Retail partnerships are a great way to create offerings that leverage the unique strengths of two individual brands. A wider audience reach, greater brand exposure and new business can all be outcomes of a successful partnership.
But with COVID-19 set to have a lasting effect on the economy and customers coming to terms with their adjusted needs and expectations, brands may be tempted to push any retail partnership plans to the back of the shelf.
In times of crisis, marketing activity is often the first to take a hit as companies take cost cutting measures in an attempt to stay afloat. However, rather than cutting back entirely, strategised activities could make all the difference between simply staying afloat and thriving.
Retail partnerships are certainly something to consider, particularly in these challenging times. The right partner can give you the vital support you need to navigate out of the crisis successfully by raising brand awareness and building brand advocacy.
In retail, relationships have historically been forged by partners at all stages of the supply chain and customer journey and often with mixed results. Post-pandemic, the onus can only be on building ones that really add value.
And I speak from experience, having founded the company only a year before the 2008 financial crisis and battling his way through challenging conditions in order to establish the business as the market leader it is today.
Brands will begin to see more value in retail partnerships throughout the supply chain. By splitting costs and resources between partners, brands will find themselves with more money and ability to invest, develop and, ultimately, become more sustainable.
For example, companies can share the costs of investment into the development of innovative materials that are beneficial for both. Or a partnership may work to minimise waste and greenhouse gas production, allowing both businesses to reduce their carbon footprints.
In particular, the fashion industry may seek to tackle production and shipping costs as companies seek to recover lost earnings. Therefore, you may consider whether your competitor will be able to sell you any of their waste at a reduced rate, that you can then convert into something useful. In the post-pandemic climate, businesses working together in this way to streamline their processes, generate additional revenue and reduce costs will be incredibly useful.
The disruption to transportation and logistics has highlighted a real need to revisit the way we do things in order to avoid future issues and to ensure we remain committed to our goal of carbon neutrality. Taking advantage of technological developments to do just that should be in the plans of every supply chain.
For instance, a combined forecasting database across multiple companies can help stop under-used storage space in global transportation and reduce CO2 emissions. The introduction of a ‘container share’ method, which is more cost-efficient and sustainable for everyone may well be a partnership opportunity retail brands could explore.
There have already been calls from business leaders for sustainability initiatives to become key components of wider COVID recovery plans, with the likes of Coca-Cola, HSBC and PwC among 200 large-scale businesses showing support for the idea in an open letter to the government earlier this month.
It may well take a collaborative approach like this to create a permanent shift towards a more sustainable future in the retail industry too.
The stripped back life most of us have been living in recent months has brought to light a lot of our negative or unnecessary shopping habits, particularly those that relate to unethical consumerism. Coming out of the pandemic, many will want to stick to their new habits, so businesses must cater to them. Therefore, a partnership which will ultimately encourage unnecessary consumption probably won’t be the most effective strategy going forward.
Rather, retail partnerships that enable ethical habits, such as minimising waste or extending product life cycles are a better way to proceed. If we look at the luxury fashion market, for example, in recent times there has been increased demand for second-hand and resale items, and the market has responded accordingly.
This is a trend which luxury market platforms have been trialing for some time now, with Vestiaire Collective only strengthening their position in the market during the pandemic.
Their most recent partnership saw Kate Moss advocating resale and its benefits in reducing waste and extending product life, whilst also championing a great cause. Kate Moss sold her signature leopard coat via the luxury second hand retailer and donated 100% of the proceeds to the NHS, in support of all their efforts during the health crisis.
I believe that retail partnerships with resale services should become even more prominent in the post-pandemic luxury fashion market. Reselling unsold or returned goods just makes business sense. Brands can recycle goods back into the supply chain by selling them at a reduced price, so rather than items simply going to waste, they will still generate revenue for the company.
And it’s not only the business and the environment that benefit from this type of partnership. Consumers with varying financial needs will finally have access to luxury fashion items.
In a similar move, Harrods announced that for the very first time, they will be opening a flagship outlet in Westfield to deal with COVID over-stock issues.
Vestiaire Collective and Kate Moss are not the only ones to have partnered up for the greater good during the pandemic. We’ve seen similar alliances between the British Fashion Council (BFC) and various brands, including Victoria Beckham and Alighieri, who donated 20% of their ecommerce sales to the Trussell Trust.
In a more unusual move by BFC, a joint statement calling for an industry rethink was released in partnership with their US equivalent, Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA).
The statement outlined the need for the industry to slow down, so the delivery of items to a store better matched when customers will actually want them.
This would have saved retailers a significant amount of money and resources during the pandemic and they would not be facing the issues of unsold, out of season stock that they are facing now.
Matthew Hayes is the managing director of Midlands based marketing agency, Champions (UK) plc. Having also navigated his business through difficult market conditions and helped many other companies do the same, he explains how retail partnerships can be used to increase engagement.
“The right partnership can be an extremely valuable marketing activity for a variety of different reasons,” Hayes says. “For many businesses, the goal in the post-pandemic climate will be to reduce expenditure and recover lost earnings, which is exactly why they should be considered.”
Hayes continues: “The partnership will allow you to split marketing costs with like-minded businesses and, ultimately, generate new revenues from a wider audience. Not only that, but partnerships between industry peers can help shape the future of the market, allowing you to play a significant role in how you want it to look.”
Hayes concludes: “So, before proceeding or hitting the brakes on a partnership you’ve had in your plans, think about the value it could bring to your business. Any activity post-pandemic will need to be well-thought out and strategised in order to engage a more conscious audience, reduce business expenditure and help in the recovery of the industry. A collaborative approach will certainly place you in a stronger position to do all of this and much more.”
Robert Lockyer is CEO of Delta Global, a luxury packing provider