How to make it big in a US retail market full of challenges
Seasoned retail executive Justin Berkowitz: ”The dopamine dressing and luxury explosion of the early post-pandemic years has completely shifted into a more subtle and considered approach.”
20 May 2024

As the newly appointed US strategic partner for contemporary fashion brand NN.07, Berkowitz will be working to expand the US business through their own brick-and-mortar stores. 

— I’ll oversee different aspects of those businesses including buying, marketing, staffing, and the curation of third-party goods that will give the US locations their own individual flavour, he explains.

What are the keys to success in the US market?

— Point of view is paramount. For a newer brand, one looking to gain traction, novel ideas are key, but right now, they have to be rendered in ways that feel sophisticated and polished. 

How has the retail landscape there changed over the last few years?

— It has consolidated, given the closure of some major stores and chains. Those that have been able to weather the storm are proceeding with caution this year. Something that feels fairly consistent is that smaller and more measured, on the whole, is better. I’m starting to see more targeted shopping experiences gain traction, especially in New York, whether that’s in a smaller specialty boutique, or a DTC store. 

What consumer behaviour trends do you see?

— Buying less, buying better. Excess feels a bit embarrassing right now; the dopamine dressing and luxury explosion of the early post-pandemic years has completely shifted into a more subtle and considered approach, Berkowitz explains. He continues:

— More broadly, social media has really shifted the focus to consumer experiences like clubs and restaurants, which you really feel in New York right now. 

— Using objects to convey status is passe; cache comes from community and culture. 

What about online vs brick-and-mortar? How shall brands think about where to put their main focus?

— Both are so important. By and large, I personally feel that online shopping at its core is about convenience. That can be the convenience of replacing a few of your favourite tees, picking up another colour of a pant you know you like, or simply having access to a product assortment that is not available to you locally. That said — the technology has to work and it has to work well. If it doesn’t, it’s not convenient, and the whole proposition falls apart.

— Brick and mortar is about experience and discovery. Both are better translated through in-person social interactions and require a physical space in which to occur. The experiences of touch, of taste, and of smell: these cannot be replicated online — not yet at least — and they are really important. So is the social nature of in-person shopping; online shopping is not as much of a communal activity. People, especially young people, are looking for social interaction and community, and culture — tapping into that is key.

Is US fashion retail as strong as before, given the challenging landscape?

— I think certain fashion businesses are strong. We are experiencing a moment where value is really important. Accessible luxury is something I think is top of mind right now; it can mean different things to different people, and it can hit a range of price points, but the value proposition is very important. People want to feel like the thing that they are buying is fairly priced, for its design, and for its material composition. Businesses that are getting that right, they are seeing success.

And what development do you forecast in the next few years?

— I think the contraction of luxury businesses in the US over the past year and a half is pushing those brands to think smarter and longer about how they want to engage with their customers. They’re charging more for their products; that likely means they are going to be able to sell to fewer people. Brands are going to have to work to keep those customers loyal and interested, finding new points of intersection and new opportunities to build on that relationship. Big picture, this idea is going to trickle down to the way many approach the retail business. 

— That said, I think it also presents an opportunity for new brands to enter the market. Customers who are shopping luxury less or differently are still going to need and want new things in their wardrobes, which is also one of the reasons I’m so excited for NN.07 to enter the US market right now with their own stores, Berkowitz concludes.

NN.07 SS24.
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