Wigley, Stephen M. (2012) Market-facing Alliances in the Fashion Retail Sector – Managing Synergy in a Creative Industry. In: 19th Eirass Conference on Retailing and Consumer Services, July 9th-11th 2012, Vienna, Austria.

The corporate characteristics and competences of successful fashion retail businesses encompass both ‘back of house’ and ‘market facing’ capabilities including financial discipline, product design, supplier management and logistics, sales channel management, and marketing capabilities such as pricing and branding. It is clear that success in this market demands the development of both ‘back-of-house’ and ‘market-facing’ competences contributing to relationships extending up the supply chain to designer, supplier and manufacturer and down to distributor, retailer and consumer. The diversity of these relationships mean that they may be beyond the scope of one organization. Hence strategic alliances are commonly used throughout the fashion industry, most often supporting ‘back of house’ competences in the design, manufacturing or distribution of a completely new product line - for example a fashion brand introducing cosmetic and fragrance products. While such ‘back of house’ alliances are fairly well understood, alliances focused on ‘market facing’ competences such as branding, retailing and promotion are less well covered within the literature. Using the example of a successful alliance between two European fashion businesses to develop and promote a new branded product line in China, this paper explores the motivations for, processes involved in and potential outcomes of, market-facing alliances in the fashion retail sector. The presentation will contextualise this instance within the scope of the existing alliance literature and indicate characteristics which make the fashion retail sector distinctive within the topic area. The case will be explored from the perspectives of motives for alliance, partner selection and the management and operation of the alliance. A framework covering motives for alliance within the fashion sector will be proposed and a three-stage model describing their creation, construction and ongoing management will be discussed.

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