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Off-Price Brands on Why Off-Price is Working

Off-price has been having its moment, with sales increasing while one traditional retailer after another expires, and now it’s getting even more attention with a new tradeshow dedicated solely to the space.

Finding opportunity out of traditional retail’s state of flux, which has created what some are calling a “full-price recession,” fashion industry insiders Arnold and Bruce Zimberg launched a first of its kind trade show dedicated to off-price merchandise for the better market.

Fifty-five exhibitors joined the Boulevard Prêt-à-Sale tradeshow in New York City March 21-23 at the Javitz Center, and when asked what’s making off-price shine while regular retail pales, many answered simply: e-commerce.

The ease of visiting a brick-and-mortar store only to leave it and find the same product online at a better price has made consumers savvier and less willing to pay full-price for anything. Then when you consider that online pure play brands are dealing with extremely minimal overhead and can afford to maintain consistently lower prices, it’s little wonder off-price is winning at the retail game. Though brick-and-mortar stores haven’t exactly made winning the game too tough.

“When you take the brick-and-mortar industry that remains, it doesn’t matter the name on the store, they all have the same product,” Joseph Greco, president of outwear brand Jackett, said. Jackett, which specializes in women’s leather, faux leather and suede jackets, came to the show to launch its men’s jacket collection.“Off-price brands, they don’t pretend to be anything else except the best product at the best price.”

What’s more, for shoppers who still want to touch and feel the products they’re going to purchase—of which there are many—off-price still delivers that, plus the instant gratification of taking items home straight away.

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“The off-price business today—the ones that are really successful—are the ones that are able to differentiate themselves from the other off-price stores, and that becomes really difficult when you’re dealing with leftover product,” Greco said.

Based on its current growth trajectory, Moody’s Investors Service predicts off-price will outperform the overall apparel industry by 2020, and that comes as little surprise to experts in the sector.

“I think off-price is really growing in the U.S. because people really like getting deals. They like the thrill of finding a brand or a product at a lower price than they would see at a full-price department store,” said Tanjila Islam, CEO and founder of TigerTrade, a B2B platform that facilitates buying and selling off-price merchandise. “And it’s not just growing here, it’s growing worldwide.”

For J.Lindeberg, a non-traditional exhibitor at the show, Boulevard Prêt-à-Sale was about tapping into that growth in the U.S. market, something it has already done well in its Stockholm, Sweden home base and across Europe.

The upscale fashion brand for the “modern active lifestyle” is by no means trying to expand in the off-price arena, but beyond getting its leftover gear to its own outlet stores, the company came looking for new channels to direct those goods in the U.S. market.

“Even if you have 85 percent sell-through, you will still have some leftovers,” Jonathan Mann, retail and wholesale director for USA at J.Lindeberg, said. “Instead of spending six months trying to find the right person to sell to, you find the right person immediately here.”

Executives and buying teams from Century 21, TJ Maxx, Ross, Barneys, Steinmart, Burlington and Bloomingdale’s all passed through the show.

“Everybody in this hall would sell their wife, kid and car to have those buyers on the books,” Boulevard Prêt-à-Sale co-founder Arnold Zimberg said.

With mom and pop specialty stores slipping away and department stores wanting to do markdown deals that end with the brand owing them $400,000 dollars at the end of a season, Zimberg explained, there’s little left for brands like those exhibiting at the show to go besides off-price—which made the market ripe for a new trade show idea catering to where retail is headed.

“Four years ago my brother and I clearly saw the world changing and the consumer deciding that they really didn’t need to pay full price for anything. There are people who want a bargain—rich people who want a bargain,” Zimberg said. “Buying something at a good price isn’t necessarily dictated by your ability to pay. We are following the market.”