The retail industry is one where there's money to be made and creativity to be shared; the more creative, accessible and exciting a brand is the more money it's going to make. While the recession undoubtedly hit many store owners hard the world over, there are still plenty who managed to weather the storm and are laughing all the way to the bank. But the advent of ecommerce has meant more options and an associated decrease in brand loyalty from consumers have left many retailer struggling to hold onto their profits. The high street fashion retailers - even those at the couture, luxury end of the scale - have found themselves struggling, with many unable to navigate this new consumer space.
There are a lucky few, however, who are paving the way for the clothes shops of tomorrow, so for any of your budding retailers or fashion designers out there, take note! The future retail for many may seem and tricky and uncertain question, but for our five most influential, they have it all figured out. The top five fashion retailers we’ve compiled represent a variety of different price points and markets, but what unites this lucky five is their ability to think outside the box when it comes to their customer. Whether it’s through faster delivery services or more experiential in store events, these guys are leading the ways for the clothing stores of tomorrow. But this list is for more than just the budding fashion entrepreneur. After all, we all care more than we like to admit about our clothes, so if you want to know who is going to be inspiring and maybe even deciding the trends you wear in the near future, take a look at our five most influential fashion retailers today.
5 Net-A-Porter: $660 Million
Net-A-Porter may not be raking in nearly as much as the rest of the retailers on our list, but that’s no reason to dismiss them. After all, this is a “Most Influential” list, and influential is something Net-A-Porter most certainly is. The luxury online retailer has quickly grown to become a game changer in the realm of retail: Since the site's founding in 2000 the brand has bridged the gaps between fashion, journalism and retail meaning that if you can afford a spree, you'll likely be doing more of your buying than ever before through online shopping. Net-A-Porter pioneered the large scale online selling of high-end, luxury items. Moving outside the brick-and-mortar boutiques and department stores was a wise move; to this day they remain leaders in this regard. The company’s founder Natalie Massenet also chairs the British Fashion Council making her individually one of the most influential women in fashion. Couple this with a website selling everything from luxury ball gowns to pantyhose and you’ll see how the brand’s got to where it is. More recently the company has looked to expand their holdings, founding Mr Porter, which is fast becoming the go-to stop off for any wealthy, fashion-conscious man about town. The company last year bought Chinese online retailer Shouke, expanding their couture empire into the lucrative Chinese market. It goes without saying that not everyone who shops online can afford to buy from the likes of Net-A-Porter, but with 2.2 million hits to the site a month, it’s clear that many of us still like to dream.
4 Urban Outfitters: $2.79 Billion
Urban Outfitters may seem like something of a niche store to be classed as widely influential, but this hipster favourite is paving the way for the stores of the future. The brand, which controls the Urban Outfitters department stores along with more upmarket brands Anthropologie and Free People, was founded in 1970 but today it's well and truly a global retailer. Aside from the $2.79 billion revenue the company reported for the year, Urban Outfitters has been cited by many as the brand to watch for 2014. Why? The team at Urban Outfitters know how to keep people coming into their stores even in the digital age. As part of the brand’s strategy to maintain their track record as kings of cool, Urban Outfitters have some very interesting plans for the near future: In 2013 the brand announced their plan to launch a new kind of retail experience, the Urban Outfitters Village. The space, which will be based in Devon, Pennsylvania, will have stand alone stores for each of the company’s brands as well as cafes, restaurants and even an Urban Outfitters gym! The project, entitled Devon’s Yard, is expected to open in 2016 and demonstrates the kind of innovative thinking that makes Urban Outfitters a strong brand.
3 Uniqlo: $11.8 Billion
If Urban Outfitters is home to every cutting edge trend to hit fashion, then Uniqlo is at the opposite end of the spectrum. The store has made its name as the go-to for wardrobe essentials, using high quality fabrics. In a world where the virtues of fast-fashion and quick turn arounds on catwalk imitations are extolled, the Japanese retailer has looked the other way. Instead, Uniqlo researches and hones in on items until they create the very best of any item, from thermal underwear to silk skirts which, season after season, appeal to the consumer. Owned by Tadashi Yanai, Japan’s richest man, over half the company’s profits come from their native land. However, the brand has invested heavily in putting a more international face on the brand with stores now in major cities across Europe and the United States. Yanai is an ambitious man, with Forbes reporting that he hopes to grow the brand’s revenue to $50 billion by 2020. He may have a way to go yet, but there is no doubt that things are looking good for Uniqlo.
2 H&M: $17 Billion
A high street staple, H&M is a truly global brand that balances the glitz and glamour of fashion with the level-headed business sense of a retailer. The Swedish-based Hennes and Mauritz company was founded in 1947 and has expanded to over 2000 stores in 47 countries worldwide. The fast-fashion, catwalk-to-high-street model was honed to perfection at H&M with the brand able to deliver wardrobe basics alongside chic, high fashion pieces. Alongside the H&M stores, the Hennes and Marutiz group also own the sleeker, more up market labels Cos and the online store '& Other Stories' as well as the smaller hipster chain Monki. The company has upped their fashion credentials by partnering with high end designers to create limited edition, highly coveted collections. Everyone from Karl Lagerfeld to Stella McCartney has contributed, with customers known to queue overnight to get their hands on these must-have pieces. Add to this celebrity models such as Vanessa Paradis and Beyoncé and you're definitely on to a winner. There's more to H&M than this, though: with kidswear and homewear departments the brand has created the variety of a department store without the luxury price tag. The result? $17 billion in the bank says it all.
1 Inditex SA: $19.15 Billion
The name Inditex SA may not mean much to you, but a list of their brands will likely prove elucidating: Oysho, Bershka, Stradivarius, Massimo Dutti and of course, the jewel in their crown, Zara. The retailer has managed to create an empire that would normally, in the fashion industry, take a few lifetimes. Zara, however, created it in just over 30 years. The retail giant’s first store opened in a sleepy part of western Spain in 1975 and was expanding heavily in Europe by the early nineties. The brand has managed to navigate the tricky path of high-street fast fashion, while simultaneously achieving some of the allure of high-end, luxury brands. Catwalk designer collections are studied in detail with the dominant trends and distinctive embellishments of individual designers or fashion houses visible in the Zara imitation. The result? Everyone from college students to Vogue editors shop at Zara, with the brand’s catwalk copies at times rivalling real thing. Inditex SA’s founder Amancio Ortega is (unsurprisingly) Spain’s wealthiest man, and has an estimated personal fortune of $57 billion. Although officially retired from business, Ortega still controls over 50% of the Zara empire and is the world’s third richest man. In recent years the company has been investing heavily in the Asian market, opening several stores in Japan, China and South Korea. With profits continuing to grow for the retailer, they're clearly onto a winner. And to top it all off, our number one influencer is also known for having revolutionised how high street stores manufacture and distribute their product. Not bad for a newcomer to the game.