Self-confidence never goes out of fashion

In 1955, they discovered a grave in Sunghir in Russia. In it they found a man whose clothes had been decorated with ivory beads. The man, who was in his forties, lived 34,000 (!) years ago. That was in the middle of the last Ice Age, which was when people first started wearing clothes. They did it to protect themselves from the cold, but also to demonstrate their status.

I have said many times that we don’t sell clothes, but self-confidence, and the need for status and self-confidence will never go out of fashion. There will always be demand for quality clothing that delivers a value which is equal to or greater than the price. The challenge is that the value of a garment is subjective. It is what goes on inside the customer’s head that decides whether there will be a sale or not.

Right now, things are changing inside the heads of Norwegian consumers. According to SIFO, one in three feel that their financial situation has worsened. In practical terms, many people’s purchasing power has been reduced as a result of higher interest rates, food and electricity prices. We already know that this has caused Norwegians to stop building houses, buying cars and doing up their homes, but according to the latest figures from Virke, they still seem to be buying clothes.

What is absolutely certain however, is that Norwegian consumers have become more price conscious. And here is the first important message of the day: When customers are more price conscious, we as retailers must work even harder to communicate the value of the clothes we are selling.

We are professional retailers, and professionalism beats price, but it is our job to make sure that it does. We know the formula: Deliver extraordinarily good customer experiences, be highly knowledgeable about the clothes we sell, use our skills to find clothes that suit people, and create a good feeling in every customer’s head. We now also need to market ourselves more intensively. Because it is highly likely that some of the customers who came into a Texcon shop last year will now go straight to a cheap shop instead.

I don’t think that the market as a whole will fall that much this coming autumn, but the customers are wavering.  What they want is to get more for the money that they have. And we need to do what we can to make sure that customers who are wavering do not drift away.

Another important change we have really noticed this year is that suppliers are making us place orders earlier. This transfers the risk to the shops, and many shops respond to this by playing safe. As a consequence, shops can become less inspiring, with the result that price conscious customers choose the most affordable brand when the choice is between three polo shirts that look more or less the same.

Finally, a few words about something that has gone out of fashion. After the price of plastic bags went up this summer to NOK 4.25, I have also started providing reusable bags.  So my challenge to all members is this: Sign up to the Norwegian Retailers’ Environment Fund now! Customers will appreciate it, whether you charge them for the bag or give it to them for nothing when they have come into your shop and spent a few thousand kroner on self-confidence.