WGSN and Marc Worth
Worth Global Style Network or WGSN was founded in 1999 by Julian and Marc Worth. In 2005, the brothers sold the company to Emap, which was later known as Top Right Group and now as Ascential. Below is a deep dive of the company and one of its co-founders, Marc Worth.
Worth Global Style Network (WGSN) is an "online trend library" that was the first of its kind when it was founded in 1999 by brothers Julian and Marc Worth. A London-based company, WGSN is now "part of 4C, the insight and data operation of Top Right Group (Ascential)," and provides quantitative and qualitative research, along with custom advisory services, to assist "6,500 businesses stay relevant and find their next growth opportunities." Services offered by WGSN include providing insights into "the consumer of today and tomorrow," trend forecasting, big data analytics, brand health tracking, consumer surveying, and tailored solutions that allow companies access to WGSN's global experts in 14 countries. In 2016, WGSN had an approximate annual revenue of $13.4 million.
WGSN offers a variety of services to its clients in addition to Mindset, its customized consulting services. WGSN Insight is the company's "flagship trend product," and provides "original and thought-provoking content on consumer, marketing, retail and innovation trends."
WGSN Fashion is a service that helps clients predict the fashion trends of tomorrow, including "trend and color forecasting" for two years ahead; "1,300 catwalk shows" and over "150 catwalk analysis reports" each season; access to over 22 million searchable images and thousands of royalty-free prints, graphics, and CADs; up-to-the-minute retail intelligence; and access to design tools and resources.
WGSN Lifestyle & Interiors is the "pioneering trend authority for the lifestyle, hospitality and interiors industries." It covers more than 200 trade shows each year and provides "up-to-the-minute news, executive briefings, global retail and VM trends and trend confirmations" to help decision makers "develop a confident approach to colour, buying and design."
WGSN Instock is the "big data analytics platform" to help companies make critical retail decisions. The Retail Insights Dashboard allows clients to "identify markdowns and out-of-stocks quickly and easily, see the top five moving products, colours, prints & graphics, retailers and brands in [their] market every day, fine tune [their] overall pricing strategy based on the architecture of [their] competitors, [and] track new products across the market to ensure [they] are one step ahead." Comp Shopper analyzes more than 100 million SKUs and monitors over "12,000 brands and retailers across 400 different product categories."
WGSN Barometer allows clients to "identify strengths and weaknesses of [their] brand as seen through the eyes of 120,000+ consumers surveyed yearly in the US and the UK." They are able to monitor their brand health daily, understand perception drivers, and benchmark their commercial performance so they can take concrete actions to improve brand performance.
WGSN Styletrial allows clients to receive an "informed view of [their] products' market potential" by gaining feedback on product images from more than 2 million panelists within five days. The feedback is presented in actionable reports that identify "target markets, age appeal, size appeal and price consensus."
WGSN also partners with Coloro to provide clients access to a "suite of color tools" that assists them in choosing the right color for every purpose. Coloro provides 3,500 colors that have been selected from a total of 1.6 million colors so that clients can "potentially identify and code any color [they] want in-between, by applying [its] logical coding system."
A variety of decision makers utilize WGSN's services, including designers, merchandisers, buyers, marketers, and executives. Designers tend to use the WGSN Styletrial service for trend forecasts, design validation, and "consumer tribe analysis." Merchandisers and buyers enjoy the ability to track best-sellers, re-stocks, and mark-downs via WGSN's Instock service. They also take advantage of WGSN Styletrial to "validate ranges before they are made," and WGSN Fashion to "gain an in-depth view of global retail trends." Marketers are able to "view consumer attitudes and trends up to five years ahead," use WGSN's Insight to better understand the "wider consumer market," and receive "bespoke insight reports and projects from WGSN Mindset, a custom advisory business."
Executives use WGSN to make better decisions "from concept to creation," which allows them to increase profitability and drive top-line growth. According to WGSN's website, 93% of executives that have used the company's services say the intelligence they've received has strongly influenced their sales. Moreover, 84% say WGSN has saved them money by implementing key cost-saving strategies developed through market intelligence, including purchasing fewer samples, making fewer, more efficient shopping trips, and planning more effectively.
Current customers using WGSN's services include Starbucks, Samsung, Nickelodeon, NBC, Levi's, Fila, Coach, Chrysler, Adidas, and Nike, but industries of all types have taken advantage of the WGSN's market intelligence. These industries include hospitality and travel; retail; financial services; food and beverage; automotive; and all types of men's, women's, and children's wear.
WGSN also offers a calendar of events such as trade shows and trend talks that provide additional insight into the fashion and retail industries, as well as WGSN Insider, a series of blogs that address a variety of timely topics in fashion, culture, lifestyle, strategy, and retail data. Readers of WGSN Insider can also access editorials, WGSN updates, and original video content.
According to The Economist, WGSN is the biggest fashion forecasting firm, "with a market share of 50%." As of July 2017, it employed "150 forecasters who scour the world’s catwalks, bars and clubs to spot the next big thing." HighsNobiety mentioned that "the biggest player in this field (trend forecasting agencies) is WGSN" and "WGSN is, without doubt, the biggest player in the trend-forecasting industry, with more than 6,000 users subscribing to their insights." The company's "broad influences are reflected in WGSN's client base, which includes a range of companies as diverse as Chrysler, NBC, Nickelodeon and Starbucks." WGSN's reports are kept behind extremely expensive paywalls and are "not intended for the average fashion follower who wants to keep up to speed — their website specifies that it is 'not suitable for consumers,'" making it an exclusive solution for brands that are willing to pay for intelligence.
Marc Worth background and overview
Marc Worth is currently the CEO of Stylus Innovation + Advisory, a position he has held since 2010. Prior to working at Stylus Innovation + Advisory, Mr. Worth co-founded and served as CEO of Worth Global Style Network from 1998 to 2005. This followed 22 years of service at Heatseal Textiles, a company that "made labels and badges for clothes." Mr. Worth rose to the position of CEO of Heatseal Textiles, and this was the title he held when he left the company in 1999. Mr. Worth attended Trent College, located in Nottingham, United Kingdom from 1972 to 1977; however, as he is "not a fan of school," and as such, he has "been in business since the age of 16, when he joined Julian in the family firm Heatseal, manufacturing garment logos."
Mr. Worth has been married to his wife, Hilda for 32 years (25 in 2011 + 7 = 32) and has four children: Patti (29), Max (27), Henry (24), and Louis (20). While Mr. Worth purports to be a Notthingham Forrest fan, he has season tickets to Arsenal home games. Although this information is from a 2011 article, it appears that no newer biography on Mr. Worth has been published.
WGSN was founded with an investment of £1 million in 1997, when Julian and Marc Worth noticed "that the pace of change in a fast-moving industry was accelerating and earmarking the internet as the best way to keep fashion professionals updated." Initially, the company had just three employees and operated out of an office on London's Baker Street. In 2004, the year before the Worth brothers sold the company to Emap for £140 million, WGSN saw revenues of £15 million and a "pre-tax profit of £4 million."
In 2000, WGSN spent £10 million to provide 50,000 fashion and design students in the United Kingdom free access to "more than 300,000 pages of material" on the WGSN website. At the time, Mr. Worth said the "initiative was a response to strong interest from academics and students in WGSN's trade subscription site, which costs Pounds 1,800 a year." Since the colleges were unable to find the money in their budgets to make the side more widely available to students, "WGSN decided to develop a student-friendly version of the site, with free access to all those on fashion, textiles and design-related courses worldwide."
Mr. Worth and his brother sold Worth Global Style Network in 2005. At the time, annual renewal rates for WGSN's subscription service were in excess of 90%, which most of its revenues coming from Europe and the Asia Pacific. The company rebranded as World Global Style Network, but today, it is now mostly known by its acronym, WGSN.
Shortly after the sale, Mr. Worth called the company he built "a monster." He said, "shoppers complain that everything on the high street looks the same, but is it any wonder? Instead of looking for inspiration, brands are relying on templates, and because everyone uses the same templates, there’s no competitive edge." Even so, Mr. Worth started a new, similar company in 2010, but Stylus Innovation + Advisory "does not offer templates or downloadable patterns." Similar to WGSN, though, it still uses statistics and projections to "inform many of the major brands" around the world.
In fact, in Mr. Worth's own words, "although we live in very creative times, the forecasting giants are nurturing a ‘copy cat’ culture of inertia. That’s why I created Stylus. Inspired by the idea that the most brilliant innovation comes from the cross-pollination between fields of expertise, Stylus provides consumer insights across 20 different industries. Using our unique technology, we cover consumer lifestyle, engagement and product trends all under the same umbrella."
Mr. Worth told NousCulture that his new company "offers creative research and advice to businesses, but does not forecast trends." He said, "We don’t forecast, we don’t predict. We provide inspirations for creatives to create trends; we track trends as they evolve, but we’re not forecasters in the traditional sense. Social media dictates trends today. The trend emerges overnight and disappears almost as quickly. The Internet, media, too, has dramatically sped up, allowing for new fashion trends to go viral all day, every day."
Mr. Worth continued to criticize trend forecasting after his tenure at WGSN. He told Forbes that "the system is not without its flaws... Thousands of companies are signed up for trend forecasting services, looking at the same color forecasts, the same material swatches and the same silhouettes." He also said that trend forecasting "used to be a real source of inspiration for designers, but now it’s just doing their job for them. You can download CAD [computer-aided design] drawings of a garment and just tweak it. It has made life too easy for people in the creative space; it has made them lazy." To NousCulture, he said, "Today, the idea of a bunch people sitting in a room and deciding what the colors are going to be in two years’ time or what materials are going to be used in three years’ time is a complete nonsense."
In 2014, as Mr. Worth prepared to launch Stylus Fashion in direct competition with WGSN, he said WGSN was a "monster that created an industry of idiots" and that his purpose for starting the Stylus Fashion service was to "get designers thinking for themselves again." WGSN, however, fired back with a spokesman saying, "It is absurd to think that having a wealth of inspirational material from around the world at your fingertips will make you less creative. This seems a peculiar statement for Marc to make. WGSN was a pioneer of the forecasting industry and today offers customers one of the most innovative trend, design and bespoke research product ranges."
WGSN co-founder Marc Worth helped turn WGSN into the biggest player in the trend forecasting business. However, after the company's sale in 2005, Mr. Worth believed he had only contributed to making the fashion industry less creative. Despite his criticism of the trend forecasting industry, Mr. Worth started a new, similar business in 2008 that is now a direct competitor of WGSN.