As the lingerie industry prepares for 2016 and another year of trading, Sarah Clarke looks back on the top retail trends of the last 12 months.

Online retail sales recover in H2

After a slow start to the year, online retail sales recovered in the final few months of 2015. In September, e-tail sales returned to double-digit growth, banishing the disappointment of a sluggish end to the summer. After a weak August left a damaging mark on internet sales, September saw a 12% increase on the same period last year, according to figures from the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index. The September performance was boosted by the late summer bank holiday, which fell within the first week of the month, helping the Index grow 8% on August, although growth was still “slightly lower” than might have been expected, IMRG said. Last month, global software company Adobe predicted that UK shoppers would spend 17.7 billion online this Christmas, up 7% on last year. Shopping across mobile devices remains steady and, this year, it’s predicted that 23% of UK Christmas shopping will occur through a smartphone or tablet. This positions the UK as second in Europe when it comes to embracing mobile as a way to pay at this time of year.

Intimates gain in value

In 2015, shoppers continued to buy quality lingerie, beachwear and nightwear for various activities. For example, consumers bought silk camisoles for both sleeping and working (under a smart suit jacket), while kimonos were worn as loungewear and beachwear. This trend was driven by celebrities including Kate Moss, who was pictured on holiday wearing black-and-white striped silk pyjamas by designer Olivia Von Halle earlier this year. Loungewear was also worn for low-energy sports, such as yoga, and this is expected to extend into legwear next season, with leggings being developed with sporty prints.

 
Brits move abroad

There was a big trend for British lingerie retailers expanding overseas in 2015, particularly in the United States. In September, Rigby & Peller opened 13 stores across America, including a flagship location in New York. The news followed the announcement in April that Manchester-based independent retailer Bras & Honey had purchased a lingerie company in San Diego, California. America has proved a step too far for most UK retailers: WH Smith, Sainsbury’s and Tesco have all seen their stateside ventures break down, but Primark, which pledged to open 10 US stores by 2016 insists it “has something special to offer” to American consumers.

Premium sector grows

Customers who may have moved away from premium brands during the recession traded up with designer labels that offer the best quality in 2015. A report published by research company Fashionbi in March revealed that the luxury intimates segment is growing at a faster pace around the world than the lingerie market itself. “[The luxury] sector is supposed to grow leaps and bounds,” said Ambika Zutshi, CEO of Fashionbi, Milan. “Today’s woman is conscious, working and needs comfort at all stages of life. She also needs to be and feel sexy all the time,” Zutshi added. “She is independent and able to afford all charms of life to spoil herself and to seduce her man.” Italian lingerie maker La Perla has introduced new strategies to become one of the most popular retailers in the luxury market sector.

Omni-channel retail approach continues

Omni-channel commerce remained a trend for 2015, and a challenge for retailers. The launch of a new generation of point of sale (POS) systems were integrated with e-commerce platforms, product catalogues and databases – allowing retailers to build flexible omni-channel processes and share product, customer and order data across software and POS terminals. Customers experienced a more seamless journey across online and offline and retailers were able to offer a better service on all touch points.

Growth slows for independent retailers

While independent retailers in the UK reported a fifth successive quarter of positive trading in November 2015, there were signs of growth beginning to slow. A quarterly survey carried out by the British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA) showed that more respondents reported an increase in turnover than at any point in the survey’s history, the average growth fell to its lowest level this year, 1.33% compared to 2.35% in the mid-year period. Six out of 10 of the surveyed businesses grew with four out of ten on the decline. Scotland and Wales led the way on growth, followed closely by the Midlands and East Anglia. Three quarters of the independent retailers surveyed reported being confident about the year ahead.

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