Sellers of Experience. The New Face of Fashion Retail

21 09 2011

Update (May 2013): the full article is finally out in “From Production to Consumption: The Cultural Industry of Fashion“, edited by Marco Pedroni, Interdisciplinary Press, Oxford, 2013. The one published below is just a speech and, as such, it contains a provisional and simplified version of my thought about fashion retail that can’t be quoted as a scientific work.


Back to Oxford once again, this year – at the 3rd Global Conference on Fashion organized by – I’m going to present a paper by the name of “Sellers of Experience. The New Face of Fashion Retail”. On Saturday 24th September, to be exact.

This study was performed to analyze the evolution of fashion retail, showing how the category of ‘experience’ affects the distribution channels in the field of fashion. So, I am going to open a window on terms such as ‘factory outlet centres’, ‘concept stores’, ‘pop-up retail’ and so on. My aim is to underline that these categories are not just a matter that concerns marketers and retailers, but a phenomenon that allows us to read the evolution of the consumers’ mentality.

The draft paper has been already published on the website and it is rich of examples I probably won’t be able to comment now – not all, at least. All these examples come from an activity of observation and documentation carried out with my students of the Master course in Fashion & Design Retail, inside the Milano Fashion Institute. Italy was of course the main field of observation, but also other European countries have provided examples and case studies. I would like, in the next few months, to expand my research considering also non-Western countries.

Let’s start with a statement that many scholars agree with: What is fashion? Fashion is something about changing and creating. Both actions concern the production or renovation of products, but also new ways to sell them. In recent times, the categories of periodicity and obsolescence have spread from fashion production to fashion distribution, turning the retail spaces into something that requires a continuous rethinking in order to fulfill the desires of the consumers.

Fashion retail is nowadays not just a mechanism through which the clothes reach the consumers, but a key tool for creating the brand image. This need has been translated into a wide range of distribution options.

How can we categorize and summarize these retail options?

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