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Asos launches virtual gift assistant for Christmas shopping

London - Online giant Asos has launched a new virtual assistant through its Facebook page to help shoppers find their perfect Christmas gifts. The virtual gift assistant is designed to showcase Asos's product range as a one-stop shop in a new and engaging way for customers this Christmas.

The chatbot, which will be available to shoppers in the UK and France during the festive season, uses answers to a selection of questions to make suggestions from the wide range of gifts available at Asos. Launching via social media, the service is set to have its own dedicated Facebook page where customers can browse through suggestions.

Asos's digital assistant is based on machine learning technology, which sees the chatbot sift through options by asking questions to narrow down the choices for the gift recipient. The service also shows shoppers more products if they wish to expand their purchase further.

The virtual gift assistant also sees Asos continuing its partnership with Choose Love. If a shopper is unsure what to buy, they will be offered the option to Choose Love and purchase an item from the charitable range for Help Refugees, where 100 percent of the proceeds are donated to charity.

Photo: Asos, Facebook

The rise of the globally engaged omnishopper

A study using 10,000 global consumers to examine the nature of modern retail offers some valuable insights for today’s brands.

The findings for “The Shopper Story 2017” were compiled by commerce marketing giant Criteo, which aims to help brands and retailers better understand what shoppers around the globe think about shopping and how they approach the purchase funnnel via different channels.

The study examined the world of retail through the eyes of today’s empowered consumer - the omnishopper - those that use a variety of devices, channels and platforms to browse and buy products.

“Our shopper study demonstrates just how common omnishopping has become and its value to marketers,” said Jonathan Opdyke, Chief Strategy Officer, Criteo. “Omnishoppers generally prefer to shop online, but they love the in-store experience when they have time. Omnishopper behavior reinforces the need for brands and retailers to escalate their competitive strategies by innovating through collaboration—harnessing the collective power of data to engage with consumers at every moment and across any screen or device during the shopper journey.”

The rise of the globally engaged omnishopper

Key insights from the research show more than 3/4 of shoppers globally engage in omnishopping. Most consumers are going online to shop and buying in-store, and vice versa.

Webrooming and Showrooming

Sixty-six percent of consumers occasionally browse products online and then purchase at retail, with 24 percent making this a regular occurrence; whereas 74 percent of consumers occasionally make purchases online after seeing a product in retail, with 15 percent communicating they do this regularly.

Digital Drives Conversion

As mobile continues to permeate everyday life, online is now a critical point of purchase driver; with nearly half of all omnishoppers from various countries sharing that websites were the “last influence before purchase” and 62 percent of consumers reporting that they use their phone while in-store to research products online.

High Intent Shoppers More Likely to Initiate Searches on Retail Sites

Globally, approximately 80 percent of shoppers with a high purchase intent start their search on retail sites when looking for a product, not a search engine.

Retail Websites are More Influential than Ever

Nearly 50 percent of consumers indicated that retail websites are more influential in the purchasing process than word of mouth, search or even social. Shoppers who start their journey on retail sites also report higher purchasing intent.

Retargeting is Known and Accepted

Nearly half of shoppers globally say they like ads based on their shopping behavior if it results in a discount.

The “Shopper Story 2017” study was overseen by an independent researcher and conducted using Research Now's global panel of 10,000 shoppers aged 16-65 within the U.S., Japan, United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Brazil. All participants were multi-channel shoppers who go online daily and own a smartphone.

Photo and article credit: Criteo.com

Hugo Boss to open at Westquay, marking Southampton debut

German fashion retailer Hugo Boss is set to open its first store Boss in Southampton, at shopping centre Westquay. Spanning 2,116 square feet, the new store is set to join other new tenants in the centre, including Russell & Bromley and Laing Edinburgh.

We’re excited to be opening our first Boss store in Southampton, and our new location at Westquay provides the perfect showcase for our full Menswear offering," commented Stephen Born, Managing Director at Hugo Boss. "From wardrobe staples to workwear essentials, our customers in Southampton can choose styles from our Boss collections ranging from formal suiting and precision tailoring to our casual and athleisurewear.“

The new store opening marks a milestone in the repositioning of Westquay's tenant mix, which now offers a premium retail-line on the second level, as the centre completes its 12-month enhancement. Since the addition of Westquay South, the dining and leisure extension, the centre has since footfall increase 12 percent year-on-year.

“Securing Hugo Boss for Westquay is a fantastic result, and signals that demand from premium brands for prime retail space remains strong," said Iain Mitchell, UK Commercial Director at Hammerson. "We have been focused on implementing a proactive asset management strategy to attract more aspirational, high-end retailers to this part of the centre to better serve customer demand, and I am delighted to see the success of that strategy.”

Image: courtesy of Westquay

Will Inditex, Next and Mango finally take responsibility for their unpaid workers?

OPINION London - The public may have been shocked this weekend when news broke that notes had been left in Zara clothes by unpaid garment workers, who made apparel for the fast-fashion giant but did not receive payment. However, the unfortunate truth remains - these types of practices happen more often than one would like to think in the fashion industry.

Shoppers in Istanbul, Turkey, found a series of handmade labels from third-party tucked into various garments this weekend which read: "I made the product you are about to buy, but I haven't received any payment for it!"

The truth behind Zara workers plea for help notes

The idea to leave notes in Zara clothing was thought up by the Clean Clothes Campaign Turkey, who are working together with former factory workers of Bravo Tekstil, a manufacturing complex in Istanbul, to raise awareness for their rights to their wages. The workers have been campaigning for more than a year for 3 months wages, severance pay and unpaid holiday after the factory, which produced apparel for Zara (owned by Inditex), Next and Mango, suddenly shut down in July, 2016.

After failing to receive any payment from the brands, the ex-Bravo workers went to numerous Zara stores in Istanbul and placed their own labels on Zara products in order to ensure their voices were heard. "We are the Bravo factory workers who made this product you are about to buy. For years we produced clothing for Zara," continues the note. "Then our factory suddenly closed, without paying us our last 3 months of wages and severance payment. Please tell Zara to pay us our money!"

While shoppers shared their outrage at message left in the clothing via social media channels online, it is heartbreaking that former factory workers have had to employ such tactics to get a response from the responsible brands. After the factory was shut, workers came together to form a union, launching an online petition calling on the retailers from whom they had been producing apparel for to step up and take responsibility for all their workers. However, after more than a year, neither Zara, or Mango or Next have made a suitable offer to compensate the payment owed to the 140 workers employed by Bravo.

"The bravery of the workers should be applauded"

Dominique Muller, Policy Director at Labour Behind the Label

"Mango, Next and Inditex previously made an offer to the workers, but it was not sufficient to cover all the workers demands, which include three months wages, severance pay and unpaid holidays," said Dominique Muller, Policy Director at Labour Behind the Label, the UK branch of Clean Clothes Campaign to FashionUnited. Since the workers declined their first offer, Mango, Next and Inditex have all refused to come together and re-negotiate their initial compensation offer. "None of the brands have been very active at sitting down and talking about since then, so things have come to a point when workers felt that they had to go public," added Muller.

Clothing companies are responsible for all aspects of the production of their goods, but can decide to change suppliers and pull out of a factory at any given time, which can lead to the sudden closure of a manufacturing centre. As 75 percent of the Bravo factory's overall production was for Zara, the workers chose to focus on raising awareness concerning Zara's involvement. Currently worth approximately 8.6 billion pounds, it is difficult to understand why one of the industry's most successful fast fashion brands refuses to take responsibility for all its workers.

Although concerned shoppers took to social media to voice their concern over the messages found in Zara garments in late October, Inditex did not issue an official statement concerning the situation until November 3, after meeting with the local IndustriALL branch. A spokesperson for Inditex shared the following statement with FashionUnited: "Inditex has met all of its contractual obligations to Bravo Tekstil and is currently working on a proposal with the local IndustriALL affiliate, Mango and Next to establish a hardship fund for the workers affected by the fraudulent disappearance of the Bravo factory’s owner."

"This hardship fund would cover unpaid wages, notice indemnity, unused vacation, and severance payments of workers that were employed at the time of the sudden shutdown of their factory in July 2016. We are committed to finding a swift solution for all of those impacted." The spokesperson added that Inditex was doing everything in its power to rectify the situation and that Inditex complied with all legal responsibility it had in the matter.

Next responded to FashionUnited's request for a comment on its involvement in the case and a spokesperson for the British fashion retailer shared the following statement: “Next is currently working with Inditex, Mango and the local IndustriALL affiliate on a proposal to establish a hardship fund for the workers affected by the fraudulent disappearance of the Bravo factory’s owner. Although an offer of funding was declined a while ago, Next remains committed to supporting a solution for the workers involved."

Although the notes have had the desired effect, it remains to be seen if and when the workers will finally receive their much owed-payments. "We support the workers and hope public support will encourage brands to come back and sit and talk about making a deal with the workers," added Mueller. However, Muller adds that she has yet to hear anything personally from the brands since reports first began emerging last weekend, which is a reflection of the difficultly brands retain when it comes to taking full responsibility for their own supply chain.

"Workers are at the benevolence of the brands in this case, which makes it a difficult situation."

Photo: Clean Clothes Campaign Turkey

Gerard Darel just announced new plans to expand to the U.S. The French label has confirmed two flagships to open in the country by the end of the year.

The contemporary brand has picked a bi-coastal retail strategy. Gerard Darel has confirmed a store opening in New York on November 8 as well as a Los Angeles location confirmed to open on December 17 in Century City. By targeting two of the country's fashion hub, it seems that the label is placing its brand in an efficient, strategic way.

Currently, the brand is sold internationally in over 50 countries. Founded in 1971, the French label is available at over 500 shops and boutiques on a global scale. The new stores will be standalone flagships for the brand carrying the label's full women's collection as well as accessories, shoes, and handbags. The stores will also highlight the brand's unique, modern aesthetic through its interior decor.

Opening by the end of the year, Gerard Darel is continuing to grow in the fashion industry. According to WWD, the label pans to also open retail stores in the U.K., Switzerland, and Spain.

Marks & Spencer launches 2017 Christmas campaign with Paddington Bear

Marks & Spencer has teamed up with an iconic British character for its 2017 Christmas Campaign - Paddington Bear. The beloved bear, who stars in the family film, Paddington 2, to be released November 10, is the central character in M&S advert 'Paddington and the Christmas Visitor' launching November 7.

Marks & Spencer launches 2017 Christmas campaign with Paddington Bear

The department store's Christmas campaign, which launches today under the hashtag #LoveTheBear, includes the advert, created by Grey London, an in-store dedicated campaign as well as online and social additions such as an interview with Paddington and downloadable marmalade recipes. The 'Paddington and the Christmas Visitor' advert follows the tale of how Paddington bear unknowingly saves Christmas for this friends and neighbours by mistaking a burglar for Santa Claus.

Marks & Spencer launches 2017 Christmas campaign with Paddington Bear

M&S launched fully integrated Christmas Campaign starring Paddington Bear

"At M&S our customers are at the heart of everything we do and we know they love the magic of Christmas, most of all spending time with family and friends," said Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne, Executive Director of Customer, Marketing & M&S.com. "Paddington has enchanted children and families all over the world for nearly 60 years which is why we couldn’t turn down the chance to bring the wonderfully endearing, much-loved British character and his world into the heart of our Christmas campaign this year. We always want to surprise and delight our customers.”

M&S has also turned its advert into a children's Christmas storybook, a first for the department store, which is currently available online and in store for 3 pounds. All proceeds from the children's book sales will be donated to the NSPCC to help fund its Childline service during the festive season. To mark the launch of the book, M&S is set to host a series of book readings for children, beginning at its flagship store at Marble Arch on November 10.

Marks & Spencer launches 2017 Christmas campaign with Paddington Bear

In addition, the department store will also be hosting dedicated screenings of the Paddington 2 film for Sparks members and their children in the ten communities it is supporting through its Plan A 2025. Marks & Spencer will also create dedicated Paddington Shops in 78 of its stores, which will house over 90 theme products and selfie stations. From December onwards, M&S's team of in-store 'Moment Makers' will also be on hand to surprise customers with Paddington-themed 'Random Acts of Kindness' which range from a free marmalade sandwich to chocolates at the till.

Marks & Spencer launches 2017 Christmas campaign with Paddington Bear

“Paddington injects the sense of joy, love and neighbourly spirit that makes Christmas feel magical and our story reflects the inclusive, make the most of every moment approach that we take to our customer conversations," added Rob Weston, Brand & Marketing Director at M&S. The 2017 Christmas Campaign echoes Marks & Spencer 'Spend it Well' campaign, launched earlier this year, as it encourages customers to focus on experiences, people and the things that matter the most to them.

Marks & Spencer launches 2017 Christmas campaign with Paddington Bear

Photos: Courtesy of M&S

Oxford Street may become 'the world's best outdoor shopping experience'

UPDATE If plans to transform Oxford into a pedestrianised area go through, the Western section of Oxford Street may well become the 'world's best outdoor shopping experience.' Ambitious plans for the transformation of the shopping district where unveiled today by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan and Deputy Leader of Westminster City Council, Cllr Robert Davis.

Depending on approval, the plans, which are currently under public consultation until December 17, include the transformation of Oxford Street and the creation of new, traffic-free public spaces. Plans include all east-west traffic restricted from entering Oxford Street between Orchard Street and Oxford Circus but maintaining the north-south routes through the section.

Oxford Street may become 'the world's best outdoor shopping experience'

Plans for the region include new seating areas placed along the street, an 800-meter long work of public art to fit in the former carriageway, which would be level with existing pavements and new and extended taxi ranks close to Oxford Street. Two bus routes will be rerouted to provide connections for locals and visitors and the TfL and Westminister City Council will also consult on creating new high-quality cycle routes along quieter roads to the north and south side of Oxford Street.

“This is a hugely exciting moment for the capital. Oxford Street is world famous with millions of visitors every year, and in just over a year the iconic part of the street west of Oxford Circus could be transformed into a traffic-free pedestrian boulevard," said Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London. “Whether you’re a local resident, a business, or shop in some of the area’s famous stores, our plans will make the area substantially cleaner and safer for everyone, creating one of the finest public spaces in the world. Alongside the arrival of the Elizabeth Line, the Oxford Street area will be truly transformed over the coming years."

Photos: Courtesy of Tfl

In Pictures: Harvey Nichols 2017 Christmas Windows

INTERACTIVE Premium department store Harvey Nichols has unveiled its Christmas windows for 2017, its largest visual scheme of the year.

For this year's festive season, the luxury retailer looked for inspiration from the Autumn/Winter 2017 fashion weeks and pre-spring collections, selecting the most vibrant colours to catch customer's eyes. During the dark winter season, Harvey Nichols opted to design window displays which 'delight customers'.and help spread 'a positive message' during the holiday season by using a vivid colour palette, innovative lighting techniques and an upbeat sentiment.

In Pictures: Harvey Nichols 2017 Christmas Windows

Harvey Nichols unveils its Christmas Windows for 2017

The result is a series of celebratory window schemes in a rainbow of hues, bold textures and graphic patterns filed with star shapes and Christmas motifs. Harvey Nichols incorporates unique lighting techniques for the first time, such as rotating mirror balls, LED lights and holographic backgrounds. Potential gift ideas are also included in the window display within giant Christmas baubles in a playful, fun manner.

“Themes of joy and positivity ran through the AW17 and SS18 shows, evoking a determination not to dwell on the uncertain times of the current climate," commented Janet Wardley, Head of Visual Display. "This inspired us to create a high energy scheme that uses dazzling colours, lights and shapes to entertain our customers – some of the vinyls are so bright that the team had to wear sunglasses during the install!”

Harvey Nichols Christmas Windows can now be seen at Harvey Nichols stores across the UK and Ireland.

Scroll down to see Harvey Nichols Christmas Windows for 2017. Hover your mouse over each image to learn more about how the department store created each storefront display.

In Pictures: Harvey Nichols 2017 Christmas Windows

In Pictures: Harvey Nichols 2017 Christmas Windows

In Pictures: Harvey Nichols 2017 Christmas Windows

In Pictures: Harvey Nichols 2017 Christmas Windows

Photos: Courtesy of Harvey Nichols

London - AllSaints is continuing its expansion push across North America, following the opening of its 7,000 square foot flagship store on 5th Avenue in the Rockefeller Center, New York. The store, which opened its doors to the public on Friday, is set to remain in the Rockefeller Center for a year, as the British label focuses on strengthening its brand's presence in the US.

The new store offers AllSaints mainline collections as well as exclusive shearing and leather jackets. AllSaints store opening at the Rockefeller Center comes ahead of its opening at Westfield Century City on November 17. Following its second opening in New York later this month, AllSaints will count a total of 77 retail locations across North America, including a mix of stand-alone stores as well as concessions as the label grows.

AllSaints is slated to open up additional stores in North American next year and increase its wholesale partners as the region offers the brand sufficient room to grow. The British label launched its Capital handbag collection in the US two and half years ago, which has been picked up by Bloomingdale's and Nordstrom since then. The brand is also said to be investigating licensing its business, a move which would help the label expand into other categories it does not license, according to WWD.

“We’re a global brand. We have 243 stores in 27 countries. North America is a big part of that as well as Asia as we continue to grow those two regions quite rapidly,” said Misti Blasko, AllSaints Managing Director to WWD. “For us, we’re continuing to promote the brand. We don’t just sell clothing; we’re a lifestyle brand that has a music company. We have a film company.”

AllSaints focus on North America comes as the company mulls expanding into China, as continued growth in North American and Asia continue to drive its international revenues. AllSaints, which was acquired by private equity firm Lion Capital in 2011, has been investing in distribution centres and digital platforms as well as international expansion in new regions such as Taiwan, South Korea and Japan, over the past year.

Men spending more on clothes than women

British men spend more on clothes, shoes and grooming each month than women, according to new research from Barclaycard.

The research reveals that men are spending 114 pounds each month on clothes and shoes, equating to more than 300 pounds more each year than women. In addition, men are spending more each month on clothes, 67.10 pounds, than they do on drinking with friends or even tickets to sports matches.

Despite spending more than women on clothes, men dislike the process of shopping so much that over a fifth (21 percent) say they would prefer to mow the lawn, while nearly one in 10 would prefer to clean the toilet (9 percent) or take a visit the dentist (9 percent) over a trip to the shops.

Top frustrations for men includes: retailers not having their size in stock (42 percent), crowded stores (36 percent) and having to queue at the till (35 percent) – with four in 10 men (40 percent) saying five minutes is the longest they will wait to pay before leaving a store.

Barclaycard research shows men spend more on clothes than women

This is probably why research reveals that nearly half of men, 48 percent prefer to go online to snap up the latest fashion trends, while women still prefer to shop in-store.

Retailers have begun to recognise the rise of men shopping online, which is why almost two-fifths, 37 percent have begun using online and social media advertising to attract male customers, states the research, and one in seven (14 percent) are now working with bloggers and influencers to increase their online brand presence.

However, it seems that the influences for men are a little closer to home, with a third of men (32 percent) admitting that they are more likely to be influenced by what their partner likes.

George Allardice, head of strategy, Barclaycard Payment Solutions, at Barclaycard said: "It’s eye opening to see the tension between men spending more money on shopping and grooming, but still not enjoying the experience. Even though they spend more on shopping than having beers with friends or watching their favourite footie team, the idea of retail therapy is still lost on British men.

“We know that retailers are increasingly becoming savvy to men spending more on clothing and grooming, and so have been increasingly expanding their male offering over the past few years. However retailers need to continue to innovate to ensure the whole shopping experience is as enjoyable for men as it is for women - whether that’s online, mobile or instore. Simple changes such as ensuring a wide range of sizes are stocked and reducing queues at the tillcould lead to an increase of men shopping ‘til they drop.”

Image: New Look Facebook