Online 'In Crowd': Why Big Retail Is Courting Small Fashion BlogsSusan Scafidi in AOL Daily Finance, April 18, 2012
You might not have heard of Babblings of a Mommy or I SPY DIY, but more and more, fashion blogs like these have the ears of the nation's biggest retailers, and they're helping determine what you wear and how you wear it.
While much has been made of once-unknown fashion bloggers earning front-row seats at tony fashion shows, those runway looks rarely work their way into the closets of everyday American women. By contrast, the mall stores that dress the nation, from the Gap (GPS) and Sears (SHLD) to Kmart and Forever 21, are turning to fashion blogs for style and trend input, seeking fresh ways to lure today's digitally-connected shoppers.
Chains are also turning to blogs to put their own styling twists on fashion items and showcase their apparel in a new light; some are even forging formal blog partnerships.
A Thumbs Up From the In Crowd
Retailers now consult fashion blogs as style sources, according them the same standing as traditional fonts of inspiration such as fashion magazines, trend forecasting firms, celebrities and street culture.
"During the start of the millennium, retailers relied upon trend forecasting firms like the Doneger Group and WGSN to drive their fashion trends," fashion and retail consultant Tom Julian, tells DailyFinance. Now, the immediacy of rapidly reacting blogs can feed stores trend input "more continuously and frequently," he says.
And retailers are all too aware that fashion bloggers have earned the trust of style-conscious shoppers: Fashion tips from these everyday-folks-turned-trend-watchers carry the weight of insights on hot looks from a member of the in-crowd.
Shoppers hit up such blogs for breezy content like "Three Ways to Wear Leopard Print This Spring," "How to Build a Designer Collection on a Budget," and musings on how everyday shoppers pulled together a particular look, or for insider tips on upcoming store sales.
"Fashion blogs derive their authority both from being alpha consumers -- the equivalent of the girl in school who always knew exactly what to wear, and whose influence is now multiplied via the Internet," says professor Susan Scafidi, academic director of the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham Law School.
And retailers want a piece of the action: They're out to leverage blogs' trend authority as well as tap into their ever burgeoning reach -- which has become "massive," according to Alison Jatlow Levy, retail strategist at consultancy Kurt Salmon.
Blogs also offer retailers something that can be elusive: an instant read on what's hot -- and what's not -- with shoppers. While monthly fashion magazines are just that, monthly, "the fashion blogs have become a daily source for many shoppers when it comes to trends, items of the season as well as ongoing conversation -- daily information, chats, tips, columns," Julian says.
Indeed, fashion blogs serve as a "quick and condensed form of consumer response," Scafidi says. "A retailer who wants to know whether a revival of the maxi-dress will be successful or whether consumers prefer to slip on shorts for summer can check the online reaction to new trends before investing heavily in a particular look," she says.
Blogs as the New Storefronts
For the Gap, "there's no question that blogs play much more of an integral role in fashion today than they did five years ago," Olivia Doyne, director of brand engagement, partnerships and public relations for the chain, tells DailyFinance.
Stores tap a variety of blogs to plug into all manner of trend information.
Forever 21 turns to Fashionista.com for current fashion trends as well as fashion news, Linda Chang, senior marketing manager of the fast-fashion chain, tells DailyFinance. The retailer taps TheManRepeller.com for a lighthearted take on style. Its "humor reminds me that fashion can always be fun and should never be taken too seriously," she says. Meanwhile, Stylebykling.nowmanifest.com's "simplicity and street style is a constant reminder that something less is more."