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Bodgers of Iford confirms its future closure

The oldest department store in Ilford, Bodgers, has confirmed it is set to close down business for good in February 2018.

The store, owned by the Morleys Stores Group, has been in operation for 125 years but is set to shut down following irrecuperable losses. The business is set to enter into consultation with its 70 members of staff and is hoping to relocate them to other stores in its portfolio, which includes eight stores across London and South East.

"We have done everything we can over the last few years to improve profitability, including significantly reducing our cost base nevertheless we have been unable to reverse the decline, resulting in losses which are not sustainable in the long term," said managing director David Hordle on the closure.

He added that the Morleys Stores Group was not affected by the circumstances which ultimately led to the store's end and that they had always done their best to serve the local community. “We realise this is a very difficult time for the staff and their families and we are doing everything in our power to ensure the best possible outcome for them under the circumstances," he said to a local newspaper.

The department store first opened its doors in 1890 under name of its founder John Bodgers as a drapers. Over the years the store expanded its assortment and in 1959 it was acquired by its current owners.

Photo: Bodgers of Ilford, Facebook

Arket confirms opening date for second London store

Arket, the newest brand from the H&M Group, has confirmed that its second London store in Covent Garden will open on September 22.

The opening follows the brand’s launch on Regent Street in London last month and online in 18 European markets, as well as openings in Copenhagen and Brussels.

Located at 27-29 Long Acre, the new Arket store will house the brand’s “modern-day market” offering of menswear, womenswear, kidswear and homeware, as well as a larger cafe than the Regent Street store based on the New Nordic Food Manifesto.

“We’re very excited about opening our second Arket store in London,” said Lars Axelsson, managing director of Arket. “The historical Covent Garden district has a tradition of serving as a market that goes back centuries, so it feels like the perfect location for us.”

The Covent Garden store will open at 12 noon on September 22, and the first 100 customers will receive a special gift. In addition, there will be limited numbers of Arket’s first publication available on the day, prior to its official release.

Arket aims to be a “modern-day market” focusing on minimalistic and timeless wardrobe essentials, and will also be opening stores in Munich and Stockholm.

Image: courtesy of Arket

Within the discount market, clothing has been identified as the most “under-penetrated sector” according to GlobalData, with only 0.6 percent share of the 334 million pounds total UK clothing market.

However, GlobalData is stating that the improvement in perception of the discounters, such as Lidl, which just launched Esmara by Heidi Klum, will see the market value rise to 643 million pounds in 2022.

The report reveals that clothing at the discounters, identified as retailers which operate at a low price point, with high promotional activity and a number of offers at any one time, will undercut the value clothing providers such as Primark on many items, and will lead customers to switch away from the value retailers, particularly among the discounters’ current shopper base. With over 60 percent of UK consumers shopping at a discounter in 2017, the potential customer base for discount clothing is substantial.

“Clothing is more compatible with the discount model than it appears at first glance, particularly in the way that Lidl has approached its Esmara range” explains Molly Johnson-Jones, senior retail analyst at GlobalData. “The celebrity collaboration creates anticipation and a feeling of exclusivity away from the discount reputation of a store, and Lidl’s choice to focus on bold prints and colours was risky but it shifts the perception of the range more towards fast fashion than discount basics.”

Johnson-Jones added: “The products are designed to maintain margins at low prices and fit in with the existing supply chain and clothing adds another area for the discounters to grow sales and disrupt the mainstream market. Esmara might not be a threat to the clothing market now, but it will change consumer perception of discount clothing and taps into a niche which has been neglected so far.”

John Lewis launches try-before-you-buy experience

Over the weekend, John Lewis launched The Residence, the first ever fully furnished in-store apartment within its Oxford Street London, Liverpool and Cambridge stores offering customers the ultimate-try-before-you-buy experience.

The Residence offers customers the chance to stay overnight and host private dining experiences, while exploring the retailer’s product range, with everything from fashion to homewares, furniture and technology inside the apartment available to buy as part of the ‘Only Here’ autumn exclusives campaign.

John Lewis launches try-before-you-buy experience

Each Residence includes an expansive living and dining area, a fully furnished bedroom and the Oxford Street flagship store also features a fitted kitchen, a study and an indoor terrace that will overlook Cavendish Square. They have all been designed to showcase the characteristics of a home, such as a daily newspaper delivery, fresh coffee, its own scent and the sound of the radio in the background. With the cupboards and wardrobes featuring the latest autumn/winter products.

The spaces will be open daily for customers to try with The Residence expert team being on hand to encourage them to touch, rearrange, sit, play and try on the product.

John Lewis launches try-before-you-buy experience

For a select number of customers, Saturdays at The Residence will offer the ultimate night-at-the-museum style experience where they can apply for an overnight stay, which features a 60-minutes of after-hours private shopping time across the whole store, and an access-all-areas tour of the department store, including the underground stockroom.

John Lewis launches try-before-you-buy experience

John Lewis opens The Residence apartment try-before-you-buy experience

In addition, once a week at The Residence in Oxford Street customers will be able to apply to host their dream dinner party for up to ten people. During the privately catered experience a chef will prepare and serve a special menu with guests able to request their favourite cocktail.

John Lewis launches try-before-you-buy experience

They will also be able to pre-select their music playlist and choose their preferred table setting from the John Lewis collections. To end the evening, they can either while the night away with a selection of dinner party board games, or cosy up in front of one of the shop’s plasma screens.

At The Residence in Liverpool and Cambridge, customers will be able to apply to host their own private brunches. Every Saturday up to six guests will be able to have a two-hour dining experience including Mimosas and brunch dishes. Guests will receive a newspaper delivery of their choice and will be able to listen to morning radio as well as personal shopping advice from The Residence concierge.

John Lewis launches try-before-you-buy experience

The Residence will also host a series of free customer workshops where customers can “pop in” to learn niche skills for the home, from how to choose the duvet and pillow that best’s for them to a lightbulb masterclass, and tips on how to host parties at home.

Peter Cross, John Lewis director of customer experience, said: “We want our customers to discover an altogether different way of shopping. By encouraging them to bounce up and down on a bed and sit around a dressed dining table, we are aiming to create an environment which is a close as possible to their homes. Our expert partners will be on hand to help customers shop, explore, dine or even stay the night.”

Images: courtesy of John Lewis

Kate Spade to open first UK store outside London

American accessories and fashion label Kate Spade New York is to open its first full-price standalone store outside London at Bluewater in Kent this Christmas.

The global lifestyle brand will open a 1,600 square foot boutique on the lower Guildhall and will house the brand’s collection of handbags, small leather goods, apparel, footwear, fashion accessories, tech and stationery.

Kate Spade to open first UK store outside London

The Bluewater opening will mark the brand’s fifth full-price location in the UK, its London stores are based on Regent Street, Covent Garden, Sloane Square and Westfield London.

“It’s incredibly exciting to be opening our first store outside of London,” said Kate Spade president and chief creative officer Deborah Lloyd. “With a reputation as the leading retail and leisure destination in the UK, Bluewater was a clear choice for our first full-price store outside London. As an American brand with a global sensibility, we are looking forward to introducing the full breadth of the Kate Spade New York lifestyle offerings to new and existing brand fans in the region.”

Kate Spade to open first UK store outside London

Kate Spade New York secures 1,600 square foot store at Bluewater

To accommodate the Kate Spade store, British luxury lifestyle brand Aspinal of London has relocated to a new 1,300 square foot store on the upper Guildhall, which opened this month.

Robert Hardie, senior portfolio manager at Landsec, co-owner and asset manager of Bluewater, added: “This very strong level of demand from such aspirational retailers is a reflection of Bluewater’s appeal amongst affluent guests, for whom Bluewater provides a premium offer and experience. Along with other premium brands such as Michael Kors and The White Company, Bluewater offers a genuine alternative to central London.”

Kate Spade to open first UK store outside London

Kate Spade’s parent brand Coach is also due to open a store at the centre later this year.

Images: courtesy of Kate Spade New York

Huishan Zhang opens first London flagship store during LFW

Luxury fashion label Huishan Zhang opened the doors of its first standalone store in London’s Mayfair Monday afternoon, following it's on schedule presentation for Spring/Summer 2018 during London Fashion Week.

The debut flagship store, which is located on Mount Street, was designed in collaboration with interior designer Fran Hickman and takes design queues from the Huishan Zhang brand. Aiming to explore Eastern heritage with Western influences, the store was inspired by the considered ethos behind Chinese Gardens feeling private and personal. The store also features unique design elements, like British flowers embossed on the walls.

In addition to housing Huishan Zhang’s collection, the building is also home to the brand’s design studio which is open to customers for one-on-one appointments with the designer himself to create bespoke pieces.

Photo: courtesy of Huishan Zhang

Fashion to lead the way for 35 percent boost in UK etail

Good news for online fashion retailers like Asos - apparel, and footwear are set to become the biggest contributors to growth within the sector. The UK etail market is predicted to grow 35 percent over the next five years, reaching 68.8 billion pounds by 2022, according to GlobalData.

However, it's not just clothing and footwear that will help drive this surge in online retail, as sectors such as beauty and health will also see a significant rise during the next five years, according to the retail analytics firm. Over the next five years, shopping via smartphone is set to remain consumers preferred shopping channel of choice, as mobile spend is predicted to increase 112 percent. This focus on mobile shopping will be spearheaded by ongoing improvement in mobile shopping, paired with UK consumers need to instant gratification.

78 percent of the population in the UK has shopped online over the last year, as the channel offers shoppers a sense of convenience as well as the lure of lower prices. Young shoppers, in particular, are shopping more and more online in the UK. “Our E-retail report shows online shopper penetration for 16-34-year-olds above 90 percent affirming the importance of the online channel for younger consumers,” said Sofie Willmott, Senior Retail Analyst at GlobalData. “Online pureplayers including Amazon and Asos continue to innovate introducing new technology and driving up consumer expectations of delivery and user experience, requiring multi-channel players to quickly follow suit to maintain their relevance.”

However, online returns are also predicted to grow at nearly the same rate as online spend over the next five years, raising concerns with return management and delivery costs. Clothing and footwear are forecast to account for 70 percent of all online returns in the UK by 2022, as online pure players continue to struggle to solve issues with sizing and fit. “Despite the online channel providing a lifeline to bricks & clicks retailers experiencing tough offline sales, e-retail still imposes significant challenges, including the management of returned stock,” adds Willmott.

“Online returns will continue to rise over the next five years as consumers become more experienced and confident in managing the free and simple returns processes, combined with increased availability of online delivery saver schemes.”

Photo: Asos, screenshot

Amazons opens first fashion studio Blink in India

After fashion studios in London and Amsterdam, online giant Amazon decided on India as the third location for its state-of-the-art Blink fashion studio. It will provide high-quality images and videos to fashion sellers associated with the online retailer and is an extension of Amazon's imaging and cataloguing services that helps retailers with product photography at an economical price.

The new 44,000 square foot studio is located in financial and IT hub Gurgaon, just southwest of New Delhi. The opening coincides with the Amazon Great Indian Festival Sale, which is scheduled to be held from September 21-24. The fashion studio is also expected to increase the sellers' reach to a wider audience during the festive season, which begins with the nine-day Navratri celebrations on 21st September, culminates in Dussera on 30th September and Diwali, the festival of lights, on 19th October, interspersed with the wedding season and ending in Christmas on 25th December and New Year's eve celebrations on 31st December.

“At Amazon, we are always thinking about how we will raise the bar, how we will redefine the way the customer discovers, engages with and shops for fashion online. All of our efforts we’ve made for this studio in terms of technology, scale and talent are designed to deliver high-quality imagery that inspires and educates our customers," said Arun Sirdeshmukh, head, Amazon Fashion India, in a statement.

Part of the studio are 16 photography bays, a ramp, a presentation area and workspaces, which will allow the fashion brand partners to create and edit images and videos and develop creative content with assistance from Amazon. Brands can rent the studio and present their latest styles and innovative ideas, launch new collections and market their creations through fashion shows and other events.

“We have photographers, models, stylists, video editors and other resources. We are constantly looking at new ways of collaboration," added Sirdeshmukh. “With this studio, we will continue to strengthen our relationships across the entire industry – with brands, designers and creative talent. This is part of our plan to innovate in how fashion is displayed on the site and be the best possible place for fashion brands to present themselves online.”

The new studio was inaugurated with a launch party on 13th September, which saw leading designers Varun Bahl, Tarun Tahiliani, Suneet Varma, Nikhil Mehra and JJ Valaya in attendance, as well as supermodels Sonalika Sahay, Shashi Bangira and Madhulika Sharma.

Since the beginning of the year, Amazon Fashion has added close to 50 top fashion brands to its offerings, including fashion brands that debuted in India like Under Armour, Steve Madden Jewelry and Juicy Couture Watches. Its growing selection includes Marks & Spencer, New Balance, Forever 21, Forever New, French Connection, Calvin Klein, Mothercare, Emporio Armani, Versus by Versace and more.

Photo: Amazon Facebook

Los Angeles - Resortwear designer Marie France Van Damme just announced her first U.S. boutique opening. The Hong Kong-based designer will be unveiling her flagship in the country later on this month set in Beverly Hills.

The store will mark Van Damme's ninth boutique total. The new boutique will be located at the Peninsula hotel boasting 464 square feet, according to WWD. The location was chosen by Van Damme due to the city's status as a popular shopping hub. As the brand is a favorite among celebrities such as Catherine Zeta-Jones, Olivia Palermo and more, targeting the Peninsula hotel is a strategic move on Van Damme's part. “Foot traffic is an important factor for my retail locations, and I felt that the constant stream of guests in and out of the Peninsula would provide the right visibility for the brand,” she told WWD.

The store is set to open September 25 at the Beverly Hills location. Aside from her nine retail stores, Van Damme's label is also available at various boutiques globally. The line retails at Neiman Marcus, Harrods, Bergdorf Goodman, and approximately 100 other retailers currently. The new store will open with the brand's resortwear and vacation-inspired styles.

Hill & Friends set to open first store during London Fashion Week

London - Hill & Friends is gearing up to open its first stand alone store in London during the upcoming London Fashion Week. Named 'The House of Hill and Friends,' the new store is located in the heart of Mayfair, at 63 South Molton Street.

The debut store opening, which is set to coincide with the brand's two year anniversary, comes after a period of rapid growth for the accessories and handbag label founded by Emma Hill and Georgia Fendley. Hill & Friends first launched its debut collection during London Fashion Week SS16, hosting a presentation in Claridge's which saw bell boys dressed in pastel suits present the collection on silver trays accompanied by ponies dressed in ribbons.

Hill & Friends to open debut store in London

Hill & Friends first retail store, located in a Georgian townhouse, is set to offer 1,750 square feet of retail and showroom space, housing the brand's design team as well as the store. The store's interior features the brand's signature touches, such as an all-pink decor and fun oversized visuals such as pandas and flamingos, as well as a personalization bar.

"We want to put the fun back in fashion," said creative director and co-founder Hill to BoF. "I live in a townhouse in Notting Hill, and my house has a pink door with googly eyes… we wanted to replicate this idea of a family home for the store, so we have dog bowls of water for puppies and big flamingo statues alongside a customisation bar, in among other things." on the store opening. "I live in a townhouse in Notting Hill, and my house has a pink door with googly eyes… we wanted to replicate this idea of a family home for the store, so we have dog bowls of water for puppies and big flamingo statues alongside a customisation bar, in among other things."

"The experience of the brand is not just product, it’s just one part of it," she added. "We’re really good at the whole environment and making people experience the brand with our visual ideas, so we wanted somewhere that was our own." The new retail space will also help the brand further establish its brand presence among its customers and allow for "crazy visual merchandising," adds co-founder Gerogie Fendley.

Hill & Friends first store opening marks the young brand's rapid success, driven by exceptional sales. The brand is set to offer its AW 17 collection at 35 wholesalers in 8 countries and its direct-to-consumer online sales are up 92 percent from last year, underlining its appeal. Of course, Hill has ample experience driving a brand's growth as the former creative director at Mulberry has been credited for overseeing the heritage label's expansion and growth during her six-year tenure.

Hill & Friends are set to open the doors of its first stand alone store on September 22.

Photo: Emma Hill and Georgia Fendley