For the first time in its 160-year history, Burberry used its Monday show slot at London Fashion Week not to showcase the spring clothes that would arrive in stores four to six months from now - as almost every other designer showing in London this season did - but a second fall collection that landed in flagships and department stores around the world immediately after the models took their final turn around the catwalk.
It was a bold move, one that required a complete overhaul of the way that Burberry makes, markets and retails its collections - and one that may very well pay off for the brand. Within hours of the show, many items, particularly outerwear pieces in larger sizes, were sold out online. And at the heritage brand's Regent Street flagship in London on Tuesday afternoon, a few of the plate-glass shelves in the knitwear section were bare, several styles having sold out before lunchtime, according to a store associate. The silk pajama bottoms and military-inspired outerwear had also been selling briskly, she added. Upstairs, a local client tried on several coats from the collection, settling on a black waist-length number with silver buttons. A young, eccentrically dressed woman steering a dachshund on a leash exited with a giant Burberry shopping bag over her shoulder.
A photo posted by Burberry (@burberry) on Sep 19, 2016 at 4:00pm PDT
Things were quieter over at Burberry's store on New Bond Street - largely because Burberry had been steering customers to its Regent Street location, where it held a live-streaming event for its clients the evening before, one associate explained. The employee, who has been working at the company for three years, said the new collection was already a big success, with clients whom he hadn't heard from in two years ringing him up to book shopping appointments. Though nothing had yet sold out at the Bond Street location, he said he'd been pleased to see how his female clients had been purchasing outerwear pieces from the men's collection, and that his male clients were snapping up the pajama-style silk tops from the women's.
But the new collection wasn't the only thing driving shoppers into the stores. At both locations, the most crowded areas were those that displayed Burberry's non-seasonal scarves and trench coats, and they were full of tourists. One group of Chinese visitors, who looked to be in their late 20s, said they were there to take advantage of the recent drop in the pound to pick up some classic Burberry items that cost more at home.
A photo posted by Burberry (@burberry) on Sep 19, 2016 at 3:17pm PDT
While Burberry's new show-to-market strategy seems to be a success, its impact on the company's bottom line will likely be minimal: Associates noted that most stores only received a single-size run of each collection piece, and that the company had no plans to restock the goods that sold out. That kind of bet can pay off in the long run, however, creating a sense of scarcity that may make demand for future collections even more immediate in the seasons to come.