It's August - So Why Can't We Buy Any Summer Clothes In The Shops?
The Debrief: Here’s how to get around the problem that is you want a bikini but the shops are full of coats
The Debrief has a serious gripe. And we bet we’re not the only ones. Anyone else finding it easier to find a faux fur coat right now, than a bikini? Even though we are in the peak of summer – early August and with a local temperature of 28 degrees celsius give or take a few Bertha-caused weather chaos – it’s impossible to find any summer clothes on the high street.
That’s right, despite the fact that most of us are recently returned from holiday – and therefore wanting to flash our leathery tans – or gearing up for a belter in Ibiza or whatever, the high street seems more catered to a crunchy-leaved Autumn than the Pimmiest month in the UK.
Our anonymous mole behind-the-scenes at a top high street retailer tells us that it’s not just you feeling the affects of this – retailers are struggling, too. ‘Most of my customers are coming in looking for last minute bikinis – which are contained to a tiny wall, at the back of a huge store, which is full of winter coats and even scarves,’ they say of the fact they aren’t hitting their £1,500 of stock a day. Isn’t this mad? It’s MAD, right? ‘Yes, it’s mad!’ says our mole. ‘Customers get quite annoyed with me when I can’t explain where the bikini has gone that they thought would still be in stock. But it’s the way it’s always been. It’s the mad way the fashion seasons work.’
And therein lies the rub, people. Here is what you must always remember, as an innocent consumer: fashion is not just about pretty clothes bought with pretty pennies. Fashion is a business. And the seasonal arrangement of the booming buinsess of fashion has scant regard for the actual seasons dictated by the actual weather. As ASOS tell us, it’s about creating hype. ‘You will see plush faux furs, luxe coats and chunky knits on our website in August when it’s hot in the UK – because it’s all about creating excitement and giving our customer a taste of the new trends!’
You might be airing the underside of your bum cheeks in denim cut-offs, or in a camisole that over-spilleth as you read this, but in fashion circs, August is autumn. In the retail world, the ‘summer’ season is an even smaller window than it is in IRL (sob sob), selling fulsomely from mid-April to the end of June, with the summer sales commencing from the beginning of July – which is around the time that most of us first start thinking about our summer wardrobe.
‘It’s a tricky one,’ agrees Fashion Editor at Large’s Melanie Rickey. ‘Clothes for summer come in at the beginning of the season and they need to be sold by the end of August to make room for the Autumn stock. It’s why there are very few bikinis around – but you can buy an amazing winter coat in August.’ But, why? ‘It’s all down to business logistics,’ explains Melanie. ‘While it doesn’t work at all for most consumers and many people in the industry wish it could be different, that is the best way for the retail system to work.’ In short? It’s the only way retailers can ensure that they shift all their merchandise and don’t get left with a load of dead stock (items that are past their sell-by-date and haven’t sold) and are therefore massively out of pocket.
Some stores, like Urban Outfitters, try and ease the customer into Autumn gently. There’s plenty of full-price swimwear in stock right now and winter coats don’t drop until September, but if you want to subvert the irritating retail calendar entirely, you need to get savvy, says Melanie. ‘I’ve learnt my lesson the hard way and now always buy my summer sandals in February, my bikinis in May and my Autumn fashion buys in August!’
The best tip is to do your shopping online – not only is it much less strict, seasonally, but it’s also currently boasting all the summer stock that has been booted out of the actual stores. ‘We’re currently packing up all our bikinis and sending them back to the warehouse, so they can be sold online,’ says our anonymous high street informant. This week, there’s been a great drop of summery stuff over on Topshop and ASOS, which is particularly bountiful in the beach-wear stakes. ‘Holidays “all year round” is now the norm and so we have a continuous holiday offering on ASOS. Even if it is snowing in the UK you will be able to buy a bikini for the sunshine!’ their rep says, helpfully.
Luckily, the year-round holiday edit is becoming a big online thing, which is great if you aren't super organised throughout the year. There are also niche e-stores where the sun is always (and only) shining. Some are quite luxe – Violet Lake, Heidi Klein, Prism and Beach Flamingo – whilst premium retailers like Net-a-Porter and MATCHESFASHION.COM have a year round summer edit. Slightly less expensive but equally able to ensure that you are never without a summer dress or sandals at the crucial sand-between-the-toes moment, try Planet Blue, Free People and The Reformation which have warm weather options all year round. Meaning that you won’t have to be on the beach in a blanket. Unless you’re going to Brighton and need to be, of course.
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