Critical Review Paper


Assignment Question

Fashion brands, particularly their internationalisation and luxury dimensions, continue to attract increasing attention in the academic marketing literature (Moore, Doherty and Doyle, 2010; Moore and Doyle, 2010, Liu, Li, Mizerski and Soh, 2012). Provide a comprehensive critical literature review tracing the evolution of the subject area and delineate key themes within this body of work.

Individual critical review of 5,000 words


Title: Trends in marketing


Introduction. 2

Evolution of fashion brands. 2

Fashion and consumption literature. 3

Fashion buying and merchandizing: The evolution process. 7

International Fashion Retailing. 8

Structure of luxury fashion retailing. 10

Dimensions of the international luxury fashion brand. 13

The internationalisation process of luxury retailers. 16

Conclusion. 18

References. 19



In recent years, fashion brands have continued to attract a lot of attention in academic marketing literature. In this literature, most attention has been on two crucial aspects of fashion brands; namely internationalization and luxury dimensions. Some of the categories of international fashion retailers that have emerged in recent times include product specialists, general merchandise retailers, designer retailers, and general fashion retailers. The concept of fashion is closely related to that of consumption. One of the ways through which people endeavour to create identity is through fashion. This is evident in many studies that focus on age-group and generational differences (Bannister and Hogg, 2004).

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In today’s world of globalization, trends in fashion purchasing have evolved tremendously. For example, the internet has led to the emergence of the concept of e-fashion (Murphy, 1998). However, even with this new trend of internet-based fashion marketing and purchasing, the traditional trend of fashion supply chains has not become extinct. On the contrary it continues to be increasingly popular. Those who prefer to market their fashion products through fashion supply chains view the internet as an excellent platform through which to undertake marketing activities. This paper provides a comprehensive critical review of literature tracing the evolution of this subject area. The paper sets out to delineate key themes within this body of work

Evolution of fashion brands

Fashion brands have evolved tremendously during the last several decades. The best way to demonstrate this evolution process is to carry out a review of literature. This is precisely the objective that this section sets out to achieve. Some of the issues that have been addressed in recent scholarly debate on fashion brands include fashion and consumption, the role of internet in fashion-related purchasing, the rise of fashion supply chains, and trends in fashion merchandising. Other dominant themes in literature on fashion include fashion branding, international fashion retailing, and classification of participants in international fashion retailing. In this regard, various efforts have been made to define the concept of the luxury fashion retailer.

There is also abundant literature highlighting aspects of structure and dimensions of international luxury fashion retailing. It should be noted that many fashion brands of today have become popular brand names across the world, for example Gucci and Louis Vuitton. For each of these brands, it is imperative for comparisons to be made regarding the internalization process, particularly luxury brand management and emerging trends.

Fashion and consumption literature

In order to understand the world of fashion, it is important to appreciate what drives people into pursuing fashion. According to Bannister and Hogg (2004), self esteem is one of the main factors that provide a motivational drive for consumers of fashion products. Self-esteem is about the need for acceptance in society. It is possible that people who are obsessed with fashion products live in constant fear of being rejected or avoided. For this reason, they seek symbolic goods provided in the world of fashion with the aim of enhancing their level of acceptability in the eyes of the world.

According to Bannister and Hogg (2004), it is possible for the rejection of certain fashion brands to be explained through the concept of self-esteem, particularly in the context of young people. On this basis, it may be possible for a conceptualization to be developed regarding the various strategies that young people use in maintaining or enhancing their self-esteem through the use of fashion brands. This implies that some fashion brands may be perceived to have a negative symbolic meaning while others may be perceive to have a positive symbolic meaning. In the case of high-involvement items such as fashion products, the issue of symbolic consumption is of utmost importance. Understanding this issue can go a long way in designing effective marketing messages for various market segments.

Consumption in the world of fashion is also greatly influenced by the availability and nature of supply chains. According to Fiorito & Birtwistle (2003), fashion retails have to address the issues quick response implementation and quality response in order to succeed in today’s world of fashion. Similarly, a lot of attention in fashion retailing should be on processes for replenishments. In these aspects, information technology plays a critical role in enabling large fashion retailers to manage their supply chains. This facilitates communication, thereby promoting timely response to demand. According to Fiorito & Birtwistle (2003), retailers still have a long way to go before they can fully understand the benefits of a quick response strategy. A major problem in this case is that most fashion retailers focus on internal aspects of quick response strategy while neglecting issues relating to external supply chain management.

Fernie & Azuma (2004) also contribute to the debate on the concept of the quick response strategy, only that they focus on the Japanese fashion industry. The main question posed by Fernie & Azuma (2004) is on whether supply chain efficiency can be achieved using the quick response strategy. In Japan, most of the changes are occurring because the fashion industry is experiencing offshore migration of brand manufacturing from established markets. This trend, together with the complex nature of the consumption trends in the fashion industry, continues to play a critical role in transforming perceptions relating to fashion in the contemporary world.

The global fashion industry has become globalized, such that consumers are able to access styles that are in vogue easily and at low prices. In some cases, small manufacturers in the industrialized world derive numerous benefits. However, globalization also poses risks to local retail fashion outlets, which face the threat of being edged out of the marketplace by larger, more established foreign competitors. These problems are of great significance in shedding light on gaps in literature as well as between theory and practice. Fernie & Azuma (2004) suggest that domestic apparel manufacturers that are threatened by globalization may rely on the quick response (QR) strategy in their efforts to survive in an environment crowded by participants from industrial economies.

The debate on fashion buying and merchandizing is also ongoing. This debate is premised on the understanding that fashion retailing has continued to enjoy considerable growth in both the developing world and in industrialized societies. The concept of global fashion has been transformed into a reality by the emergence of an affluent global society in combination with faster avenues of communications at the international level. Some of the famous names that have found their way into wardrobes in different parts of the world include Nike, Gucci, Levi’s, and Benetton.

Fashion consumers have started segmenting into smaller social groups, triggered by different stimuli such as music, sports, dance, and television (Jackson & Shaw, 2001). According to Jackson & Shaw (2001), this is sometimes referred to as tribalism in marketing. This concept is derived from the idea that the society becomes more uncertain and confused because of crowding by numerous brands. In such environments, individuals feel the need to seek comfort by aligning themselves to smaller groupings in society where their symbols and vales are clearly differentiated. In this way, individuals set out to use fashion as a tool for making personal statements regarding their self-worth and self-image. Such individuals normally seek to elevate their status both psychologically and aesthetically. In Europe, for instance, the tendency to dress smartly is regarded as the norm regardless of one’s social class.

The concept of quick response is critical in today’s fashion industry primarily because fashion trends and styles change fast and with somewhat amazing regularity. It is a fast-moving trade driven by the need for fashion lovers to be seen wearing the latest fashion accessories. In this environment, the fashion retailer must make fast product decisions in order to remain ahead of competition. Fashion retailers who put the latest fashions into their shop make the highest profits. The ability to repeat the process all over again enables the individual or corporate entity transform a small retail enterprise into a highly profitable business.

Today, fashion products have become rather difficult to understand. This is unlike in the case of other retail commodities that are more stable in terms of rate of stock turnover. The decision-making process is a complex one, and a fashion retailer can easily end up making huge losses. For this reason, fashion buying is one of the most critical management functions in all fashion retailing businesses. The same case applies to the issue of fashion merchandising. The business can easily suffer simply because of failure by the buyer to deliver the right fashion products at the right place at the right time. The sales team may be energetic, hardworking, and experienced but it only takes the ability to deliver the right products at the right place and at the opportune time for the business to move forward. This is precisely the reason why fashion retailers make efforts to understand the need of buyers as well as the mode of operation of the merchandiser.

The needs of the customer must always take precedence over all other considerations in fashion retailing. This is the point to start if the business is to make sustainable profits on a regular basis. To understand this situation, one only needs to observe local fashion retail shops. The unforgiving reality is that most of them must have undergone some structural changes. Some may have closed down while others may have lost crucial fashion names. Furthermore, others may have changed retail dynamics or even had their brands vanished.

Fashion buying and merchandizing: The evolution process

Historically, fashion retailing used to operate in the form of small enterprises. In this business practice, the manager would make decisions on what stock to buy while at the same time running the enterprise. Fashion retailing was a closely guarded undertaking, with stock levels being greatly influenced by the trends in customers’ needs. However, with the onset of the Industrial Revolution, the age of mass production had come. The Industrial Revolution made mass-produced fashion products to become readily available in the market. With the onset of mass production occasioned by dynamic economic development, time had come for investors to embrace the concept of multiple outlet retailing.

Fashion retailers were compelled to go with the changing times by expanding their retail operations. This meant that they had to increase the quantities and value of their stock investment. This made it a more risky undertaking because the retailer would incur huge losses every time he got the style wrong. Moreover, the increase in size made it necessary for a wider range of product to be supplied. For this reason, it was necessary for many specialist garment buyers to emerge. This was unlike in the age of small-scale retailing when the retail manager-cum-proprietor would play the role of the garment buyer. Soon afterwards, a new trend emerged whereby specialist buyers needed to work as a team in order to arrive at a specific type of garment.

Today, it is common for one to find fashion buyers who have been purchasing only a limited range of garment categories throughout their careers. This is simply because these are the product types in which they managed to acquire expertise in early on during the start of their careers. For examples, some fashion retailers specialize in knitwear simply because this is the area they best understand in terms of knitting processes and availability of yarns. Similarly, those who engage in women’s underwear focus entire on this limited product range because they understand it best in terms of product construction and choice of specialist fabric. A similar practice has emerged in other areas such as shoes, bras, and eyeglasses.

In the modern world of fashion retailing and merchandising, a life-long learning strategy is required on the part of fashion retailers. This strategy enables them to learn many things about fashion and changes in technological development. It is against this backdrop that higher learning institutions have started offering degree programs relating to fashion. The introduction of these in-service courses is testimony to the trend of dramatic changes that will continue to unfold in the fashion industry as far as professionalism in buying and merchandising is concerned.

International Fashion Retailing

The concept of international fashion retailing has been discussed widely in literature on fashion brands. In this literature, focus is mostly on how marketers relate with customers and the relationship between franchisors and franchisees. However, the business-to-business dimension seems to have been neglected despite its importance (Doherty, 2004). Nevertheless, by focusing on the relationship between franchisors and franchisees, marketing scholars have paved the way for future discussions on the nature of business-to-business dimension in the world of fashion brands. According to Doherty (2004), the marriage analogy best explains the phenomenon of franchise relationships in international fashion retailing.

Many studies have also focused on the factors that influence the choice of entry mode among international fashion retailers (Karpova & Fiore, 2011). According to Karpova & Fiore (2011), the best way of understanding these factors is to adopt a theoretical perspective. The main theories highlighted by Karpova & Fiore (2011) include bargaining, transaction cost, internationalization, and resource-based theories. By discussing these theories, scholars would be charting a clear path for the establishment of a theoretical framework on choice of entry mode in the international retail fashion industry (Karpova & Fiore, 2011). In these discussions, focus should be on efforts to bridge gaps between theories as well as between theory and practice.

Some of the factors influencing choice of entry mode in the international retail fashion industry include financial capacity, brand equity, country-specific risk, and restrictions by various governments. Investors should put into consideration aspects of cultural distance and international experience. Furthermore, they should put into consideration market-specific factors relating to competition and market potential. Investors should also be ready to experience interactions among factors, which is an indication of the need to appreciate the complexities of the international retail fashion environment.

The factors that influence entry and operations in the international retail fashion industry also vary depending on the category of international fashion retailers under analysis. The main categories that have been identified in fashion marketing literature include product specialists, general merchandize retailers, design retailers, and general fashion retailers. According to Sheridan (2006), focus in research has mainly been on luxury fashion retailing. Some of the other areas that have been discussed, albeit in a scanty manner, include general fashion retailing and general merchandize retailing (Doherty, 2000; Moore, 1997).

Structure of luxury fashion retailing

There is a large body of literature on luxury fashion retailing. In this body of literature, one of the issues addressed is the definition of the luxury fashion retailer. Luxury fashion retailers are firms that engage in the distribution of clothing and accessories that are exclusively designed, are exclusively branded with an easily recognisable insignia, are perceived to be of high quality, and are sold at prestigious retail settings for prices that are higher than the market norm (Moore & Doherty, 2007).

The concept of international flagship stores is commonly used in discussions on luxury fashion retailers. These flagship stores are normally maintained by companies that deal in luxury fashion items at very high prices. On the face of it, these stores seem like an unnecessary show of extravagance. This is because the costs incurred in maintaining them tend to exceed the incomes that they generate. No luxury brand company can admit to having incurred losses in a flagship store. This is despite the fact that a very high capital investment is required in the opening up of a new store. Moreover, very high costs are involved in operating such a store on a daily basis.

The high cost of operating international flagship stores has led many marketing commentators to predict that these stores indeed make loses, and that those who start them do not expect them to make any direct contribution to the profitability of the company. In this case, the obvious thing to think is that the stores contribute to company profitability in indirect, subtle ways. The commentators express their concern that their operations go against the principles of prudent business management. This is the reason why they argue that the expectation of operators is for these stores to contribute to the companies’ bottom line in indirect ways.

One of the defining characteristics of international flagship stores is that they deal in only one brand of a product. They are owned by specific fashion companies, and the intention of operating them is to build a brand image instead of solely contributing to the company’s profitability. Some of the products that are commonly displayed in these stores include leather goods, watches, jewellery, perfumes, and cosmetics.

According to Wigley (2005), flagship stores constitute a method of market entry for international luxury fashion retailers. This argument is based on the characteristics of these stores. This position is also informed by the fact that these stores employ a strategic approach similar to the one used in market entry. These stores are designed in such a way that various mechanisms are provided for as far as the development and enhancement of distribution activities in foreign markets are concerned. Moreover, these stores operate in a relationship of interdependence with the wholesaling method of distributing products.

Flagship stores also help in enhancing the luxury status of various brands at the international level. This contributes to the process of building and maintaining relationships with both customers and distribution partners. In any internationalization strategy in the luxury fashion market, flagship stores constitute a pivotal factor. In fact, in any luxury fashion outlet that fails to establish a flagship store may be viewed as lacking in a critical element of a luxury brand. There is a need for luxury fashion literature to focus more on aspects of both form and function in determining the continued existence of international flagship retail outlets despite their exorbitantly high cost.

The flagship outlets have also contributed immensely to the evolution of the luxury brand market in the international context. To begin with, luxury brands were the reserve of the wealthy and affluent in society. Today, the evolution process has seen these brands trickle down to mass markets. In these mass markets, focus has almost invariably been on middle-income earners. This, according to Moore, Fernie, & Burt (2000), has tended to raise new, hitherto unforeseen challenges for marketing strategists. This is primarily because there is always a need for luxury brands to maintain focus on luxury consumers. With the entry of these brands into the markets, marketing specialists are compelled to discover new ways of packaging the fashion products in such a way that the value proposition created is not prohibitive.

One country where flagship stores have been used as a market entry strategy is China. In China, numerous luxury fashion brands have tended to rely on flagship stores as their first point of contact in terms of direct investment in the foreign market. For example, Armani Group, a luxury fashion retailer, established flagship stores in strategic areas in Shanghai during the early stages of their brand development endeavors. The aim of this investment was to demonstrate the international fashion company’s commitment to the fast-growing Chinese luxury fashion market. The objective of the marketing strategists at Armani Group was to establish comprehensive retail and distribution channels for all product lines and main brands of the Armani Group. Unfortunately, this critical contribution has not been widely debated in literature on luxury fashion brands.

In many ways, the entry of luxury brands into the mass market may be said to present marketers with a new phenomenon in which they have to build aspects of both communication and connection as far as luxury brands are concerned. These aspects are necessary in efforts to ensure that long-term success is achieved for both luxury marketers and the luxury product range. This means that focus should not just be on profitability but also on sustainability of branding efforts. This may be the point which the importance of international flagship stores may be fully appreciated.

International flagship stores have other uses apart from constituting a market entry strategy. Although they seem to undermine the overall brand positioning strategy, these brands also act as a crucial indicator of the strategic role of the brand in the company’s international expansion. The high amount of investment attached to these stores acts as an indicator of their importance in the overall international success of the brand.

According to Moore, Doherty, & Doyle (2010), this significance is demonstrated in the way the store act as a conduit and source of support for various partner relationships. It also becomes evident whenever the brand managers set out to engage in marketing communication. At such time, the flagship luxury outlet acts as an ideal platform through which crucial presentations are made. The stores also act as crucial platforms for future development of retail stores in different countries. Once success is achieved in the flagship luxury store of one country, marketing strategists of the brand become confident in their efforts to replicate this success in another country.

Dimensions of the international luxury fashion brand

The task of establishing and maintaining success in an international luxury fashion brand is a challenging one. Various critical dimensions need to be put into consideration, and this is the point at which the challenge arises (Beverland, M. (2007). In qualitative studies addressing case studies of different international fashion retailers, one crucial finding that comes out is that a coherent and consistent approach is needed in all efforts aimed at creating and maintaining a brand proposition relating in the context of international luxury fashion (Beverland, 2007). Moreover, international luxury fashion companies should take the effort of understanding critical dimensions that will enable them achieve the goals of efficiency and effectiveness in the management of a luxury fashion brand.

According to Moore & Birtwistle (2005), parenting advantage is one of the most critical dimensions in international luxury fashion branding. Parenting advantage may be defined as the ability by a business to create more value than the one that competitors would within the same line of businesses. Parenting advantage is a crucial factor in creating an understanding of the various synergistic benefits that can be achieved whenever a brand is consolidated within a sector.

One of the most renowned luxury fashion brands that have succeeded in the market after building up on the value of parenting advantage is Gucci. At the start of the renaissance that lasted for ten years, Gucci was on the verge of collapse. At the end of the renaissance period, the company emerged as the second largest luxury group in the world. To achieve this goal, the company identified numerous intra-business synergies within the group and made the best use of them. Moreover, efforts were made to ensure that brand management expertise was transferred from one part of the Gucci Group to the other, leading to a system of interdependence (Moore & Birtwistle, 2005). Eventually, aspects of competence and expertise were reconstituted to form the principal dimension within which the goal of parenting advantage could be achieved at Gucci Group (Moore & Birtwistle, 2005).

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The need for a model for use in creating an international luxury fashion brand should not be gainsaid. Such a model should be anchored in a theoretical framework. It should also have practical implications in the international luxury fashion industry. Some of the issues that would have to be addressed in this model include resource investments, parenting advantage, brand management strategy, and business development activities. The multi-dimensional element of the model should be apparent in the way it reveals the relationship between various components of an international luxury fashion brand. Furthermore, a framework that acts as a guideline for ensuring that the parenting advantage is sustained should be developed. Such a practical approach would be of utmost relevance in this contemporary environment of high-level competitiveness.

One of the models developed in literature on international luxury brands is Burberry Business model (Moore & Birtwistle, 2004). The fashion brand Burberry was created from business model that was for a long time leading to negative business performance (Moore & Birtwistle, 2004). For example, in 1998, Burberry, a British brand, reported a drop in profits by more than 50 percent (Moore & Birtwistle, 2004). This led analysts to refer to it as an ‘outdated business with zero fashion value’ (Moore & Birtwistle, 2004). However, from 1998, the company embarked on a process of realigning its business model, which increased business performance considerably.

In order to best understand the Burberry Business model, one should first understand the company’s history. It would also be necessary for any reviewer of this model to take note of the fact that the company had even launched an initial public offering (IPO) during its heydays. An analysis of the Burberry Business model would provide crucial answers to the questions raised in the process of developing a new model for the creation of international luxury fashion brands.

Another dimension of international luxury fashion brand is premium pricing. This dimension is modeled around the idea that the world continues to become richer, leaving consumers with more disposable income. According to Fionda & Moore (2009), this trend continues to exist across the world, including the USA and China. The indication is that consumers simply trade up for all products that they perceive to be meeting their aspiration needs. At the same time, they trade down those products that are generally perceived as commodities (Fionda & Moore, 2009). Fionda & Moore (2009) argue that this trend has led to a scenario in which the contemporary society is increasingly becoming ‘luxurified’.

However, aspects of aspiration needs do not constitute the only factor in shaping preferences for luxury brands in the contemporary. Other factors are at play as well, some of which include culture, heritage, availability of flagship stores, and controlled distribution. Controlled distribution essentially means that the product is available only to a limited number of people in society. The aim of this strategy is to increase the sense of entitlement among the community that owns the luxury brand. Other important factors include iconic design, control over manufacturing, product integrity, and endorsements. In the case of most high-fashion brands, endorsements are made in fashion shows that are normally highly publicized. The element of high publicity dominates simply because of the fact that the occasions in question bring together many celebrities (Beverland, 2007).

The internationalisation process of luxury retailers

Debate on the internationalization process of luxury retailers is ongoing. Some of the main issues that have been debated on in recent years include the process of process of internationalization, location of internationalization, entry methods, ownership structures, and global brand management. Of these issues, most focus has been on the process of internalization. However, according to Moore & Doyle (2010), the debate on ways of internationalizing the luxury brand has largely been neglected.

Moore & Doyle (2010) suggests a four-stage process of internationalizing a luxury brand. The first stage involves wholesaling of couture in different departmental stores situated in different capital cities. The second stage encompasses opening of couture and flagship shops in strategic locations. In the third stage, high-end fashion companies endeavor to set up flagship stores through the open-diffusion approach in key cities around the world. Moreover, this may also be the opportune time for marketers to implement the strategy of diffusing the luxury brands throughout strategic countries. According to Moore & Doyle (2010), the last stage should entail open diffusion of luxury brand stores in selected provincial cities. Throughout any internalization process, it is imperative for marketing strategists to ensure that all the generally accepted principles of luxury brand management are adhered to (Moore and Birtwistle, 2004).

According to Moore & Doherty (2007), the international luxury brand market remains buoyant. This buoyancy has been fuelled primarily by the development of many diffusion lines that end up being adapted to meet the needs of the mass market (Moore & Doherty, 2007). The process of internationalization that Moore & Doherty (2007) propose is different from that of Moore & Birtwistle (2007). In this process, the first stage is marked by a shift from wholesale channels to the use of departmental stores. The second stage entails the establishment of various ready-to-wear flagship stores. This is followed by the creation of large diffusion flagships. Finally, the luxury brand companies end up opening up stores in key provincial cities.

For the luxury brand owners to succeed in the internationalization process, there is always a need for the acquisition of additional capital. For many owners, the best solution is for them to transform their business entities into public limited companies. Even after undergoing this transformation, these companies tend to franchise the process of diffusion line development to third parties. This enables the designer to maintain control over product lines and their overall brand image.

According to Liu (2012), about 25 percent of gross margin in the luxury brand operations normally goes to advertising support with the aim of creating global campaigns aimed at enhancing brand image within key foreign markets. However, this has not reduced the existing tension between the desire to maintain exclusivity and the need for widespread distribution, which ultimately dilutes the value of the brand.


In summary, fashion brands constitute a major area of focus in marketing. In academic marketing literature, a lot of time has been dedicated to the debate on fashion brands, particularly in relation to the evolution process. In today’s globalized world, many traditional practices continue to evolve as fashion designers attempt to adapt their operations to new business environments.

One critical aspect of this evolution process takes the form of the internationalization process of luxury brands. Other critical themes include the relationship between fashion and consumption as well as between fashion buying and merchandizing. The evolution process has been especially evident in the realm of fashion supply chains as well as international fashion retailing.

Literature on the structure of luxury fashion retailing, dimensions of the international luxury fashion brand, and the internationalization process demonstrates that significant efforts have been made to analyze dynamics in luxury fashion brands. This has greatly helped in creating a better understanding of the evolution process. However, no significant efforts have been made to establish a link between theory and practice. Therefore, further research is needed in efforts to build a model for use in explaining the evolution process of luxury fashion brands from a multidimensional perspective.



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