海軍」表現出色。而Abercrombie & Fitch的「可比較店舖銷售額」（譯註：零售集團扣掉新增門市外的「真實」營運情況）已經連續三年下滑，品牌正進行全面整頓。
American brands are also saddled with the remnants of a shopping mall culture that is vanishing. Many of Gap’s coming store closures are expected to be at malls that have suffered from declining foot traffic. By contrast, overseas retailers, from the start, are used to operating all of their locations as high-traffic, high-grossing flagship stores.
“The mall doesn’t really exist abroad as it does here,” said William Susman, managing director at Threadstone Partners, a New York consumer and retail advisory firm.
A shopper at a Uniqlo in Manhattan, Dhushyanthy Tharan, said she found the selection better than at the Gap. “I love their materials, the cotton and linen, and their style,” she said.
Mr. Peck and his team seemed to suggest to investors that Gap’s brands will be trying to get new styles into stores more quickly. But it will be difficult for Gap and other American brands to catch up to the likes of Zara and other fast-fashion retailers, some of whom have been coming under scrutiny lately for their heavy reliance on low-wage factory workers working in grueling conditions, as well as for the environmental toll of throwaway fashion.
Most pressing for declining American brands, retail specialists say, is bringing inspiration to their clothing lines.
“There’s no creative direction, there’s no creative identity, and the shopper can perceive that,” Ms. Davidson Hudson said.
Source article: https://paper.udn.com/udnpaper/POH0067/281681/web/