Here is a draft of my 2013 Preppy/Trad companies chart. It is posted in this form for peer review, and as always, I will update it fluidly based on comments. So please, let me know where I got it right or wrong, and please nominate any additional companies with placement suggestions.
For those new to this, this chart plots the current state of representative preppy/trad clothing and accessory vendors as they evolve from young, innovative companies (on the left of the chart) to company shells/cautionary tales (on the right). For contrast, here is last year's 2012 version.
The characteristics of each stage are as follows:
- A company serves demanding clients in authentic environments significantly better then competitors.
- The company’s founder is hands on.
- Other people often love the products without necessarily recognizing the company that made it.
- Fiercely passionate customers, who are "in the know", are very loyal to the company.
- The company has significantly higher prices than competitors.
- Quality is paramount.
- Customers can still call or email and get the owner (and often work through any problems).
- Some new products are added.
- The company has widely recognized popular and unique items.
- Great pride is taken in the brand.
- Items are expensive, but high quality.
- New items, extensions of old, are added.
- Companies gain increasing brand recognition well beyond passionate base.
- A short term flattening of growth can cause panic.
- The company is often under new management.
- The new management purges many of the old employees and suppliers/branded vendors.
- Companies in this stage are very interested in new categories of customers, and take the existing customer base for granted - many loyal customers find themselves buying less and less.
- The new management seeks to "leverage the look and the feel of the brand and brand experience" by lowering the quality and increasing the channels, supported by heavy marketing, including social media outreach.
- Vendors open mall stores, for example, in this stage.
- There is significant confusion from traditional customers.
- Some classics remain (but fewer and fewer).
- There are wild fluctuations of prices (higher prices, then massive sales).
- New products are low quality and relatively expensive.
- The companies increasingly outsource production to low-cost providers.
- A cash grab company has a significant PR budget, first spent trying to differentiate the company from their past, then relentlessly trying to invoke it.
- Long time customers start to experience return-fatigue
- There is a big opportunity for upper management to personally cash in with a one-time windfall, sacrificing long-term employees and customers in the process.
- Companies are no longer differentiated in the marketplace.
- They shift, almost overnight from an external market perception, from relevant and interesting to irrelevant and over-exposed.
- They bear no resemblance to their original selves.
- These companies are included on this chart as cautionary tales.
This chart, as always, is subject to calibration. While I take full responsibility (and blame), I have also incorporated ideas from past comments.