We have only just breached March, already spring/summer merchandise has begun its migration to the No Man Walks Alone showroom, soon to be scattered to clients across the globe. This may seem normal in these unseasonably warm times, but typically the fashion calendar has linen shirts in storefronts while snow is still on sidewalks. Why?
I don’t know, but I have a guess. I begin with the observation that this phenomenon is not limited to clothes, and is in fact more extreme for other products whose usefulness does not vary with the temperature. Consider cars - the first Corvette in 1953 was released on June 30th, 1953. But these days, the Superbowl in late January may well include advertisements for cars that officially belong to the following model year.
The United States government regulates that cars of a given model year can be sold no earlier than January 1st of the previous year. Which seems to make sense - why would a car manufacturer want to sell a 2018 model in 2016? And yet it seems that some of them would try if given the chance.
The reason, I think, is that there’s an advantage to being among the season’s first new products. Even if your linen shirts seem out of season in early March, they will get more attention if they are the only new products around. If you shipped instead in early April, your shirts might be less prominently displayed and therefore find fewer admirers.
Another advantage of getting in stores early is that consumers still have some money to spend. Numerous studies show that most people are not very good budgeters. For example, people on food stamps tend to buy more food at the beginning of their pay period, leaving them unable to afford as much food at the end of their pay period. If you’re selling food, therefore, you would certainly like to be selling at the beginning of the period. Maybe #menswear customers are better able to spread their dollars out; but when there’s a buying frenzy around one of your favorite items, it’s can be tough to hold out to see what other brands might be coming out with next week.
Of course, this doesn’t stop some laggard brands from delivering their wares later in the season. But here I think Hanlon’s razor applies, and the delays are unintentional. In any case, this is a rare year in which we can all enjoy the concurrent arrival of spring weather and spring clothing. Perhaps next year the linen will start arriving in early February.
Photo by Jamie Ferguson