The Swift-Effect on retail

Pop culture events are more important than ever for retailers, and marketing and merchandising solutions must allow retailers to respond quickly. One woman and one band dominated the pop (rock) culture landscape last summer - Tayler Swift with a career that almost seems to defy reality and my favorite heavy metal band METALLICA. Both had a significant impact on retail, and smart retailers used savvy, technology and creativity to capitalize on it. Let's take a look at each phenomenon and see what retailers have done to turn huge public interest into profit.

The localized hype of Taylor Swift

The current highly successful tour of the pop icon led to a boom in sales of small fashion brands that offered clothes with sequins and glitter. In this way, they made the most of Swiftmania. When Taylor Swift announced her Eras tour in November 2022, some fashion companies were prepared to light up the entire venue with glittery creations, while others had to prepare quickly. Probably one of the best to take advantage of the hype surrounding Taylor Swift was the American brand Boot Barn.

The tour, which began in March and runs through November 2024, is expected to generate $5 billion in consumer spending in the United States alone, with the average concertgoer spending about $1,300. This applies to concert tickets, which sold out quickly, and concert outfits, on which visitors are happy to spend their money, pleasing smaller fashion brands in particular.

Retailers expected demand for glittering concert fashion, but actual demand exceeded the expectations of many. Those savvy enough to take advantage of the opportunity could profit extraordinarily. Google searches for "cute boots" and "what to wear to the Taylor Swift concert" increased enormously after Swift's concert tickets were sold last year. Analysts said if 2% of Swift concertgoers spent an average of $110 at Boot Barn - the typical purchase there - the tour could result in $10.6 million in additional sales in the first half of Boot Barn's 2024 fiscal year.

Swift's popularity was also confirmed by literal "mini-earthquakes" triggered by mass activity at some of her shows. As Swift toured the country, demand for certain products was briefly concentrated at retailers near her concerts.

Analysts at Jeffries, for example, examined the 2.4 million concert tickets sold on the tour and predicted significant sales increases for stores on items such as cowboy hats, sequins, and western boots. Unlike "Barbie," this demand will unlikely to last more than a week or two before the performance dates locally. That means you can jump on the "Swift Effect" bandwagon well in advance, but the sales period is extremely short. Retailers offering pop culture-focused merchandise in the short term must have highly localized and efficient planning, allocation, and promotion systems in place to deal with this rapid, market-specific surge of activity.

METALLICA - locally connected, interactive. A multi-channel machinery

Admittedly, I may be biased as a fan of one of the most successful heavy metal bands in history. But what these guys have put on is unparalleled anywhere in the world. While the effects from the Swift shows are simply a reaction from the fans, METALLICA turns the tables and deliberately provokes a local interaction between concertgoers and the diverse offerings of the venues and their cities. The 72 SEASONS tour is a stadium tour two concerts per city. The highlight is that - there is a one-day break between the two shows. So fans who have arrived book at least 2 nights in a hotel, which is not insignificant for the industry - with up to 50,000 visitors. So that fans make the most of their time in the city, a lot of thought has gone into it:

Scavenger Hunt

Each venue featured a digital-based scavenger hunt. This allowed fans to explore the city and collect discount tokens for local attractions. Curated Locals benefited greatly from this.

Local gigs

Evenings before the actual concerts, there are smaller concerts dedicated to the same style of music. So an earlier arrival is absolutely worth it.

Pop up store

Shirts, Caps, Patches and Co. you buy directly at the concert? Nope ... METALLICA runs their own pop-up store in every city, one week before and one week after the concert. In Hamburg I stood in line for an hour to leave a lot of money for cool merchandising items. The store had about 1,000sqm and was stuffed with everything a fan could want.

Film Festival

There will also be a small Rock'n'Roll Film Festival. Concerts, band documentaries and unreleased footage of the band will be shown. Also, the band makes it to the cinemas with their tour and brings the concert feeling home to everyone who can't make it to the stadium.

Q&A

The band members face the critical questions of the fans.

Historical Gigs

An interactive digital map will mark historical concerts of the band. Fans can visit these places, which will be equipped with all sorts of historical props.

Local Recommendations

There are also local recommendations from the band: a small record store around the corner, a cool bar, or places of great importance to the band. Each city that is played has its exclusive branding with its logo and design. They've devised a lot to keep the city, music, and fans entertained during the 3-4 days on-site. Everywhere you look, you see fans in full gear. The whole concept is designed to make you feel connected to the M-Family. It feels like 50,000 people have known each other for years. #Incredible

METALLICA must have invested incredibly in digitization, research, and collaborations to make the concept work smoothly. The stay thus became a 360° 24/7 experience. The hotel, restaurant, cultural, and retail industries have earned themselves a golden nose if they've been smart about it. The per capita spending of a METALLICA fan on the 72 SEASONS tour is significantly higher than that of a Swift fan. The ticket prices alone averaged 700€ per head. Whether you're a Swifty or a metalhead now, both concepts have an extraordinary impact on consumption. However ...

How must retailers respond to these effects to keep pace with the increased demand for fashion, entertainment, and co.?

To optimally capitalize on broader pop culture events, retailers must be able to quickly and effortlessly adapt both online and in-store marketing and merchandising to the theme at hand, such as the use of pink frilly graphics in the case of "Barbie." Marketing and CRM solutions that enable consistent pricing and promotional activities are also required. Flexible distribution, tracking, and fulfillment systems should also be in place to quickly move merchandise from one store or region to another to increase sales of relevant products or adjust product offerings, depending on need and anticipated consumer demand. A notable real-world example comes from Walmart, a retailer that has successfully adapted its marketing and merchandising strategy to the "Barbie" trend. In early July, the discounter introduced a digital shopping experience that connects consumers with top items curated shopping carts from Barbie and some celebrities. This highlights retailers' expertise and adaptability in rapidly changing pop culture phenomena.

Be one step ahead

Taylor McMillan, the 36-year-old founder of Hazel and Olive, an online boutique in Rockwell, Texas, had long been successful at offering clothing aimed at concertgoers, particularly country music fans. Still, Swift's Eras tour led to unprecedented sales."We had hundreds of a particular style, and they sold out in minutes," she reports."We saw the hype right away." The brand responded, adding a full-time customer service representative to its team and accelerating its product ordering cycle to meet demand."We sped up production on some models and brought in a lot of the inventory that would usually be shipped by sea by air to deliver it on time," McMillan says. However, she had to extend her hours to keep track of orders and meet her brand's promise for same-day shipping, the effort paid off. Hazel and Olive's sales were up 40 percent year over year, which McMillan largely attributes to Eras' tour.

Adjustment of the inventory strategy

McMillan not only expanded her inventory faster than usual, but also focused the majority of her new orders on concert-ready apparel. She will continue this trend through 2024."Taylor Swift announced her 2024 tour dates while I was at a big market show in August, and I immediately focused my buying strategy even more on sequins," she explains. Other brands adjusted their inventories and offered products that were not normally part of their assortment. Pink Lily, a fashion retailer based in Bowling Green, Kentucky, regularly presents clothing collections geared specifically toward concertgoers. For the collection launched in April, however, the brand decided to take a different approach."Normally we have more browns and denim, so more country style," Gerbig explains."But for Taylor, it was very pink, with sequins, ruffles and feathers." Although Pink Lily doesn't normally carry items over $100, pink rhinestone boots sold out twice for $140. The brand saw a 50 percent growth in its spring concert drop compared to the previous one. But there's a simpler way: various bars have named their cocktails after METALLICA's songs. Some without revealing in advance what the drink was. One was invited to have fun.

Exploiting new marketing opportunities

Excellent marketing tactics also paid off. Pink Lily used Swift's concert in Nashville to capture the attention of potential new customers by hosting an influencer trip and inviting celebrity guests such as Olympian Shawn Johnson and six customers selected through a sweepstakes to a suite for 24 at Nissan Stadium. The giveaway resulted in more than 40,000 new email signups for the brand. Although the Eras tour has been a boon for businesses in its first phase, fashion brands don't expect Swiftmania to die down anytime soon. This presents an opportunity for other brands to take advantage of unique opportunities to ride this wave. With "Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour" hitting theaters Oct. 13, McMillan, Trude and Gerbig expect customers to dress up fancy for screenings, especially after Barbie filled theaters with pink-clad viewers this summer.

Updating the merchandising approach

Sequins were also sold in large quantities at Show Me Your Mumu, a women's fashion brand based in Venice, California. The label, founded in 2010 by Trude and Cammy Miller of Cologne, Germany, has seen 182 percent growth in e-commerce searches for sequins and glitter items since March. This is remarkable, as glamour items are not usually in high demand during spring and summer. "I really couldn't believe how much sales this tour has generated for us," says co-founder Trude. The company capitalized on the opportunity by highlighting its "Sparkle Shop" and using the keywords "Eras Tour" and "Taylor Swift" on its website to lead to the store's landing page. In the spring, Show Me Your Mumu gained 68 percent new customers compared to 32 percent returning customers, which is "well above" the brand's standard customer patterns, according to PR Director Sophie Waters.

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