Fashion Merchants Need to Adjust to Gift Card Recipients

If you sell apparel and accessories to teens, you’d better be prepared to adjust your post-holiday inventory quickly, according to a speaker at the Retail Marketing Society’s Christmas 2010 Retail Forecast Conference in New York on Oct. 29.

According to David Wolfe, creative director at retail consultancy The Doneger Group, more teens are going to receive gift cards as holiday gifts, and they aren’t going to redeem them for potentially outdated items on your clearance racks.

Wolfe says consumers don’t want to buy teens gifts that will be returned or go unused, so they feel gift cards are a better bet. Teens are also more receptive to gift cards so they can get what they want, whether its via digital gift cards for i-merchants or physical gift cards for mass merchants like Walmart.

But teens are also fashion-savvy, Wolfe reminded the audience. They are not going to go to the malls or shop online the week after Christmas and look for clearance items, because they most likely already have the season’s trends.

Thanks why merchandisers need to get spring apparel and accessories on the sales floor or online the day after Christmas.

The good news is that merchants are getting better at holiday inventory management. During another session, Kimberly Greenberger, managing director at Morgan Stanley, said that merchants in 2009 did a good job keeping inventories low, and the post-holiday clearance season was rather short.

The trick is determining what consumers will want to buy–and hoping Mother Nature is on the same page. If the Weather Trends International prediction for a warm December holds true, Greenberger says, consumers may flock to the mall, but they may not think about giving sweaters as gifts.

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