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Fashion mourns as cult Paris store Colette closes

They may not yet be weeping in the streets, but for French fashionistas, the closure Wednesday of Colette, the concept store which has become a Paris style institution, ranks nothing short of a national tragedy.

"I cannot believe it is closing," said style commentator Melody Thomas in one of a blizzard of articles and blog posts mourning the passing of the mother of all lifestyle stores, where Madonna, Kim Kardashian and Katy Perry shopped for quirky objects of desire.

The three-storey boutique on chi-chi Rue Saint-Honore, founded by Colette Roussaux 20 years ago, was far more than a gadget or design store to its many celebrity fans. It pioneered limited-edition collaborations between luxury brands and street fashion stars, and cheekily poked fun at Saint Laurent with the T-shirt "Ain't Laurent Without Yves" when the label stopped using its founder's first name.

With a basement Water Bar where you could sip iceberg melt water or anti-ageing spirulina seaweed cocktails, it soon sparked imitators across the globe. But for regular browsers like Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld, it was never bettered. "It's the only shop where I go because they have things no one else has," he said.

"If Paris is the centre of the (fashion) world, Colette is the centre of Paris," said fashion documentary maker and Twitter wit Loic Prigent. "When Rihanna comes to Paris she goes to Colette. It's the same for Beyonce and Madonna and the others. Colette is a centrifuge," he said.

With the shop still booming, the store announced in July that Roussaux wanted to bow out at the top.

'Coolest shop in town'

She had got to "the age to take your time -- and Colette cannot exist without Colette," the store said. "All good things come to an end." While style lovers applauded her for not selling out, they were heartbroken that she and her daughter Sarah Andelman would no longer be at the helm of what Vogue critic Suzy Menkes called "the coolest shop in town".

Ironically, the building is being taken over by Saint Laurent, which once threatened to sue Colette over that cheeky T-shirt. "We are totally disappointed it is closing. It's a mythic place," shoppers Gabriel and Kevin told AFP on the eve of its closure.

"You come to Colette's to find something really exclusive," said the Parisian friends who now live in Canada, recalling the tiny run of 1,000-euro (1,180 USD) trainers Chanel made with the singer Pharrell Williams.

With only hours left before Colette closed for good, shoppers thronged the store, flitting between its trademark mix of humble and luxury wares -- a novelty sponge selling for four euros next to a 9,990-euro Saint Laurent jacket. (AFP)

Photo: Courtesy of Colette

How Filippa K aims to become 'the most relevant Scandinavian brand'

INTERVIEWAmsterdam - Although Filippa K may not be the most well known Swedish brand, it is one of the fashion labels which helped established the now-iconic Scandinavian, minimal look back in the early 90s. Best known for its high-quality, well-fitting and sustainable styles, Filippa K has expanded across Northern Europe over the past 25 years, setting up shop in cities such as Stockholm, Amsterdam, and Berlin. Now with the return of its founder, Filippa Knutsson, as its creative director, the brand aims to continue its success story by becoming "the most relevant Scandinavian brand on a global stage."

In order to learn more about Filippa K plans for the future, FashionUnited spoke with the brand's CEO, Kristofer Tonström and Brand Director Karl-Johan Bogefors at the opening of the label's latest flagship store in Amsterdam.

How Filippa K aims to become 'the most relevant Scandinavian brand'

"Filippa has been out of the business over the last five years and there has been a lot of internationalization during that time," explained Tonström. "But now we see a huge opportunity to be at the forefront of the digital world as well as grow even more internationally." Knutsson rejoined the company one year ago, after realizing that the brand was in danger of drifting off the course she'd envisioned for it. She helped restructured the company's internal organization, first hiring Tonström as CEO before convincing Bogefors to return to the company as brand director this fall.

Kristofer Tonström: 'The main focus is to be a relevant, consumer-focused Scandinavian brand on a global stage'

"I think it is great to have Filippa back at the company in a leading role - I feel like the brand has always been at its best when she had her hand in it, so I am excited for the future," said Bogefors, while giving a tour of Filippa K latest flagship store, which features its full women's, men's and Soft Sport collections. Knutsson asked him to rejoin the company after a ten-year absence and since coming back on board Bogefors has noticed that Filippa K is even more entrepreneurial than before. "There is real potential to continue growing the brand and its collections - especially Soft Sport." The rise of athleisure and an increasing interest in health and fitness has led to a more demand for Filippa K sub-label, which offers functional, comfortable yoga and loungewear.

In Filippa K’s new flagship store on the Utrechtsestraat, the upper mezzanine is dedicated to the brand's Soft Sport, underlining the growing importance the label has in the Filippa K world. "There is a real opportunity to look at the brand and it's business and how to grow it creatively,” said Tonström. His vision to ensure Filippa becomes the 'most relevant Scandinavian brand' stems from his strong belief that Filippa K is one-of-a-kind. "Filippa K is different from the majority of fashion brands out there on the market today because it promotes mindful consumption through its minimalistic and clean design aesthetic which is designed to last years." The brand's strong style signature has helped it win loyal fans across Sweden, Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands, but now the new CEO is keen to establish a strategy to ensure Filippa K's ongoing expansion.

How Filippa K aims to become 'the most relevant Scandinavian brand'

"We have the chance to really look at the brand and company and ask what do we have to do now and for the next 25 years. So if we were to start this company again how would we think about the future. It’s really been like starting out with a blank sheet of paper." Tonström sees a number of opportunities for Filippa K's future growth in Northern Europe, as he acknowledges traditional retail, is facing a number of challenges at the moment. "We want to be much faster to respond to them, and so we have made some changes in order to achieve this."

Filippa K to expand its digital presence throughout Northern Europe

In addition to restructuring its management team, Filippa K has also trimmed off some of its 'middle layers' and made a number of changes to how it operations its business across Europe. Although the brand aims to become more global, Tonström does not want to spread the company too thinly by trying to be in to everywhere at the same time. Which is why the brand is focusing on strengthening its presence in its main hubs. "For us, this is our historical heart is in Stockholm. Filippa herself is based in London and Amsterdam is the third big hub where we see big potential. That is also why we have invested in our fourth store in Amsterdam,” explained Tonström.

“The overall ambition is that we become the most relevant Scandinavian brand on a global stage.” However, in order to become the most relevant Scandinavian brand, Filippa K may have to go head-to-head with other Swedish and Danish fashion giants. But for Tonström being the most relevant brand is more than just competing with others. “It is about being relevant to consumers - it’s not enough to do two nice campaigns a year, it’s about being much closer to the consumer and ensuring you have a dialogue with them on a weekly basis.” To ensure Filippa K is able to connect with their customers as well as potential new consumers this means the brand has to be present where they are, which is why the brand is heavily investing in building up their technical capabilities. “We are trying to build a company that can win globally online.”

Tonström sees real potential in developing Filippa K into a digitally led brand, as well as a one with a strong physical presence, as evident in their new store opening. “It’s about having the right stores in the right locations coupled with the right type of online presence,” he stressed. To help boost their online presence, as well as their online engagement with their customers and online revenues Filippa K has begun working with a digital marketing company. In addition, the brand has more than double its online markets from 30 to 65 over the past six months. “We are doing a lot in terms of expansion, paid marketing searches, paid social reach and working much more with affiliates and influencers. Yet it is key for us not to be tempted into things that may erode the Filippa K integrity. So we use the tactics of the pure-play e-commerce companies, but ensure they are always within the frame of the Filippa K brand.”

How Filippa K aims to become 'the most relevant Scandinavian brand'

Filippa K invests in its online channels as well as its physical retail locations

The Scandinavian label is set to triple its investment in its online and marketing channels next year to really help solidify its presence in its new markets. This is also why the business was restructured earlier this year, to help free up more resources for future investments. “It was not to save money, it was to reinvest in our growing areas. We are going to establish a completely different presence online - not only through our own website but by being out there where our customers are - that what it means to us to be a relevant brand.” Filippa K will also invest in improving its e-commerce platform by bettering its fulfillment capabilities, delivery logistics, customer service and overall customer online experience, as Tonström aims to ensure its online store is as strong as its flagship stores. “This is another area where we need to be as good as the global online multiplayers. We need to give consumers a reason to buy our products directly from us.”

But this increased focus on strengthening its digital arm does not mean that Filippa K will invest less in its physical retail channels, added Tonström. “We have been online for a few years now, but most of our focus has been on developing our physical retail side. In the last year, we have done a bit of catch up, which has led to our online sales doubling in 2017 and our ambition is to grow that 4 or 5 times over the next couple of years.” Both Filippa K online and physical sales channels are equally important to achieving the brand’s overall goal, but now the company aims to ensure its online store is as efficient as its brick and mortar locations. “At the end of the day, it has to do with being where the consumer is and where the consumer wants to shop.”

How Filippa K aims to become 'the most relevant Scandinavian brand'

So outside of its established hubs, where are Filippa K’s consumers? “If you look at Europe the next two big areas for us are definitely London and Paris,” said the CEO. “Filippa lives in London, she actually grew up there as well, so she has a strong connection to the city and the UK market.” The Scandinavian brand is also focusing on growing in Paris, where it currently operates a women’s wear and a men’s wear concession stand in Galeria Lafayette. “We have been in Paris for a very long time, but now we have the opportunity to do more there.” At the moment Filippa K does not have any plans in the pipeline to open a stand-alone store in London or in Paris, but it is exploring the physical availability when it comes to retail locations in the city.

For now, Filippa K and its team are set to focus on preparing for its first major fashion show since the return of Knutsson. “Filippa has been busy working on the brand’s AW 18 collections in London, which they are set to debut in Stockholm during a big co-ed fashion show next month,” said Bogefors. “She has always strived to make products which never go out of style and withstand the test of time. Now she is putting more effort than ever before into the company to ensure the collections are better than ever going forward.”

Photos: Filippa K, Facebook

Online retail spend on Boxing Day is expected to exceed more than 1 billion pounds for the first time, according to new research from IMRG.

The industry association for online retail is predicting that online spend will be up 7.9 percent to 1.03 billion pounds on Boxing Day, up from 954 million pounds in 2016.

In addition, IMRG is also forecasting that online shopping on Christmas Day is set to reach 844 million pounds, up 6.3 percent on the same day in 2016, when spending hit 794 million pounds.

If this forecast is correct regarding spending over Christmas Day and Boxing Day, it would still mean that Black Friday spending will still be the biggest sales day of the year, as it was recorded that 1.39 billion pounds was spent online on Black Friday, a 11.7 percent increase on the previous year.

Justin Opie, managing director of IMRG, said: “Boxing day sales remain a fixture of retail and an important day in the calendar, but Black Friday has altered sales patterns over the full peak period and is now the primary discounting event of the season. And perhaps, as with Black Friday, we’re seeing Boxing Day spend become more online-focused.

“Although going out to the shops on that day has long been a British tradition, footfall was reportedly down 7.3 percent on Boxing Day last year.”

Opie added: “It’s likely that spend on Christmas Day is pulling some of that order volume forward as well, as shoppers have the ability to browse and buy from the sofa on mobile devices during quiet moments at home and visiting family, redeeming the huge numbers of gift cards and coupons that they receive in place of presents each year.”

Affluent Chinese shoppers are influencing Harrods 200 million pounds renovation

London - I last visited Harrods a fortnight ago, to look at the fashion collections and as part of my annual tour of department stores pre Christmas. En route to the lower ground, where designer menswear is housed, I passed the Diana and Dodi memorial at the base of the Egyptian Escalator, where a horde of Asian tourists were taking photographs and obligatory selfies.

I mention this because Harrods is prime destination retail for Chinese shoppers, and as London's largest luxury shopping mecca - trading over 1 million square foot - the store is making all the necessary adaptations to its Knightsbridge flagship to capitalize on the trend.

Last month Harrods announced it was undergoing a 200 million pound, three-year renovation project, the first of its kind in its 180-year history. Speaking to the South China Morning Post, managing director Michael Ward said the revamp is aimed at maintaining Harrods’ appeal for tourists.

Affluent Chinese shoppers outspend the British

“Our Chinese and Asian customers are extremely important to Harrods, and so are considered part of our redevelopment plans,” he told the Post. Affluent Chinese shoppers have long been outspending their British and European counterparts.

Ward reported in Jing Daily that the refurbishments were designed to accommodate their global customer, but specifically stated the Chinese shopper is becoming increasingly “discerning”, especially in the fine watch and jewelry departments. To cater to Chinese customers, the department store has more than 200 Mandarin speaking staff and more in training, and they accommodate Chinese payment service Alipay for shoppers. Tencent’s WeChat Pay will also soon be introduced to the store.

While this new evolution of Harrods will involve many transformations, the brand is still more focused than ever on promoting itself as an essential part of a famous UK tourist destination. Chinese tourism to Britain experienced an uptick following the Brexit referendum as shoppers sought to benefit from the declining value of the pound. In the first six months of this year, Chinese spent more than 231 million pounds in the UK, according to VisitBritain.

“We do not make large adaptations specifically aimed at Chinese customers, because we want to celebrate our brand identity and Britishness,” Ward said. “If you come to London, you don’t want to see something that’s from your country: you want to celebrate everything that’s British, and we think that’s important.”

According to Jing Daily Harrods maintains a presence on WeChat where they share promotions and videos of events at its London location. Ward cites its recent Dolce & Gabbana fashion show, broadcasted on its WeChat and Weibo platforms, as a particularly successful example, especially in connecting with its Chinese millennial customers.

Ward said Harrods is also looking at expanding its print magazine to mainland China next year after already pivoting to shoppers in Asia, specifically making it available to consumers in Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia. The brand is considering an online format for the mainland Chinese expansion of Harrods Magazine Asia to accommodate the increasingly digitally savvy consumer.

“It’s all about having personal relationships with the store,” he said. “There is no length we won’t go to for our customers—from securing the most coveted products from leading luxury brands to creating inspiring concepts in-store and making sure our customers have whatever their heart desires, no matter where they are in the world.”

China is currently the largest international market for Harrods, while Hong Kong is its largest Southeast Asian market and fastest growing. Harrods claims that research shows one in every 5 pounds spent by Chinese visitors to London is at Harrods.

Photo credit: Photo: By user: Sokkk y (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

House of Fraser to launch localized pop-up scheme using AI

House of Fraser has launched a pop-up concession scheme in a number of its branches in a bid to drive footfall and tackle "dead" floor space.

The British department store group has partnered up with data-driven tech firm Popertee, which uses artificial intelligence to pair retailers with vacant storefronts. The company offers start-ups space to launch their brands and test out new products while helping larger retailers fill empty retail space with relevant brands that will appeal to their demographic.

Popertee's technology will be used to analyse House of Fraser's customer profile at selected stores and then match the data with the new brands which align within the target market. The partnership sees House of Fraser offering pop-up space in its Birmingham, Bluewater (Kent), Bristol and Manchester stores to relevant brands in an attempt to attract new customers. Under the new partnership, retail start-ups and House of Fraser will both pay Popertee a commission fee.

"This is a fantastic opportunity for House of Fraser to trial a series of pop-ups, and to present its customers with new brands and experiences on a regular basis across key stores," said Martin Shires, Head of in-store experience, House of Fraser. The move comes as House of Fraser continues to invest in attracting new customers while making the best use of its retail space.

Earlier this year the department store group revealed its five-year strategy which focused on improving the overall customer shopping experience by downsizing certain areas and launching new areas, such as champagne bars and yoga studios.

Photo: House of Fraser Manchester, via Popertee

Christmas delivery delays led to a potential loss of 3.9 billion pounds for retailers in 2016, according to new research, with a total of 20 million UK shoppers encountering problems last year during the festive period, up by 13 percent on 2015.

According to research commissioned by The Institute of Customer Service, these experiences have influenced customers’ perception of retailers, affecting whether they return for their Christmas shopping this year.

Of the 2000 people surveyed for the research, 38 percent said they received their Christmas deliveries later than expected in 2016, with over half (52 percent) up to five days late. Of those experiencing delays, the proportion of customers missing out on high-value items is significant, with 42 percent spending over 300 pounds with a retailer who consequently failed to deliver the gift on time.

The research also highlights the correlation between punctuality and reliability of deliveries and customer retention, with almost three-quarters (71 percent) stating that they are less likely to shop again with retailers who fail to deliver on time, clearly indicating that delays will lose customers.

Jo Causon, chief executive of The Institute of Customer Service said: “Late deliveries are a recurring problem, and it is getting worse year on year. There are several components involved in getting the customer’s delivery delivered on time and it should be a priority of the delivery service and the retailer to ensure that this is done. Both businesses need to take responsibility, or face further financial losses next year.

“In an increasingly competitive market online – both throughout the festive season and beyond – retailers should prioritise providing customers with a consistent and reliable delivery service.”

Barnsley town centre reveals redevelopment plans

Detailed designs of Barnsley town centre's proposed 8 million pounds public realm development, which aims to modernise the Northern town, has been granted approval by the council.

The proposals, which are part of the 130 million pound Glass Works retail scheme, were given the green light by the Barnsley Council and will now move forward to a public consultation to inform the submission of full planning application.

The regeneration of the town centre’s public realm will cost over 8 million pounds and includes a new public square and improvements to the existing public realm on May Day Green and Kendray Street, Cheapside, Queen Street, Peel Square and Midland Street.

The aim is to make the flagship main square at the heart of The Glass Works more attractive and to create a local amphitheatre to host various events and performances. There will also be a cascading water pool, family-friendly outdoor dining venues and some permanent outdoor market stalls, for visitors to enjoy.

If planning consent is approved following consultation, the phased programme of works will begin in April 2018 on Cheapside and May Day Green, and be completed in 2020 along with the opening of the retail and leisure phase of The Glass Works.

Councillor Roy Miller, said: “We are delighted the new public realm plans are going to consultation. A quality public environment can have a significant impact on the economic life of our town and has always been an essential part of our regeneration strategy. Businesses are attracted to locations that offer well-designed, well-managed public places and these, in turn, attract customers and services.

“The new public areas will connect The Glass Works development with the rest of the town centre and create an overall sense of place. The main square will create a new location in the heart of the town for people to socialise and relax.”

The Glass Works sits within a 3.8-hectare site in the very heart of Barnsley Town Centre and will feature 25 shops, a cinema, bowling and 10 restaurants, alongside a new library, refurbished markets, new public realm and up to 500 car parking spaces. Phase 1 is opening spring 2018, with phase 2 expected to be completed in spring 2020.

Image: courtesy of The Glass Works

Kendall and Kylie Jenner are on to their next project. The sister-entrepreneur duo is teaming up with Italian mass-market retailer OVS for a capsule collection to be released throughout six deliveries. The womenswear collection will include both ready-to-wear and accessories. Three deliveries will be made in spring, and the other three will be made in fall.

The first delivery will be available on Ovs.com, in addition to being available at a selection of stores in Italy, Switzerland and Austria. OVS' goal with this collaboration is to be more in line with today's contemporary offerings. Collaborations have become a major part of their strategy.

they're playing our song

A post shared by Kendall (@kendalljenner) on

Recently, the company has collaborated with Elio Fiorucci, Matthew Williamson, Kristina T, Alberto Aspesi and Jean Paul Gaultier. Currently OVS has locations in over 32 countries. Their 2015 revenues were 1.32 billion Euros.

How Farfetch is becoming a key player in the luxury realm

OPINIONFarfetch has always been on the fashion radar, but ultimately never a place where I would choose to shop. What initially kept me from making transactions was price inconsistency across retailers and markets. A pair of Saint Laurent boots that cost 595 euros at a store in Belgium, could be 630 euros in Italy, 675 francs in Switzerland and a whopping 1100 dollars in the United Stated. Comparison shopping and webrooming would make even the least sophisticated online shopper think twice about paying more for goods outside their own market.

But FarFetch is proving to be far more than just conglomerating retail store's products across various markets in a single website. It works with over 700 boutiques worldwide and is proving to be a tech company worth reckoning with; a clever set-up (selling fashion from 100s of stores but not owning any stock) means it has pioneered a new omni-channel, omni-market approach without any risk. All of the clothes and accessories it sells are neither bought, warehoused, packaged and shipped by FarFetch. All the benefits but none of the headaches of being a retailer.

Much like Zalando, which has recognised its brand partnerships are what set it apart from other pureplayers, Farfetch has cleverly been cultivating a series of partnerships with some of the biggest names in the luxury business.

Saint Laurent benefits from Farfetch's partnerships in China

Saint Laurent, for example, has partnered with Farfetch to grow its Chinese ecommerce business. How? By utilising another of Farfetch's partnerships, this time with JD.com, the world's third largest ecommerce company.

According to Luxury Daily, Saint Laurent is able to benefit from JD’s logistics, marketing and service capabilities designed to cater to local clientele. Farfetch’s Shanghai-based team will tap into the company’s relationships with both JD and WeChat to better market and sell to the Chinese consumer, particularly millennials.

Similarly, Condé Nast worked with Farfetch to host the combination of commerce and editorial content previously hosted on Style.com after the media group ceased operation of the site.

Earlier this year Farfetch debuted its Store of the Future in East London, linking together the online and offline worlds through data touch points that enhance and personalize the retail experience for consumers while presenting sales associates with chances to become in-store influencers.

Luxury retail is reconfigured to respond to modern consumers’ shifting behavior and expectations, and Farfetch is seamlessly blending technology with its new bricks and mortar premises. The company is also increasingly positioning itself as a technology provider. It handles data from all four corners of the globe, selling over 2,000 designer brands from hundreds of stores. Luxury brands are keen to tap into its rich data pool.

Founded in 2007 by José Neves, a London-based Portuguese entrepreneur, Farfetch began as an online portal for luxury boutiques. Neves previously launched shoe design business SWEAR in the 90s, followed by B Store in 2001, a fashion licensing and wholesale company selling a range of up-and-coming designer labels in a physical store.

During a trip to Paris Fashion Week in 2007, when Neves was wholesaling for his B Store brand, the idea for a virtual boutique marketplace came to fruition. A 2013 interview in The Daily Telegraph details the moment when Neves realised the need to give independent fashion boutiques an online retail presence: "Dozens of boutique owners had been through our doors and what they were saying was really sobering. Business was bad, they couldn't rely on local custom any more but they didn't have the experience to do e-tailing either. They had amazing taste levels but they were having to play it increasingly safe."

Photo credit: Farfetch homepage; article source Luxury Daily, Wikipedia

Next to trial store-in-store at Tesco

High street retailer Next is to trial a new store-in-store concept at Tesco, the UK's largest grocer. Customers will soon be able to go for their daily shop and fashion fix under the same roof.

Next this week opened a 4300sq ft concession inside Tesco Extra in Surrey Quays, stocking its basic fashion ranges in both menswear and womenswear.

“We want to offer our customers the best possible choice and convenience when they shop with us,” a Tesco spokeswoman stated. "We have a number of partnerships in stores across the UK, complementing our existing Tesco products and services."

Product diversity will attract customers

The news comes as shopping behaviour is changing and consumers have less of a need to visit giant supermarkets with the convenience of online shopping and preferring to make more frequent trips to local stores. This means supermarkets are earning less profit per square foot and are choosing to lease their retail spaces to drive more customers to their stores. Greater product diversity and a more immersive experience will draw customers to its stores.

Tesco first partnered with Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia group last year and currently has 14 Dorothy Perkins, Burton, Evans and Wallis concessions across five stores.

The grocer intends to install around six more Arcadia concessions in a further four stores by the end of the year, analysts at a presentation at its Welwyn Garden City headquarters were told.

The Arcadia tie-up forms part of Tesco’s plan to have at least 26 concessions by the end of this year, and to open 35 additional concessions a year after that.

Tesco is not the only grocer to partner with fashion retailers on its premises. Several of the ‘Big Four’ grocers are housing different high-street brands within their larger stores as the switch to online and more convenience food shopping reduces demand for large supermarkets.

Since Sainsbury's took over Home Retail Group for 1.4bn pounds in 2016, the supermarket giant has launched homeware Habitat concessions in large stores. The supermarket has also been rolling-out Argos concessions.

Photo credit: Next website