'See Now, Buy Now' Is Really, Actually Working for Burberry

The luxury house's February 2017 show generated record digital reach and engagement.
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Photo: Christian Vierig/Getty Images

Photo: Christian Vierig/Getty Images

Though many brands and retailers have spent the last year abandoning the traditional fashion calendar in favor of "see now, buy now," Burberry remains one of the movement's earliest adopters. The U.K.'s quintessential luxury house adopted the in-season "drop" model last September, simultaneously combining its menswear and womenswear designs on one runway under one collection. We weren't exactly surprised: Burberry has long put a premium on forward-thinking and digital advancement — but how would its buzzy new schedule affect sales?

On the heels of Burberry's September 2016 show (which featured traditionally Fall 2016 designs) last October, it could've used a sales boost. The impact was minimal across the board; excluding currency tailwinds, revenue for the first half of the year was down 4 percent, due in part to declines in licensing and wholesale revenue. But with concrete retail goals in place for the full year, the brand looked ahead to its next season for improvement.

And improve they did — kind of. In the six months ending Mar. 31, 2017, the company reported a 19 percent boost in retail revenue to £1.27 billion pounds (roughly $1.57 billion), with comparable sales up 3 and 2 percent in its third and fourth quarter, respectively. But due to the challenging retail environment here in the U.S., the brand missed its predicted fourth-quarter estimates by 2 percent. 

We know that "see now, buy now"'s reach extends beyond sales figures, and in Burberry's case, its new calendar moved the needle. According to an earnings report released on Wednesday, the brand's February 2017 show generated "record online reach and engagement," with foot traffic to Makers House — an exhibition in London that allows for visitors to view its new collection — increasing a whopping 50 percent compared with its September line. 

Meanwhile, digital (driven by mobile) also continued to outperform, as did its fashion categories; the brand saw a strong commercial reaction to its February collection, with particular excitement noted in technical outerwear and its launch of tropical gabardine, a lightweight variation on the label's signature weatherproof fabric.

As best as we can tell, Burberry is having the most robust luck with "see now, buy now" as compared to its in-season colleagues. If brands like H&M and Ralph Lauren want to compete, there's likely something (or several somethings) to be gleaned from Burberry's retail strategy.

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