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Why Abercrombie & Fitch could benefit from a new owner

Teenage fashion giant Abercrombie & Fitch is thought to be looking for a new owner, having approached an investment bank to gain insight into the interest from other retailers and groups.

The troubled retailer has been struggling for years, having failed to keep up with changing times in the fast fashion industry. It lost its fashion credibility much like its sister company Hollister, who's relevancy has also undeniably waned since its 90s heyday.

But the Ohio, Oregon-based company could turn its business around under new leadership, as it struggles to gain a foothold with its new target demographic.

As part of its attempted revamp, A&F in 2016 changed tactic and moved away from its core collegiate customer, aiming to attract a more sophisticated and older demographic. Its advertisements, once a source of inspiration captured by Bruce Weber's all-American clean-cut-and-sexy aesthetic, became dull and lifeless, failing to communicate what the brand now stood for. It's clothing offer was once fashion for beautiful preppy young adults, before it suddenly became a product without a difference or usp.

A&F lost its aesthetic as much as its ideology

According to Forbes, "as hot as the brand was in the late 1990s, with Hollister following suit in the early and mid-2000s, these two companies have fallen out of favor in recent years, not just from an aesthetic standpoint, but from an ideological one as well."

Reports that the company discriminated against overweight customers, or disabled ones, or Muslim job applicants only reinforced the growing suspicion that the brand was only really suited to one particular type of customer: white, conventionally attractive and thin.

Earlier this year, The Business of Fashion, published an article why “America’s most beloved mall brands”—J. Crew, Gap, The Limited, and Abercrombie & Fitch—are all in crisis. The short answer being the Internet. Millennials tend to spend money on gadgets, rather than clothes, and rarely go to the mall. The middle of the market has disappeared.

According to the New Yorker, "aimless, open-minded shoppers are happy to haunt Zara and H&M, whereas discerning ones turn every purchase into a research project," scouting for niche brands that have something to say.

Millennials don't want to be part of a tribe. They want authenticity, to stand out in social media as themselves, not as fashion caricatures. The Abercrombie & Fitch that once dressed muscled Springbreakers on holiday, no longer is appealing to a generation who want to be individuals.

Under new ownership, A&F could re-find its footing and attract a new Millenial customer. There will always be room for brands who are aspirational, selling us dreams and a lifestyle. But that dream needs to be inclusive.

Photo credit:Abercrombie campaign by Bruce Weber

Canada Goose to open debut European flagship store in London

London - Outerwear specialist Canada Goose is set to its first European flagship store in the heart of London, UK as well as a new flagship stores in Chicago, US this autumn as part its global expansion plan. The fashion retailer is also set to expand its e-commerce channel into seven new markets this year, including the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Ireland, Austria, Belgium and Luxembourg.

Canada Goose to open two new flagship stores in London and Chicago

“Opening our first European store is not only a milestone for Canada Goose, but it’s turning a dream into reality. London and Chicago are world-renowned shopping destinations and I’m proud to bring our Canadian heritage, experience and unparalleled product to their historic streets,” said Dani Reiss, President & CEO, Canada Goose in a statement.

Canada Goose to open debut European flagship store in London

Canada Goose new flagship store in London is set to be located on Regent Street, one of the UK leading shopping streets. The exact location of the store has yet to be announced, but the store is set to open in time for the holiday season. Reiss stresses the UK remains an “important market” for the brand. “London and the UK, in general, is a very important market for us,” said Reiss to the Evening Standard. “I don’t think Brexit has affected London’s reputation. It’s one of the most important cities for brands to be present in, in this global world.”

Canada Goose to expand e-commerce into 7 new EU markets

Overseas in Chicago, Canada Goose aims to open its flagship store on Magnificent Mile, Michigan Avenue. Both flagship stores are set to feature design elements inspired by Canada, including marble quarried in British Columbia. The new flagships will also offer the widest assortment of seasonal collections as well as exclusive collaborations while offering consumers the chance to engage and learn more about the brand’s 60-year history.

The move follows on from the opening of Canada Goose first flagship stores in Toronto and New York. At the moment the company aims to open between 15 to 20 stores from now to 2020, remaining selective about the markets it opens in and locations. The physical store expansion comes after the company’s successful stock market listing in March. Since its stock market debut on the Toronto Stock Exchange, company shares has increased 38 percent.

Photos: Courtesy of Canada Goose

Gap now available on Amazon India

US fashion giant Gap announced yesterday that the popular brand is now available on Amazon Fashion in India through a partnership between Amazon India and Arvind Lifestyle Brand Limited, Gap's franchise partner in India since 2015. This means not only availability to all of the 19,000 postal codes across the country but also free one-day and two-day delivery through Amazon Prime.

“We are very excited to provide India-wide access to Gap merchandise for customers with Amazon Fashion. As a front runner in the online retail space, Amazon Fashion is the perfect partner for an iconic brand such as Gap to reach customers in India markets where Gap doesn’t currently have physical stores. We see tremendous support from our shoppers around the exclusive Gap store on Amazon and we look forward to creating new Gap fans in the Indian market,” commented J. Suresh, managing director and CEO at Arvind Lifestyle Brands Ltd.

Gap now available on Amazon India

Customers can now shop for Gap's Summer 2017 collection, which includes t-shirts, jeans, dresses, caps and shorts as well as GapKids and babyGap articles, some of which sport the popular logo. Prices start from 799 rupees (around 12.50 US dollars) for a t-shirt.

“The addition of this classic brand is a testament to our commitment towards providing the world’s most popular fashion brands that customers absolutely love to shop for. With this association, Amazon.in becomes the first e-commerce player to make Gap available across India’s 19,000 post codes,” said Arun Sirdeshmukh, head of Amazon Fashion India.

Amazon is trying not to make the same mistake it made in China, namely losing out to the competition in terms of market share. Thus in India, Amazon is following an aggressive strategy that includes expanding its portfolio of international brands as well as attracting local sellers to its site and battling it out in a price war for ever deeper discounts with rivals Flipkart and Snapdeal.

Photos: Amazon India website
Fashercise opens debut store

Luxury online sportswear platform Fashercise, founded by Alexandra Vanthournout and Camille Roegiers in 2013, has opened its first bricks-and-mortar store in London, selling an edit of its leading designer activewear lines.

The Fashercise store is located within Studio One in Islington, a boutique studio that combines reformer pilates, yoga, boxing, barre and suspension training, close to Kings Cross, which the brand states represents the “perfect partnership” as both brands share a mutual desire to break down the barriers to a healthy lifestyle.

Fashercise opens debut store

The shop stocks the e-commerce platforms best independent activewear labels including Lucas Hugh, We Are Handsome, LNDR, Laain, Varley, Dear Kate, Pointe Studio and Jogha, as well as the brand’s exclusive collection of sweatshirts with slogans such as ‘Fashercise’, ’Namaste Bitches’ and ‘Happy’ created in partnership with London-based On The Rise.

Fashercise opens debut store

The move to open an offline offering coincided with a record-breaking few months for Fashercise, as the brand reported a 100 percent growth in sales in the last quarter. This has been helped by sales of bestselling Fab by Fabienne Star Boxing gloves that grew by 130 percent, with boxing becoming the most searched for term on the website overtaking yoga as the most sought after activity in 2017.

Fashercise opens debut store

Fashercise open first bricks-and-mortar store in London

Camille Roegiers co-founder of Fashercise said: “Fashercise has demonstrated significant growth since our launch because we continue to deliver on our promise to provide our customers a place that stocks independent, cool, edgy brands alongside content which motivates them.

Fashercise opens debut store

“Fashercise is all about balance, with fitness being part of your everyday life and enabling women to live independent, healthy lives whilst still having time to relax and enjoy themselves. This move to a bricks and mortar space allows us to create the Fashercise world where we can meet our customers in real life, invite them round for a juice or glass of bubbly and have a little lycra party in the comfort of our beautiful new shop.”

Fashercise opens debut store

Alexandra Vanthournout, co-founder of Fashercise added: “Fashercise has moved from a blog to a successful online business, through which I aim to help empower women with by promoting body positivity and a healthy lifestyle, whilst building a community around those values.

“I’m so looking forward to this next chapter, where we can evolve our online vision into a real-life experience for our customers and readers in our new London space.”

Fashercise is now open at Studio One, 237 Caledonian Road, London.

Images: courtesy of Fashercise

LVMH to start new e-commerce site '24 Sevres'

After weeks of speculation about LVMH's top secret project, the veil of silence has finally been lifted and the French luxury conglomerate confirmed yesterday that it will launch its new multi-brand e-commerce website '24 Sèvres' on June 6.

The new boutique shopping site is a foray into multi-brand luxury e-commerce with much at stake. On 6th June, 24 Sèvres will start in 70 markets worldwide and offer luggage, fashion articles and cosmetics. Ultimately, it will target 75 markets worldwide.

24 Sèvres is named after the Parisian Rue de Sèvres location of Le Bon Marché in the chic 7th arrondissement. While rumours of a shopping platform under the Le Bon Marché umbrella, LVMH’s upmarket chain of department stores, have been floating around for months, it is now confirmed.

LVMH's boutique website 24 Sevres will launch on June 6

The new website will offer products of more than 150 brands, among them 20 of LVMH's own. It will also be the only multi-brand website to sell Dior and Louis Vuitton products. The luxury conglomerate has invested a few million euros into the new digital venture, which is led by former Apple executive Ian Rogers and his team of 60 employees. He joined the company already in 2015 to focus on this project.

“We believe we are on the cusp of revealing something very exciting,” said the 44-year-old a month ago when speaking to the New York Times. According to Rogers, the new boutique website will provide international clients with “very Parisian choices”. “The idea is to be attractive with unique products, not necessarily have a huge offering,” he added.

Already in 2009, LVMH had to close its e-commerce website eLuxury, which did not succeed in the multi-brand luxury space. The difference now, says Rogers, is timing. But competitors like Yoox Net-a-Porter, MyTheresa, FarFetch and MatchesFashion.com have also been trying for a while now to get and keep a piece of the online luxury pie. It remains to be seen if 24 Sèvres can persist and even make a dent in the sector. In any case, many will be waiting for the launch on 6th June.

Photo: LVMH website
2020, the year the fashion industry is going green

Sustainability is high on the list of operational priorities for global brands and retailers, as their supply chains, manufacturing and sourcing are no longer acceptable to be vague, cloudy grey areas. Customers are demanding to know where their goods are made, in what capacity they are produced and more importantly, what they are made of.

As the consumer demands greater insights into the products they buy many brands use a meager sustainability effort to loudly broadcast their green credentials in the media. How often are we not told of a brand who has introduced a small percentage of organic fabric in a capsule collection, or a collaborative effort working with a local manufacturer?

How genuine are big brand's sustainability efforts?

While every step towards sustainability is a step in the 'right' direction, one cannot help the disingenuous boasts from retail behemoths for their 'efforts' while they continue to produce 95 percent of their clothes in cost-saving markets using cheap labour in countries with little regard for the welfare of people, animals, or the impact of processes on the environment.

The high street has been the main driver of disposable fashion

The high street is already full of green options, like H&M's Conscious collections, though it is typical of these corporations to make sure the consumer is boldly informed of all the good they are doing. Yet at the same time their footprint left on the environment by over-producing clothes the world doesn't need is a less addressed conversation. The high street, lest not forget, has been the main driver of disposable fashion, yet the slowest to take on responsibility.

2020, the year the fashion industry is going green

Ironically, the year 2020 has become the target year where many brands and retailers aspire to becoming green. H&M, for example, have a widely publicized goal to use only cotton fabric free of pesticides by 2020. And this week Zara announced it wants 10 percent of its clothing to come from recycled or organic fabrics. This is part of Inditex's wider environmental strategy for 2020, where it hopes to reduce emissions by 55 percent and run eco-efficient stores.

2020, thus, is the magic year the fashion industry, and specifically the fast fashion groups, will truly embrace sustainability.

What is interesting in Zara's goal is that the company is partnering with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to create new, high-quality recycled fabrics.

MIT will launch a contest aimed at Spanish universities and their research teams to present environmentally driven projects. The winners will receive funding to develop their ideas with the support of MIT experts.

“We want to catch up with specialists in this field, which means us developing recycling technology and new fabrics," Inditex said in a news release about the effort.

Of course the mountains of clothes Inditex produces on an annual basis will show no sign of slowing down, but at least some of these mountains will have a path leading to a greener future. Let's wait and see what changes 2020 will truly bring.

Photo credit:Christian Boltanski 'No Man's Land' exhibition, a 50 ton mountain of used clothing

Apple and Google once again dominated the NetBase Brand Passion Report in the UK, which takes a closer look at the brands consumers express the most love for on social media.

While technology brands took the top two spots, there were a number of retailers who made the top 25, including supermarket giant Tesco, which came fourth in the ranking with 111,957 mentions on social media, while sportswear brand Adidas was just below in sixth place, and fashion house Gucci was the top luxury label at number 9.

Other mentions in the list included retailers Marks and Spencer and John Lewis, which took 15th and 16th place on the ranking, respectively. They will joined by Burberry in 19th spot and Rolex which rounded off the ranking at 25.

Consumer goods dominated the ranking with 32 percent of the brands listed, followed by automotive, and technology, with retail coming in fourth place. However, when it came to distribution of UK love by volume of mention the technology brands topped the chart with 58 percent, while consumer goods could only manage 17 percent and retail 7 percent.

The ranking has been gathered from a year of data from April 2016 to April 2017 and analysed 2.4 million mentions across social media.

London - Leading beauty players such as Sephora, NYX, Ulta and Kiko Milano may soon have to contend with another affordable beauty retailer - Forever 21 as the Los-Angeles based fast-fashion retailer is said to be preparing to open a number of stand alone beauty stores.

Forever 21 currently offers its own in-house make-up collection, in addition to offering affordable cosmetic brands such as E.l.f and NYX, as well as Korean beauty products in stores. However a new report from WWD claims that Forever 21 is looking to open 10 dedicated beauty stores under the name Riley Rose by the end of the year. In line with current target audience, the new stores will features a new concept described as retail experiential that focused on millennials. If the beauty stores are well received, Forever 21 may open another 10 stores by March 2018, according to an unnamed source.

A post shared by forever21 (@forever21) on

The new beauty stores are set to offer a wide range of beauty products, including cosmetics, skin care, hair care, tools and Korean Beauty products. Forever 21 push into beauty is set to underline the fast-fashion retailer latest expansion move, following on from the re-launch of its plus-size collection and the expansion of its lower-price offering F21 Red.

However, Forever 21 would not be the first fast-fashion retailer to foray into the beauty world - H&M has expanded its beauty offering over the past few years, expanding its cosmetics range last year and toying with the idea of stand alone beauty stores through its East London beauty pop-up store. Urban Outfitters offers a wide range of beauty and skin care products in store, as does Topshop.

The UK remains a nation of shopkeepers

The UK is still a nation of shopkeepers, according to research from the Local Data Company (LDC) and British Independent Retailers Associations (Bira).

Their findings show traditional independent retailers opened more shops than they closed in 2016 across Great Britain's 500 town centres. Whilst the national chains continued to see a fall, independent shops saw an increase of 159 shops (15 percent) in 2016. This equates to a 36 percent increase from 2015, where 117 shops were added across GB.

In 2016, a total of 29,083 independents either opened (14,621) or closed (14,462), down on 2015 where 29,936 shops opened (15,026) or closed (14,910).

Women's clothing stores saw a decline

Service retail increased by the greatest number of units at 587 units, up from the 385 increase in 2015, up 1.92 percent in 2016 versus 1.28 percent in 2015, however women’s clothing stores saw a decline.

London saw the greatest decline

The East Midlands showed the greatest increase of independents at 87 units, up 1.19 percent in 2016, whereas Greater London saw the greatest decline at -154 units, down 48 percent.

Scotland has seen a boost in the number of independents with an increase of 130 units in 2016 compared to an increase of 75 units in 2015.

Matthew Hopkinson, Director at the Local Data Company commented: “Independents are becoming ever more important to our High Streets. Year by year, the net gain of small businesses is accelerating, even as the net loss of chain stores increases. They are changing the face of our towns as well, as Barbers and Bars replace Clothing shops and Newsagents, with Service and Leisure gradually substituting for Comparison shops.

Not all towns, or even regions, are benefiting from that growth, though. The East, South East and South West of England saw a fall in the numbers of independents in 2016. None, though, saw as big a fall as Greater London, with its rising rents. That challenge is to be amplified over the next five years by rising rates bills as well.”

He added: “The high levels of openings and closures among independents must be seen as a sign of continued buoyancy in our towns. But there is no room for complacency – with a gain on balance of just 159 shops on the back of more than 29,000 openings in 2016, it would take very little for net gains to become net losses.”

Alan Hawkins, CEO, British Independent Retailers Association (Bira), said: “It’s good to have some positive news at last, especially in Scotland. It’s clear that the real winners are those areas where the customer has to be present such as hair and beauty. Service, Leisure and Convenience stores all showed good positive net openings with only Comparison shops doing worse. The truth that most bira members are in this oddly named category is an issue we and our members are working hard to redress.

Given that there are over 100,000 independents in the top 500 towns, this is news to celebrate, as is that 65 percent of all retail and leisure outlets are independents. The fact that net growth is still in the low hundreds means no letup in our effort to convince government that support is needed. Without them it would be a much emptier exchequer. The next few LDC surveys will make interesting reading as the government has failed to deliver the fundamental rates reform we were looking for and we expect some economic realities to hit home.”

LDC is the UK’s leading data creator using real people on the street to acquire the most up to date, on demand location and company specific data for the retail and leisure sectors.

The British Independent Retailers Association (bira) is the voice of independent retailers to help them trade more effectively, profitably and sustainably for the future.

Photo credits: LocalDataCompany.com

Mobile search for fashion and retail up 23 percent

London - As smartphone usage and digital technologies change how consumers shop, it comes as little surprise that online retail searches has grown by 7 percent in the first quarter of 2017.

Fashion is the most searched for sector

According to the latest BRC-Google Online Retail Monitor retail searches on smartphones saw an increase of 23 per cent year-on-year. Fashion was the most-searched for sector by overseas consumers on smartphone devices, reporting growth of 52 per cent in the first quarter. Department stores was also another popular sector for overseas consumers on smartphone devices, increasing 50 per cent the first quarter.

In terms of the UK’s regions, the South West had the fastest growth in search volumes at 23 per cent compared with the same quarter a year ago, while Northern Ireland and Wales both grew by 19 per cent. London, in contrast saw a decline of eight per cent in the first quarter.

British retailers and stores scored high in Estonia, who had an 84 per cent search increase on smartphone devices.

“This points to the significance of retailers tailoring their online offering to suit both traditional browsing and mobile platforms in order to satisfy shoppers,” British Retail Consortium (BRC) chief executive Helen Dickinson said. "Smartphone-ready sites and quick loading times are essential to holding customers’ attention and converting searches into sales. A closer look at the different areas of the UK shows that online searches from nations and regions beyond the centre are growing at a faster rate than urban hubs such as London, which actually saw a fall. Meanwhile, browsing activity from overseas remains strong, with countries as far flung as Estonia and large markets like Germany seeing particularly strong growth. Online sales now consistently make up over a fifth of total retail sales at home, while the appetite for UK brands abroad is clear to see. Satisfying this interest from home and abroad, via computer or smartphone, is the key for UK retailers to make the best of their online offering.”

“Smartphone growth shows no sign of slowing down"

Google retail director Martijn Bertisen said: “Smartphone growth shows no sign of slowing down, with retail searches from mobile devices up 23 per cent year-over-year, seven percentage points higher than last quarter. Looking overseas, the EU continues to fuel growth in demand for UK brands. In particular, Eastern European nations like Estonia and Romania showed growth of more than 70 percent year-over-year from smartphones."

“Closer to home, we saw a slowdown in retail-related searches from Greater London, however there was an increasing appetite from the rest of the country, particularly on mobile. This highlights the importance of thinking local, we have seen up to 40 per cent of searches on Google have local intent, as consumers are more likely to research their purchases online before visiting a store.”

This research would confirm the habit of webrooming when consumers research products online before going into the store for a final evaluation and purchase. This is the opposite of showrooming, which is when a shopper visits a store to check out a product but then purchases the product online. One reason for this is while many people still prefer seeing and touching the merchandise they buy, many items are available at lower prices through alternative e-commerce retailers. As such, local stores essentially become showrooms for online shoppers.

URL:www.brc.org.uk

Photo credit: Google