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The store of the Future: Q&A With Richard Hewitt, Head of Digital Stores at Marks & Spencer

With many retailers seeing investments in digital store experience pay off with increased sales, in-store innovation is becoming more important than ever as well as a transformation journey. However, with this rapid pace of change and so many unknowns, turning a digital concept into reality can be a huge challenge.

Richard is Head of Digital Stores for M&S, where he leads the charge on in-store digital solutions. Today he is sharing his thoughts on the trends for the future and what retailers need to do to capitalize on them.

At 31 st May, he will give live insights on how to foster an culture of innovation during Future Stores: the event for 150+ retail innovation professionals. The store of the Future: Q&A With Richard Hewitt, Head of Digital Stores at Marks & Spencer

Together they’ll share experiences, benchmark ideas and discuss the latest technologies at Europe’s only event that is focused on driving in-store sales through digital. You can see the full agenda here.

What technological trends do you believe will grow over the next 12 months?

Over the next year I suspect we are going to continue to see the rise of the Internet of Things, with more and more everyday household and personal items becoming connected to the internet. It’s like that we’ll see the wearable technology become come commonplace, along with the growth of new payment vectors

What is the one thing that retailers need to keep front of mind when considering new technologies?

New technology can seem to be very attractive, what I like to call the ‘Buzz Lightyear Effect’. It’s important to be clear on whether there is an early or first mover advantage to bringing on a new piece of tech. For most retailers it’s probably worth learning from others first and copying with pride without having the cost of investing in unproven early- stage technology. It’s not unusual for companies to get wooed by early stage businesses, who use their first rounds of customers as test-beds for un-proven concepts. Be clear on the problems that is being solved and make sure that the technology being proposed is relevant, scalable and can co-exist with the current technology stack

What can digital do to help improve the role for store associates?

With the advent of greater mobile connectivity the potential touchpoints for brands to be engaging with consumers, this means that the in-store experience is only part of a greater web of engagement. Putting the customer at the heart of the experience and not injecting technology for the sake of it is crucial here. It may look cool to give everyone a Tablet on the shop floor, but make sure that it’s not getting in the way of the human interaction customers are expecting in-stores.

Customers elect to come into stores, expect, and in many cases prefer, the human touch. Digital needs to be un-intrusive and complementary during customer interactions.

On the operational side there is a considerable amount that can be done to improve internal processes and operational efficiency more generally. Converging around fewer types of devices, building store operations around event based task management, reducing duplicated efforts and the like are all strong candidates for digital solutions.

Why are you attending Future Stores this year?

Future Stores gives is a great opportunity to network with colleagues from adjacent businesses and get a picture of what common challenges there are. Seeing what’s coming on the horizon from new and existing vendors is always good and I’m looking forward to being wowed by the amazing new things that are bound to be on display.

Richard will share his insights live at Future Stores, in the following session:

PANEL REVOLUTION: Fostering a culture of innovation: How can you encourage your staff to overcome a fear of failure mindset and embrace an ethos for staying ahead of the game with new digital business transformation concepts?

Paul Wills, Director Dealer Development, Hyundai Motor UK

Richard Hewitt, Head of Digital Stores, Marks and Spencer

Moderator: Francesca Danzi, Former Director of Global Beauty- Burberry, Managing Director & Founder- Danzi

You can see the full agenda here to find out who else is speaking, and how attending this event can benefit your omni-channel strategy. If you want to attend at 31 May - 1 June in London, be sure to use code FASHION15 when booking online, to guarantee 15% off the ticket price.

Ted Baker to open debut outlet in Roermond

London - Ted Baker is set to open its debut outlet store in the Netherlands later this year as the high-end retailer continues to expand its presence in newer markets.

The lifestyle brand aims to open its first outlet store in Designer Outlet Roermond, the Netherlands, a shopping centre held by the McArthurglen group, revealed Ted Baker in its annual report for fiscal year 2016. The exact location of the store and the opening date have yet to be announced.

The outlet opening follows on from Ted Baker's debut in the Netherlands in 2012, which saw the brand open a series of shop-in-shops at premium department store De Bijenkorf. In September 2015, Ted Baker opened its debut standalone store on Leidsestraat, in Amsterdam, which pays homage to Dutch classical artists and painters.

In addition to opening its first outlet store in the Netherlands, Ted Baker is also set to open another outlet store in Gloucester, UK as well as new standalone stores in Oxford and Paris, France. Ted Baker also aims to strengthen its presence in Europe by opening a series of further concessions in the UK, France, Germany and the Netherlands.

Across the ocean in North America, Ted Baker aims to continue building its presence through a string of new store openings in Los Angeles and Houston as well as new concession openings in Canada with a premium department store. Ted Baker also aims to build brand awareness in Asia this year, and will be opening another store in Shanghai, China as well as new concessions in South Korea and Japan.

Photo: Courtesy of Ted Baker

House of Vans London temporarily shuts down for revamp

London - Skate and streetwear brand Vans has shut the doors of its event space 'House of Vans London' under Waterloo station for the next month in order to renovate the area, focusing on the street area of its skatepark.

House of Vans London temporarily shuts down for revamp

House of Vans London has acted as a creative space for the brands as well as a central hub for London's growing skate scene since its opening in August 2014. Since its opening House of Vans London has hosted 205 skate school sessions and over 500 free skate sessions in addition to numerous monthly events. Vans has yet to announce what the revamped street area of the skatepark will look like, but the space will feature a new set of obstacles for skaters, which have been selected with the advice of the park's regular users in mind.

House of Vans London temporarily shuts down for revamp

"After two and a half years of the current skatepark setup it’s time for a fresh approach, we operate in such a challenging space it’s hard to please everyone’s tastes, taking into consideration the feedback from our regular users, beginners to professionals, we are confident the new plan conjured up by ourselves at HoV, and the good guys over at Gravity Skateparks will be a much better use of the street area," commented Robert Smith, House of Vans London Venue Manager and professional skateboarder.

House of Vans London temporarily shuts down for revamp

House of Vans London, which also houses a gallery, cinema, studios, musical space and a diner - all open to the public - is set to reopen its doors in May with a new events calender.

Photos: Courtesy of Vans

Queensgate 8 million pound refurbishment begins

Lendlease and Invesco Real Estate, which manages Queensgate shopping centre in Peterborough has announced that work has commenced on an 8 million pound refurbishment programme.

The redevelopment aims to create a “bright, more modern and contemporary look” to the shopping centre and has been designed by architecture studio, Benoy. Changes will include new lighting, doors and redesigned cladding, ceilings and internal finishes to enhance the customer experience.

In addition, subject to planning approval, The Cumbergate entrance, adjacent to Carluccio’s, will also be upgraded to create an improved welcome hall.

Sustainability is a priority of the design and the work incorporates features to help minimise the environmental impact of the scheme and improve the efficiency of the operation of the centre. These include the introduction of LED lighting to reduce energy consumption and improve lighting levels. In addition, sustainably sourced and low maintenance materials, including recycled aluminium and timber from FSC credited sources, will be used throughout.

Guy Thomas, head of retail asset management at Lendlease, said: “We are excited to commence the refurbishment works at Queensgate. With the customer, sustainability and high quality design at its heart, the works will further boost Queensgate’s green credentials, whilst creating a welcoming and engaging retail offering. With strong demand from leading brands, the new and improved façade of the malls will reflect Queensgate’s dominance in the East of England.”

All refurbishment work will take place overnight when the centre is closed to ensure visitors and retailers are unaffected by the refurbishment. It is expected that the centre will be complete in November 2017.

Image: courtesy of Queensgate

Instagram last year announced that it would be trailing shopping options within the image-sharing social media app, and now they can confirm that tests from brands including Kate Spade has seen “great results”.

The feature, allows brands and retailers to ‘tag’ up to five individual products featured on their photos, once a tag has been clicked users will be able to see a detailed view of the product and price, and then if the consumer taps the ‘Shop Now’ link they will go directly to that product on the brand’s e-commerce site where they can buy the product.

Kate Spade New York’s EVP and chief marketing officer Mary Beech said: “Our partnership with Instagram has been very successful. Traditionally, our customer had turned to Instagram for inspiration, and we’re seeing that she’s reacting positively to the new shopping experience, which allows her to seamlessly tap and shop the product – going from inspiration to information to purchase in just a few steps – we’re excited to see where the feature continues to take us.”

Other brands who tested the shopping tag features included J.Crew, Macy’s, and Warby Parker and because of the “encouraging early results” of the test Instagram has announced that it will be rolling out these shopping features to thousands of businesses that sell apparel, jewellery or beauty products in the coming weeks.

Jenna Lyons, J.Crew’s president and creative director added: “While Instagram is a place for inspiration and visual wonder – there is nothing more satisfying than being able to buy that thing you love right now!

“The number of times I have found myself in a rabbit hole hunting down that pair of shoes, that beautiful chandelier, those sunglasses, rugs, flower arrangements, random gift ideas – countless!! We were thrilled to be a part of this pilot and to have our customers experience the next generation of shopping via Instagram.”

Brands and retailers using the feature will also have access to Instagram’s insights meaning they will be able to track views and gather insight on how many users click on the photos and how many shoppers purchase the brand’s products via the app.

Initially this will be just for Instagrammers in the US, however, it is expected to roll out to other markets including the UK.

British premium shoppers not deterred by Brexit rises

Post-Brexit price rises will not deter British consumers from buying premium brands, according to new findings from the Centre for Retail Research and Rakuten Marketing.

The research reveals that 61 percent of shoppers said that they will not be discouraged from purchasing premium items if prices rise by up to 10 percent following the triggering of Article 50 next week to leave the European Union.

The report surveyed 1,000 consumers across the UK and found that if prices rose by up to 10 percent only 6 percent of Brits would refuse to buy the item, however, if prices increased by 15 percent it would make 21 percent of shoppers switch products.

Despite the positive outlook from the survey, the research also revealed that attitudes to spending on premium brands over the coming months is polarised, with 37 percent of people ‘very’ or ‘quite sure’ they will be better off while 40 percent believe they will be ‘worse off’ or ‘not better off’.

When it comes to foreign-produced premium brands, 29 percent expect there could be reduced spending, and a further 10 percent expect a large reduction in spending on these products. Only 16 percent expect to spend more.

In addition, 38 percent think that Brexit will make no difference to consumers’ trust in premium brands produced outside the UK, but a third think there will be a ’large‘ or ’some‘ loss of trust. This is largest for handbag, casual apparel, and formal clothing brands but lowest for laptops, tablets, and smartphones.

61 percent of British shoppers will not be deterred from premium purchases by Brexit price rises

Mark Haviland, EVP global development at Rakuten Marketing said: “Whilst sentiment suggests that people will still purchase premium products if prices rise slightly, the viewpoints on what Brexit will do to spending on these brands overall is completely polarised. The customer segments marketers target are likely to be completely split in how they approach shopping over the next few years.

“Whether audiences are cautious or optimistic about the effects of the decision to leave the EU, retailers need to make use of data and programmatic targeting to engage these different groups in the way that is most relevant to them. Our findings make it clear that marketers must work hard to understand their customers better if they are to engage customers successfully in this unsettled market.”

Centre for Retail Research director Professor Joshua Bamfield added: “Although there is a clear divide in opinion, negative attitudes about the effects of Brexit outweigh positive ones. However, when we look at consumers’ perception of how well off they will be in six months compared to two years’ time, their outlook is fairly stable suggesting that a crash in consumer confidence may not come.

“Ultimately though, we could see a change in living standards as a result of Brexit and this could affect brand loyalty as well as consumer buying behaviour, and retailers must be prepared for this.”

Image: Mulberry Facebook

MyTheresa launches Korean language site

Luxury online multibrand retailer MyTheresa.com has launched a dedicated Korean language website for its customers based in South Korea after the brand recorded triple-digit growth in the market.

“The Korean luxury market is moving quickly to digital. Ever since our first activities in Korea, we have seen a massive consumer shift to digital and a triple digit growth in the market,” said president Michael Kilger. “We strive to provide the best customer experience for women worldwide. For us, it is thus a natural next step to offer our finest edit in luxury fashion to Korean customers also in their mother tongue.”

The German-based e-tailer’s Korean website provides all the relevant free trade agreement documents for products manufactured in the EU for Korean customers, alongside offering free exchanges and returns within 30 days, including a free collection service and 72-hour deliveries. In addition, MyTheresa also offers a personalised customer service with Korean-speaking customer care teams.

Mytheresa.com was founded in 2006 and was acquired by the American Neiman Marcus Group in 2014. It stocks around 200 international designers including Stella McCartney, Gucci, Miu Miu and Saint Laurent. It ships to than 120 countries and is available in English, French, German, Italian, Chinese, and Arabic.

Image: Mytheresa Korea

House of Fraser turning to ‘experimental’ retail

As well as cutting the number of brands it sells and targeting older women, House of Fraser is looking to place the department store at the forefront of retail change by “disrupting” the industry.

In its bid to refocus the department store into a premium retailer, House of Fraser is looking to ‘experimental’ retail options such as adding champagne bars and yoga studios and taking a new approach to sales, with “fewer better offers” and shorter shaper sales that are “more disciplined” to make the business more effective.

House of Fraser’s chairman Frank Slevin stated that the retailer was in the middle of a “transformational period” and that the lack of investment over the past two decades had left the retailer “on life support” and its new plan to realign its marketing with its customers and to repair its brand portfolio would reignite the brand.

Slevin said: “Our vision is evolving, we need to be more innovative in the way we move forward, but we are energetic in pursuing that change.”

House of Fraser turning to ‘experimental’ retail

House of Fraser to add champagne bars and yoga studios

One of the plans to boost sales is to add champagne bars, yoga studios and wellbeing centres, as well as a host of new restaurants, including family friendly options, as it looks to encourage customers to spend more time in stores.

The idea is to create “integrated” retailing, for instance for Mother’s Day they can buy products, alongside enjoying spa time or a meal at the restaurant. This approach will be highlighted in the new Rusden Lakes store, the retailer’s first store in 9 years that is set to open later this year, where the idea is to create a fully “integrated experience for the whole family,” explains chief customer officer David Walmsley.

The retailer is also looking to feature more buy and collect areas to make the process of ordering online and picking up in store streamlined and faster. In addition, it will be adding more family friendly in-store events, such as Santas Grottos, which will be made easier with its tie-up with Hamleys.

House of Fraser to adopt a new approach to sales

The department store also reiterated that it will be offering fewer discounts to reduce stock levels, as sales are not “reflective of the premium look” the brand is trying to showcase said Maria Hollins, executive director of product and trading.

The brand will be adopting a “first price, right price” strategy, as it looks to add transparency to customers in its pricing, which Hollins said would be “competitive”. By offering fewer sales Hollins states that staff will be able to assist more customers on the brand’s experiences and services rather than constantly reorganising stock.

To assist the shorter shaper sales and to make them more effective, the retailer will also be looking to reduce stock levels, which in turn will lead to decluttering the shop floor and make the store nicer to shop in, with the aim of making the stores look “more premium,” added Hollins.

House of Fraser turning to ‘experimental’ retail

House of Fraser pushing forward with international expansion

When Sanpower, led by founder Yuan Yafei, bought the retailer it stated that expansion in China would be extensive, with 50 stores first touted. Slevin confirmed that the retailer is still pushing forward with its international expansion in the region, but he was aiming at 20 stores over the next five years in China.

The retailer has already started making an impression in the region with its refurbishment of an existing store in Nanjing, and it states that it is currently looking for the right locations, whether that’s to build a new store or to refurbish, adding that location is key.

“No two of our stores are the same, size or location,” said Slevin. “Our strength is being adaptable. We look to our local market and adapt, we are taking this UK model internationally, like in China.”

Slevin added: “We are not adopting a cookie-cutter approach, we will be adopting a bespoke approach.”

He added that “active negotiations” were currently on the way for stores in the Middle East, which he said could be franchise or standalone brand stores such as for Biba, and that the company is looking at different formats such as a House of Fraser light, but added that it was “not a priority right now”.

Images: courtesy of House of Fraser

Matalan expands its global footprint with new store openings in Malta

London - Fashion and homeware retailer Matalan has expanded its international footprint with the opening of two new stores in Malta.

The new stores, located in the centre of Sliema and Fgura, Malta, offer Matalan full range of products, including menswear, womenswear, childrenswear and accessories as well as homeware. The two new stores, which employ 60 members of staff, follow on from Matalan previous stores openings at The Strand in Sliema and Zabbar Road, Fgura. All of Matalan stores in Malta are operated by the retailer's local franchise partner, the Camilleri Group.

Matalan expands its global footprint with new store openings in Malta

“We are thrilled to be opening our first stores in Malta, trading has been very strong in both of our new stores exceeding our expectations; we have been delighted by the local customers’ reactions to our product ranges and our competitive price position," commented *Damian Hopkins, International Director at Matalan. *The new stores build on Matalan's international portfolio, which counts 23 stores.

Matalan opened its first international franchise store in Dubai in 2010 and has developed a strong international presence throughout the Middle East region since then. At the moment Matalan is currently looking to expand in other Eastern Europe countries, following its debut store opening in Armenia in October 2016. Matalan currently operates 227 stores throughout the UK in addition to its e-commerce platform and 25 overseas franchise stores.

Photos: Courtesy of Matalan

Long Tall Sally launches Irish website

London - Tall womenswear retailer Long Tall Sally has launched its debut, dedicated Irish website, longtallsally.com/ie as part of its global expansion. The move follows on from the womenswear expansion overseas to the USA, Canada and Germany.

The new website, which is exclusively designed to serve the retailer's Irish customers, offers Long Tall Sally full range of apparel for women over 5'8"n as well as its complete footwear range, with UK sizes 7 to 13. "With a database of 8,000 customers in Ireland, it is only right to roll out the same excellent derive that our UK customers enjoy: namely faster standard delivery (now 2-3 days instead of 3 - 10 days), local returns, UK sizing and free customers care telephone number," commented Alison Doherty, Chief Operating Officer at Long Tall Sally in a statement.

Long Tall Sally launches Irish website

In honour of Long Tall Sally Irish website launch, the womenswear retailer is set to host a Dublin pop-up store at the Carlton Hotel Blanchardstown on March 31. Running to April 1, the pop-up will offer a select edit of Long Tall Sally Spring/Summer 2017 range. "There's always such a great buzz among Ireland's tall sisterhood," added Sian Field, Group Retail Director at Long Tall Sally. "Expect tall-fit tailoring, dresses, jeans, tops, activewear and a fabulous selection of shoes."

Long Tall Sally launches Irish website

Following Long Tall Sally launch in Ireland, the tall-fit retailer is set to launch a localised website to better serve its Dutch customers in the Netherlands, which is due to open in April, 2017.

Photos: Long Tall Sally Curated, SS17, Lookbook