18 July 2017
Disrupted Weather Patterns Trigger Fashion Re-think Across Russia
With winter extending into traditional spring time, Russian retailers are revising their ranges and their schedules.
With traditional weather patterns across Europe subject to widespread disruption this year, Russia has been a particular casualty of such extreme and unpredictable climate events. Indeed, so prevalent has the change been to the established pattern that it has had serious repercussions for the sale of seasonal clothing and footwear across the country.
Traditionally, summer fashion collections reach the shelves of Russian outlets in early April, with some of the more precocious brands making their debut in late March. This year, however, snow was still falling on the streets of Moscow as late as June.
This drastic departure from the expected weather patterns seriously undermined one of the country's peak seasonal buying periods. Typically, April is the month when the country's shoppers look to buy suitably seasonal clothing for a spring break in South Russia. It is also the time when many Russians invest in outfits for the May holiday period (1-9 May), an occasion when many tend to take time off to celebrate the end of another long winter.
This year, however, the year-on-year visitor flow in fashion outlets in Moscow and St Petersburg was down by some 20%. Sales revenue was also down, falling by between 10-15% depending on the particular chain and brand.
The problem was compounded by other regions – notably Western Siberia – enjoying an unusually warm spring. To add to the overall unpredictability, the weather in the Ural and the Volga regions was in line with the established seasonal norms. While sales in these latter regions were largely unaffected, their relatively low volume of transactions did little to mitigate the losses experienced in the larger urban areas.
As a consequence of the climate unpredictability in 2017, many of the country's fashion retailers, manufacturers and distributors are expected to adjust their 2018 schedules in anticipation of similar fluctuations in the expected weather patterns. Indeed, many are now expecting that such departures from the norm will be more extreme and more widespread in the years to come.
In terms of actual clothing lines, it is anticipated that inter-seasonal garments, suitable to wear in a range of weather conditions, will become more prominent. There is also expected to be a sustained surge in demand for clothing that can be adjusted to meet a variety of outdoor conditions, including zip-on hoods, optional liners and waistcoats. In terms of footwear, waterproof casual shoes and sneakers are set to become more widely available.
With Russians traditionally big spenders on their children, the junior fashion sector is also expected to be affected. Even though many youngsters pay little attention to the shifting weather patterns, it is thought that their parents or guardians will spend heavily on kitting them out appropriately for the new seasonal realities.
For any Hong Kong clothing/footwear manufacturers or distributors looking to serve the Russian market, it is worth bearing in mind these changed priorities. It may be particularly beneficial to examine the emerging opportunities in the inter-seasonal sector, a niche that looks certain to expand over the coming years.
Leonid Orlov, Moscow Consultant