Like many people, I was really looking forward to the Automatic Honey Halloween release when it came out last Friday. I especially loved the tarot card necklace in black. However, as this release came out at 4 A.M UK time and I knew it was going to sell out fast, I didn't even bother attempting to go for it. What I wasn't expecting, was for it to sell out quite as fast as it did. People furiously refreshing their screens at 4 A.M on the dot, unable to get on the site, let alone get things in to their cart... it was a good old-fashioned lolita bloodbath.
My Facebook wall soon flooded with people updating on whether they had managed to get hold of anything (most had not). Suddenly, there were calls for a Made-to-Order and rumours going around that AH had only made 20 of each piece. So if 20 was made for all 4 colours, there would have been 80 of each piece in total. Whilst 80 may seem like a lot, that number pales in comparison to the number of people who liked AH's post when they announced this collection. Which brings us on to the issue of supply versus demand.
I am going to use Angelic Pretty as the example here, as I am sure that is the example that most of you will be familiar with. It is funny to think that this time last year, we were still talking about Angelic Pretty's bloodbath releases. Every time a hyped series came out (which at the time felt like almost every single one of them, with only the odd flop here and there) stories would come out about how quickly the series sold out, how quickly people were scalping stuff on the auctions and about the ticket system AP used for the queues at their physical stores. Then something changed. Angelic Pretty decided to increase the amount of stock they put out. Now when an Angelic Pretty series comes out, it is a lot easier to get hold of it. In fact, when was the last time an Angelic Pretty series sold out as quickly as they did in the old days? This will be partly down to the recent series not being as popular, but also because AP simply has more stock to shift. It is interesting to see that on places such as cgl (yes, I do go on there and browse the Lolita General threads from time to time) you get people from time to time asking how popular a series is going to be, so that they can gauge how likely it is that a series will go on sale later. It is interesting to see it swing from people desperately trying to grab a shopping service slot, to a series selling so slow that people are questioning how long they can hold out and potentially get a bargain. In the Summer Sale this year, some dresses went down to roughly £60. At that price, even I was tempted to grab that lesser loved series.
These bargains are great news for us, but I can't help but wonder what is going through the AP manager's minds at the moment. If these dresses are going to be so hard to shift, will they consider reducing the stock amount again in the future? Already we are seeing a lot more special sets coming out, which are cheaper to make and have fewer details, and those cheaply priced sets are selling far better than the big releases. And there are other areas where I think AP have been cutting corners as well. When I got hold of that Little Bird's Symphonia skirt recently (which originally came out in 2012) I looked at the cute bird lace at the bottom and thought about how AP don't really go all-out with their custom lace now in comparison to the 2012 era. We are seeing a lot of the same lace used over and over again, which often has a simpler design. There is also the odd comment here and there that the quality of the materials seems to have dipped just slightly. But if the series are not selling as well, it makes sense to look at ways of making the releases cheaper.
Another thing to consider is re-releases. When it comes to Angelic Pretty, the series which I frequently see mentioned as desired re-releases are Honey Cake, Cinema Doll and Cat's Tea Party. But with Honey Cake, it was initially an unpopular series. When it originally came out, it ended up in the sale. It was only afterwards that we saw this increase of interest in the series. Even then, just because it gained more popularity over here in the West, it doesn't mean it is as popular in Japan or the rest of Asia. If I was Angelic Pretty, I would be hesitant to re-release Honey Cake, as the market is giving out some very mixed messages. Take a look at the Melty Cream Donuts re-release, which at the time of writing this post has been available for a week and a half. I know a lot of people who were excited about this series coming out again, but only the OP is sold out. Both the JSKs and the skirt are available on their website in every colour still. Maybe Angelic Pretty would have been better off just releasing the OP instead of the whole series, seeing as that is obviously the cut that everybody was after.
My point is, stock levels are always hard to judge, no matter how big or small your brand is. As popular as they may be right now, Automatic Honey is a small indie brand, who probably don't have that many staff. I would absolutely love it if AH did a Made-to-Order of their Halloween stuff, but it may be beyond their means right now. Yes, they could have seen the number of likes they attracted and considered if their stock amount was adequate, but there would have been too little time to potentially make more. Sometimes brands really misjudge how much stock is needed, but lolita fashion is not always the most stable of markets. I know a few people who run indie brands with varying levels of success and I have learnt that setting up a small business like this can be absolutely terrifying. You may think you have come up with a great idea, only for it to not sell well. It is a lot of time and money to invest. If nothing else, hopefully Automatic Honey will see how well this Halloween stock did and will consider making changes in the future. In the mean time, I guess I will be seeing you all in the sales groups if somebody decides to sell that necklace!