Not a pretty business
Tough times for the Australian retail business.
Move over retail, ecommerce is here.
As always when I am heading to Australia, one of my favourite pastimes is shopping. I enjoy wandering the streets, browsing the stores, exploring local Australian fashion. Not so much this time. This time it really hit me. One of my favourite areas used to be Oxford Street in Paddington and its surroundings, featuring many of the local fashion brands. I still remember the days (about 10 years ago) when the most fun thing to do was getting up on a Saturday morning to catch up with your girlfriends in a café nearby, then strolling the Paddington markets and local fashion stores. These days it resembles more a deserted depressing place. Every second store is empty and looking for new tenants. The brands I used to buy, don’t exist anymore. Not so much fun anymore. The unaffordable real estate in Sydney doesn’t help things of course. Neither does the arrival of global mass brands like Zara, H&M and Topshop.
So I wonder, where do Australians shop these days? A quick chat with my friends reveals. Online. Asos, Luxury shopping platform Net-a-porter and The Outnet seem to be favourites. In fact, Asos names Australia it's second largest market outside Britain and the largest single foreign market for the global fashion group.
A recent feature in The Business of Fashion confirmed my observation; the country’s fashion industry is facing tough times.
Established retailers and longstanding fashion businesses like Bettina Liano had to face liquidation, Kirrily Johnston, Lisa Ho, Marnie Skillings, luxury fashion brand Colette Dinnigan and George Gross & Harry where forced to close. Ksubi, local streetwear favourite has recently closed all local boutiques and currently sells through their last stock online and in General Pants stores (get them while you can!).
In a way some are a victim of their own making. Having moved production offshore (mainly China) many years ago increased local manufacturing costs with the few remaining producers. Just last year one of the longest serving suppliers of the Australian fashion industry closed their doors, Standardknit Fabrics and Universal Dyers in Botany, attributed to increasing competition from low-cost garment imports.
It really hurts my heart to see so many of the local fashion heroes had to close their stores. Luckily fabulous brands like Zimmermann, the successful Australian swimwear label, is still going strong and their unique fashion style is able to be clearly distinguished from European fashion lines. Beautiful fabrics, unique prints and cuts make for the perfect outfit for a beach getaway (Check out Zimmermann Swimmwear 2013/14).
So where to from here?
The future of shopping is here, if you want it or not. Consumers are becoming increasingly savvy, buying fashion online from both domestic and international retailers. Sadly for many local brands that means competing with cheaper international operational costs and many more are forced to move their manufacturing offshore. Let’s hope the Australian fashion industry wakes up before it’s too late and supports local talent for a sustainable fashion future that sets itself apart from international competition.
Photos: Zimmermann Swimwear