Fashion’s Night Out 2010 | Marketing Value For Retailers
Is Fashion’s Night Out worth its weight in gold for participating retailers? Or is it just smoke and mirrors, offering little more than celebrity cache and third party association with iconic designers?
The fashion blogosphere is abuzz with the announcement that Fashion’s Night Out will return next year.
An estimated 800 stores took place in Fashion’s Night Out 2009 event, which was originally the brainchild of Vogue Editor-In-Chief Anna Wintour. It was created in order to boost the retail economy, and participating stores brought in celebrities and fashion designers for book signings and parties (Wall Street Journal).
Retailers’ Responses to Fashion’s Night Out 2009
The response from large retail participants on the 2009 event was mixed. Stephen I. Sadove, chairman and chief executive officer of Saks Fifth Avenue, thought the event was very successful, saying “It generated traffic and excitement around fashion. It was very focused.” Sadove went on to say that the event was never designed to generate huge sales, but he did believe incremental sales were generated.
Others retailers had financial goals and felt the event fell short of their expectations. Barney’s New York creative director, Simon Doonan, said that the impact was minimal. He stated that if Barney’s (which hosted Alexander Wang and Manolo Blahnik) participated again, it would change its strategy.
Retail Numbers Never Lie…Or Do They?
ShopperTrak estimated that Fashion’s Night Out provided a 3.4 percent nationwide store traffic increase in the Apparel and Accessories retail segment and nearly a 50% increase in retail foot traffic for Manhattan-based stores. NY & Company’s – New York’s official marketing organization – conducted a post-event consumer survey and reported that 75% of participants purchased something during the event.
With such strong retail traffic reports from ShopperTrak and the city’s consumer study, coupled with the four-page spread in this past month’s Vogue, one would naturally assume sales must have been up, right?
Well, I’m not so sure.
According to Forbes and Gawker, consumers kept their wallets shut. The majority of Fashion’s Night Out participants were fashion industry professionals and college and high school students mostly wanting to meet their favorite celebrities. Forbes reported that the crowds were so massive that shoppers were turned away from certain events, creating frustration among those hoping to meet their favorite designers and stars.
The sales data is very unclear; the one item that we know sold out was the $30.00 Fashion’s Night Out T-Shirt (which now sells on eBay for upwards of $65.00). For those who sold the t-shirt, 40% of the proceeds were donated to charity, so the item’s sales did have a large impact on revenue generated from the event.
Defining Goals and Marketing Values for Fashion’s Night Out
From a marketing perspective, I don’t consider Fashion’s Night Out to be a success. It feels more like an awareness campaign presented by a traditional fashion industry PR firm for exposure. There were no concrete results or guarantees for the client (in this case, the clients were the retailers that participated in Fashion’s Night Out) as to its effectiveness and reach.
If “awareness” and “exposure” were the goals, then this campaign was somewhat successful for larger retailers or shops that hosted celebrity events. There was plenty of online and print coverage before, during and after the event.
However, only a few small retailers were listed in the press news releases and coverage. For smaller entities, the campaign was a major failure if they didn’t have a celebrity to anchor their in-store events. As we know, most of them didn’t have famous designers at their disposal.
LadyLux reported that “This collaboration between retailers and designers was key in the overall acceptance from everyone that attended. It’s this sense of community that really got everyone to rally and make an appearance. ”
Sadly, I don’t feel that Fashion’s Night Out had much to do community. While it garnered tons of press and attention, it represented the fragmentation that other industries criticize us for. Picture Meryl Streep saying, in Anna Wintour-esque style, “Everyone wants to be us” at the end ofThe Devil Wears Prada.
Fashion’s Night Out furthered the model of fashion hegemony, allowing aspirational shoppers to feel like they were part of inner, elite circles, but for only one night.
This is a problem in the fashion industry as a whole. It’s a problem in the industry’s marketing strategies, as well, and it’s why retail has been one of the hardest hit sectors during the current economic crisis. Community doesn’t mean existing in a bubble; community means sharing and working collaboratively with others.
Did the organizers of Fashion’s Night Out make accommodations for the all the fashion bloggers attending and covering the event? No, it was organized top – down, and the organizers picked a select few bloggers but favored traditional media outlets. If our industry would start working more collaboratively, they’d find there are amazing resources that can help promote and market Fashion’s Night Out (and events like it) and actually make them successful.
The Definition of Success: Tangible success for Fashion’s Night Out can’t be measured just by foot traffic, or estimated return traffic or exposure; it also has to be measured by sales dollars and customer acquisition. – Macala Wright
How To Create Online Marketing Successes Via FashionsNightOut.com
So can you, a retailer who is contemplating participating in Fashion’s Night Out or who is going to participate again, make the event a marketing or financial success? Yes, you can.
Register and make sure your store is listed as soon as you’re able. Links to participating retailers on event-related websites are extremely valuable, perhaps as valuable as the sales generated from in-store traffic during the event.
We all know that links to your domain from high ranking, heavily trafficked websites impact organic search engine rankings and increase website traffic. Hopefully, your site is eCommerce equipped and you’ll see online sales, as well as, in-store sales.
Also, do your own PR. If you’re participating, contact your area bloggers and let them know that your retail store is participating in FNO, have them write about it and let them know about any special in-store promotions during the event. It’s even all right to offer blogger incentives for event coverage. You’ll generate greater awareness of your participation, more links to your website, more traffic to your site and more traffic through your door during the day of the event.
Ask FNO what they’re doing to promote the event in your area; if they’re not actively promoting local media coverage, contact other participants and work together to secure online, print and TV coverage that can help drive traffic and sales. You can even organize a TweetUp with a custom #hashtag to let everyone know what’s going on in real-time during the event in your city.
If you’re wondering whether or not my suggestions will work, I can tell you first hand IT DOES. Several Brooklyn-based retailers implemented a simpler version of this strategy during Fashion’s Night Out 2009. The result: increased web traffic, better search engine placement and email list sign ups. Calabar Imports‘s television coverage from February 2009 lead to further coverage for FNO 2009 that generated sales and new customers. That’s true value and ROI.