Friday, February 7, 2014

Country Road SS 13/14 - The pieces you disliked

Last year I posted “It’s in the clearance sale cos no one wants it”

The thrust of that post was that if it’s on the clearance rack, there is generally a good reason for it. So be alert & check yourself each time you find yourself wanting something on that rack. 

Basically, the good stuff sells way before clearance time.  That's code for classic and flattering. Clearance racks essentially have all the problem children.

Issues which love the a clearance rack may include:

* unflattering colours (eg: neon? super brights?)
* extreme cuts eg: very directional runway looks
* unflattering shapes eg: items that look great on the fit model but not so great on a “real body”
* inappropriate pieces for that store’s look eg: suits in a casual store or vice versa

Today I went to the Country Road outlet store in Sydney’s Birkenhead Point and I decided to do little exercise.

Rather than dive in & look for loot (OK, I did that after the exercise), I stepped back & observed what was in the store.  I didn’t pull anything off the hangers, I just looked & took in the looks which were hanging there.

The point of this is to figure out what didn’t sell well from their SS 2013/14 women’s collection. I would then see if there was any logic to why the clearance items were left over. 

It was also good timing because the main stores are starting to fill up with winter & have now pushed a lot of summer to the outlet.

My exercise may produce different results in Melbourne or Perth, but overall there is no reason why big picture, it wouldn’t produce representative outcomes for any Aussie city.

As I was looking, this is what jumped out in spades:

1. Slim skirts with deep ruffle hems – lots of fabrics & prints, the common denominator was that the ruffles were at least 20 cm deep.

There was so many of these, I couldnt keep up. 

What this means: Deep skirt ruffles disrupt a look & can look out of messy or whack (pardon the very technical fashion jargon) with a jacket or top.

I didnt think the ruffles were particularly "fattening", but when a store is carrying so much of this look as it was, there is a flattery issue with the look. 

I think the flattery issue is in the length. The ruffle tends to add length & the average Aussie woman (who is on the short/petite side), may be swamped by that length. 

2. Tops with giant ruffles (at shoulder line & sleeves). 

What this means: This trend is too directional & makes it impossible to wear a jacket/cardi.  It’s too fashion-y for the typical CR customer but may have been perfect for the Gucci customer, for whom it was originally produced & which inspired CR. Interestingly, CR seems to have done a lot of these ruffles, again for AW 2014…watch this space.

3. Boxy sweaters with no indentation at the waist

What this means: Let’s add bulk to our waist because it’s trendy. Thankfully CR customers don’t agree.

4. Batwing or dropped shoulder sleeves 

What this means: Let’s add bulk to our arms & torso because it’s trendy. Thankfully CR customers don’t agree.

5. Really bright colours – emeralds, yellows, oranges & these were in dresses in particular

What this means: Super brights don’t flatter most complexions. You need very deep/dark colouring to be flattered in these.

6. Neon colours – dresses in particular

What this means: See “really bright colours” at #5.

7. Body con knit dresses in small sizes 
These were usually simple styles but included tiers of fabric (like a bandage dress), twisty fabric around the tummy, a cut out here or there but essentially knit body con dresses with vertical lines.

What this means: This one is interesting.
CR makes its dresses long in the body & it’s particularly evident in its small sizes. As far as I can work out, they have been doing this for ages – its not a new thing for them.

But let’s think about the typical size 4, 6 or 8 friends we have. None of mine are tall. They are all short – ie: petite.  So why would they buy these dresses which would typically have a surplus 5 cm+ in the torso? The answer is they wouldnt & that's why the small sizes (XXS, XS, S) were in clearance. Don’t forget too that knits like these cant be altered.

8. Metallic gold tones in sweaters & wovens

What this means:  I don’t think gold (clothing) sells as well in summer as it does in winter & I think silver sells better in summer than gold. Yes, metallics were around for SS 2013/14, but there was nothing silver on the clearance racks – it was all gold. So CR either didnt do any silver, or if they did, it sold well. Either way, the gold was a bad move. 

9. Suiting
I saw alot of clearance suiting, compared to what was in the collection – I am not suggesting that there was alot in clearance compared to the outlet as a whole. The outcome though seems to be that the suits didnt sell well. 

What this means: The CR customer does not look for suiting. That’s why they do very little of it and that’s why most of that small potion of the collection ends up in clearance anyway.

Back in the late 80s/early 90s CR’s specialty was suits.  They deliberately changed their strategy about 10 years ago to go for a more relaxed look & a more youthful customer.

10. Creams & nude was the most common colour by far. 
There was considerably less of anything in monochrome navy, black, white, pastels & mid range hues.

What this means: Creams/nudes were huge for SS 2013/14 and CR didn’t sell anywhere near as much as it had hoped.

Frankly the vast majority of things in that store today were items that don’t flatter the average Australian woman.  I am not at all surprised by what I saw in the outlet being the things that no-one wanted.

The average Australian woman is on the short side, on the plump side & at least a size14 (in CR sizing). Whatever the target market of Country Road, the average Australian woman customer of Country Road certainly didn’t adore the styles of items I have listed above for SS 2013/14.

If you want to think about it differently - try this. An average RRP at Country Road/Trenery may be $100 - $150.
At the outlet, the average price, store wide may be in the vicinity of $30-$50. If an item is that fabulous, at that kind of discount, why is it still on the clearance rack?  The answer is because its not that fabulous at all. Understatement. 

1. What do you think of these items?
2. Did they appeal to you over the summer?
3. Are you tempted to dash over the outlet store and top up your wardrobe?

On the plus side, I noticed that the children’s area was quite compact (code for small). I was told that they cant unpack the children’s stuff fast enough.

Disclaimer: Please dont use these photos as hard core evidence of the outlet's inventory as at today. What I am saying is dont go over there tomorrow looking for these - call the store & ask whether the identical item is there before you go on your trip. The photos are examples of what I saw in most cases, but I am not guaranting identical stock numbers in all cases. 


  1. I have the second dress in the batwing styles you posted which I paid full price for when it came out. It is one of my favourites and I get so many compliments on it. Having said that, I tried it on on a whim because it looked like nothing on the rack and was really surprised by how nice it looked on. When I paid for it, the lady at the counter said without me commenting that it was such a nice dress but needed to be tried on for people to see it!
    I also have one of the straight skirts with the frill and I have yet to wear it to work. Just can't get it right with anything, and now I think you've explained why!

  2. Val, I was really interested to read this as it certainly does not apply, in all areas, to my sales.
    I am an ebay seller with 10,000+ feedback who concentrates mainly on sizes 14 and above [most commonly 14 - 16+]..
    In reference to you numbered points above, I find that, for my customers, #'s 3 [boxy fit knits], 4 [batwing], 8 [metallic] and 10 [cream/neutral] are very good you think it is a size thing or, maybe, customers buy these online because they think they like the "look" and then are disappointed when they get them and try them on?