Will there be any NYC sample sales left in 2021?

12 December 2020

The end of year is a time to look back and celebrate, right? Unfortunately, that is not the case with the end of this year, especially for the NYC retail and fashion industry. At the very least, those of us entrenched in the fashion world could celebrate this year being over, but there is no point even in that when 2021 is looking no more promising.

According to McKinsey Fashion Index, “companies will post approximately a 90% decline in economic profit in 2020”. In the meantime, small business and retail chains are closing their doors in NYC at much higher rates than anywhere else in the US. With both tourists and office workers gone, foot traffic in Manhattan is comparable to that in other cities where rent per square foot is much lower, which makes leaving NYC an easy choice for brands.

While the fashion industry pundits hail this upcoming year as a time for renewal and a time of progress during which “shopping will shift to digital, and consumers will continue to champion fairness and social justice,” the truth is it is a time for consolidation that will eliminate most small players and will concentrate purchasing power into the hands of few large ones like Amazon and Alibaba.

Where does this leave us and our love of sample sales?

Brands are putting focus (again) on the shift to a demand-focused model to survive these uncertain times. I have a suspicion that it is easier said than done, as we were talking about this same idea when I was in business school in the late 90s. Why is this relevant for us? While lovingly called “sample sales,” we all know that most of the merchandise at NYC sample sales come from excess inventory. As we doubt fashion brands will be able to quickly adapt to the new times and the supply-demand model, we think warehouses will continue to be full of unsold inventories in the near future. Especially after a decade of bargain shopping, a pandemic fueled all-time low consumer sentiment and the addition of an anti-consumerism ideology, we doubt that sample sales will go away any time soon.

In fact, our own sample sale whisperer, Ritu Bindra (a miracle woman), has seen an approximate 50% return to date of last year’s sample sale events. She told us that, “sample sales have returned, but mostly with the sale organizers. Most designers and brands are no longer holding sales themselves at their showrooms or stores.” The first to return was 260, followed much later by Soiffer Haskin, Clothingline, and Prive. Some brands such as Diptyque, TOCCA, and Bonpoint have opted this year for online sample sales at 260, which has become increasingly popular with socially distanced “bargain connoisseurs”.

So, will there be any NYC sample sales in 2021? Yes, but there is also the possibility that Miami and LA sample sales will become stronger competitors to the NYC ones as travel will take another 3-4 years to return to the 2019 levels. We think big players (like 260 and Soiffer Haskin) who are backed up by large (non-retail) companies will have a much better chance of surviving, leading to a reduced number of players in the field. We also predict that people will become increasingly used to online sample sales and will start comparing them to websites like RueLaLa and Gilt.

Only time will tell. But we’ve got our fingers crossed and rooting for our beloved sample sales, now and forever. Bring on 2021!

Image credit: IStockphoto by Getty Images

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Posted by Mirela Gluck at 07:00 AM
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