H&M’s sister store & Other Stories recently announced a new studio in Stockholm. The concept, entitled Open Studio, acts a design center for retail concepts for the company.

Founded by Helena Carlberg and Sara Hilden-Bengtsson, the fashion brand offers sophisticated ready-to-wear, accessories, handbags and footwear. In opening the new studio, the company is tapping into both physical and digital aspects of retail. According to WWD, Open Studio will work to provide unique designs and experiences for customers. “Our goal is to find customized ways to tell brand stories in brave, heartfelt and memorable ways,” Hilden-Bengtsson told the publication.

Open Studio will also be in charge of heading collaborations and planning future projects. In the past, the company has teamed with various celebrities and influences such as Hari Nef, Lena Dunham, Rodarte and more. Founded in 2013, the new strategy could add an extra element to the brand. Currently, as & Other Stories has 36 retail locations internationally and is available through their e-commerce site, combining both physical and digital factors for marketing could prove to be profitable for the company.

Retailers to experience cash influx as the Chinese New Year kicks off

London - With the start of the Chinese New Year kicking off on Friday, the UK is expected to see an influx of tourists coming from abroad to celebrate the year of the Rooster. But retailers in London are expected to enjoy as extra bonus this week, as Chinese visitors could spend as much as 11 million pounds, according to the latest data from Worldpay.

Department and high-end stores in London's West End are set to gain the most from the Chinese tourist boost, with spending on Chinese cards expected to be 40 percent higher than average during this time of the year. Bargain-hunting 'Brexit tourists' could see these figures increase even more, as spend from Chinese tourists has increased by 24 percent year on year following the dip in the pound against the yuan in the wake of the referendum vote. The combination of the weak pound and an increasing Chinese luxury market, plus the New Year is likely to make the UK incredibly desirable as a shopping destination.

Retailers to experience cash influx as the Chinese New Year kicks off

"As the Chinese New Year is seen in across the world, it looks as though Britain’s businesses are set for a Golden Week ‘gold rush’. With the weakened pound, London is much cheaper this year for Chinese visitors, and we expect popular shopping destinations to reap the benefits from the influx of free-spending tourists," commented James Frost, CMO Worldpay UK.

In addition, as the UK government continues to relax visa restrictions for Chinese tourists, it is now easier than ever for them to come and visit the UK for a shopping holiday. The Chinese New Year is traditionally one of the busiest times of the year for Chinese travellers, as an estimated 6 million people take the opportunity to travel abroad during the public holiday. Prior to the holiday travel agents and airlines across China have reported a 26 percent increase in sales.

Photos: Pexels.com

New frontier: How retailers should embrace technology

OPINION Shop floor robots, data analytics, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, apps, touch screens and verbal devices. Not to mention digital pay. These are just some of the technological developments facing retailers today.

With new advancements happening in near real-time, predictive analytics clearly tells us stores can't afford to to miss out on the new frontier of retailing, with its lure of winning over more customers. The reality is that nobody is going to beat retailers such as Amazon in the digital sphere, so how do they keep up with the times?

Firstly, technology requires investment, and brands and retailers must realise that while stagnating and not embracing technology isn't good for business, buying into every new technology on offer won't solve a retailer's woes.

Retail strategy hasn't changed since the start of e-commerce

A touch screen and AI technology on a shop floor with a dull fashion offer isn't going to enhance any shopper's experience, let alone sell more clothes. A seamless online check out is a well-known value to customers, but if that store is producing uninspiring marketing promos and unpersonalised newsletters, the chances are customers aren't engaging enough to want to click on their websites. A retail strategy, thus hasn't particularly changed since the dawn of e-commerce, and if that strategy is flawed, no amount of technological investment can fix that.

The strategy to be successful at retail appears simple: to correctly identify your demographic and customer. Assisting them on their journey to discovering what they need, offering perfect product value and curation of interesting things, providing a personalized experience, and delivering a frictionless, easy path to purchase. Technology can advance each of these segments, and when done well can propel a retailer into that stratospheric niche of global success.

What we should note about technology is to figure out which are worth investing in. The next step is to find out novel ways of integrating them into your business systems to implement your strategy. When it is done well, technology will greatly empower retailers to engage with their consumers. It will allow them to provide an amazing experience and products, when, where and however the consumer wants it.

Photo credit: PFSK Future Fashion report

3 Buying Tips for AW17 from Trendwatcher David Shah

INTERVIEW Amsterdam - Figuring out and satisfying the customers changing needs is becoming increasingly difficult for retailers, says trend watcher David Shah. "We are seeing radical differences between age groups," explains Shah during his trend seminar at ModeFabriek on Boomers and Millennials , the old generation and the new generation of shoppers. Although the former generation had very different values and norms when it comes to consumption, the latter generation has taken on a whole new way of shopping, and that it not just due to rise of ecommerce, notes Shah.

"Millennials are not as patience as Boomers," explains the trend watcher. "They want to buy the clothes shown on the catwalk right after fashion week, they want everything straight away." This growing trend, which sees larger brands such as Burberry, Tommy Hilfiger and Tom Ford participating, can cause problems for some labels, in particular for smaller retailers who are unable to shift their production schedules forward. "What are these retailers to do in order to keep serving the older generation as well as the new?" Shah believes that retailers should seek out a balance between delivering new collection quickly to store and continuously offering their customers quality. "Because this problem will not disappear on a short-term basis."

3 Buying Tips for AW17 from Trendwatcher David Shah

Although the whole concept and notion of trends within the fashion industry is no longer valid according to Shah, he shares three buying tips for autumn/winter 2017-2018 exclusively with FashionUnited.

#1 Functionality

"An important trend for the autumn/winter 2017 season is actually very typical for the Dutch market," says Shah with a smile. "Consumers long for functional and practical clothing. But that does not mean it only limited to trends such as camouflage, military and workwear, but rather a combination of all three. In addition, earthy tones such as khaki and wooden tones will be very important. We already saw a lot of ocher and similar neural wooden shares last summer and they are set to return again this year. The colour khaki will be especially prominent, as it represents the functionality of camouflage and military.

3 Buying Tips for AW17 from Trendwatcher David Shah

#2 Bright Colours

"Opposite the pragmatic khaki colour this coming autumn and winter season stands something totally different. Millennials no longer only long to be authentic, they also aim to stand out in the crowd by choosing something completely different. Which is why we are going to see a lot of colour for AW17, especially bright colours which will become a key driver. I believe very much in green. Not khaki green mind you, we already covered that, but deeper and brights shades of green. You will not go wrong with pink as well this coming AW17. So we will continue to see the cosmetic pink from last winter return again. So if you are unsure what to do with your styling, go in the direction of colour."

3 Buying Tips for AW17 from Trendwatcher David Shah

#3 The New Normal

"One last tip to meet the needs of millennials, is to do something else. Otherwise known as the new normal in the new fashion season, because we have already spent too attention much on 'normal' recently. I advise retailers to be brave and dare to offer something unique. That means transforming your stores into a destination where consumers are able to experience something unique. Talk to your customers, help them and make them feel welcome. They want to feel special."

Photos: Myrthe de Graaf for FashionUnited

The number of jobs in retail fell at the end of last year, according to figures from the British Retail Consortium’s Employment Monitor, as retailers hired fewer seasonal staff and cut back on overtime.

The number of people in full-time equivalent retail jobs fell by 3 percent in the three months from October 1 to December 31, compared to the same period the year before.

British Retail Consortium chief executive, Helen Dickinson, said: “While the end of the year remains the busiest time for workers in retail, the figures are consistent with the long-term trend of retailers reducing the number of hours being worked to adjust to big structural changes in the industry.

“In the last quarter, seasonal overtime was scaled back much more than in previous years, reflecting the relative fall in importance of Boxing Day relative to pre-Christmas spend and Black Friday. We also saw some retailers reduce temporary seasonal staffing levels earlier than in previous years.”

The biggest reduction was in December where there were 4.6 percent fewer full-time jobs than the previous year. October saw a minor decline of 1.6 percent year-on-year, while November saw a drop of 2.9 percent.

However, the results did note that the final quarter of 2016 also saw an increase in the number of outlets compared to the same period a year ago, with a 1.5 percent increase in non-food retailers.

Dickinson added: “Those at the forefront of the industry are continuing to adapt to the advance of the digital revolution by experimenting with new stores and offerings, driving a 1.5 percent increase in the number of outlets compared to a year ago. However, we don’t expect to see a long-term trend in rising store numbers.

“Against the backdrop of cost pressures, fierce competition between retailers, evolving customer needs, and the lightning expansion of digital technology, many retailers are likely to continue re-examining staffing levels to continue adapting.”

Premium next-day delivery services are accounting for a greater share of online orders according to new research from IMRG and MetaPack, with more than a third of consumers selecting ‘next-day’ in 2016.

The research reveals that 31 percent of all online retail orders in 2016 selected ‘next-day’ as the delivery option, up from 26.8 percent in 2015. Over the same period, the share of orders using economy services fell from 45.5 percent in 2015 to 38.9 percent in 2016.

The latest data also tracked a notable shift in when the bulk of Christmas peak deliveries fall. In 2014, the monthly growth in order volumes between November and December was an increase of 27.7 percent; in 2015 it was up 14.3 percent, but in 2016 it was just a growth of 4.5 percent. This is due to Black Friday falling earlier in 2016, compared to 2015 and 2014, IMRG states.

Andrew Starkey, head of e-logistics at IMRG: “It’s not hard to see why delivery times are speeding up, as many retailers feature their next-day offer prominently at the top of their homepage in order to attract and keep customers. With delivery service so important to shoppers retailers must look at all aspects to keep ahead of their competition and customer’s expectations.”

Chris Hoskin, head of marketing at MetaPack added: “Next day delivery has become the new norm for customers in the UK – who increasingly regard it as a standard rather than premium service. This is commercially challenging for many retailers who have invested heavily in securing and maintaining their online customer base. They now, more than ever before, have to balance the costs and operational implications of managing a reliable next day service with meeting customer demands.”

The French Federation for Women’s Ready-to-Wear launches “La French Boutique” in partnership with Alibaba

​ The French trade body for women’s ready-to-wear, La Fédération Française du Prêt à Porter Féminin , has teamed up with Alibaba to launch an exclusive online fashion store dedicated to French brands. Set to launch on Alibaba’s Tmall ecommerce platform, the online multi-branded store “La French Boutique” is aimed at increasing the presence of French brands in China and boosting local customer awareness.

Together, the French federation and the Alibaba Group announced the opening of the online store during fashion trade fair Who’s Next in Paris this Saturday. The initiative is said to be a continuation of two parties partnership, which first began in 2014, and aims to encourage French brands to offer their collections abroad. It also follows on the the establishment of the federation Chinese subsidiary and opening of a permanent office in Hangzhou, with support from DEFI, in 2016.

“Through the platform, French brands can take the time to discover the market, test their products, adjust their marketing strategy and be innovative, while benefiting from a showcase attracting 439 million active Chinese buyers per year," said Sébastien Badault, Managing Director of Alibaba France on Satuday. A number of French brands have already signed up for the initiative, such as IKKS, Nathalie Chaize, Bensimon, Workshops of the Maille, Misaine Mast, Urbahia, Daniel Faret, Zyga, Lyn'n Laundry, Les Petites Bombes, Ricardo Lewis, Ollygan France, Ready to Leave and Still Teddy Smith.

“Alibaba subsidiary Tmall is the gateway to the biggest Chinese consumer market, whose internet purchases are growing very rapidly,” added Pierre-François Le Louët, President of the Fédération Française du Prêt à Porter Féminin in a statement. “Using Chinese e-commerce retail networks is the simplest, most cost-effective, and most promising way to enter the Chinese market today. It's also the way for French brands to become known and find their place in China for the long term.”

Photo: Pierre-François Le Louët, President of the Fédération Française du Prêt à Porter Féminin

In Picture: Kings of Indigo unveils debut retail concept at Modefabriek

Amsterdam - Sustainable denim brand Kings of Indigo took the next step in opening its own mono brand store this week by unveiling its first retail concept at the 42nd edition of the Dutch fashion trade fair Modefabriek.

It was the first time the brand had a full scale stand at the trade fair, which drew a lot of attention from the visitors. “This is the first time we are testing out the retail concept in person and for the first time we are really thinking about what we are showing, and how we are presenting it,” explained Tony Tonnaer, founder and Creative Director of Kings of Indigo to FashionUnited. Inside the stand, the concept had a raw, industrial and reclaimed vintage feel, created by exposed brushed metal and recycled wood which aligns with the brand’s core values.

In Picture: Kings of Indigo unveils debut retail concept at Modefabriek

“I would say that we are a more modern day jeans brand - we are not that authentic, we have more of a contemporary feel compared to traditional denim retailers, who lean more towards the black coated steel hangers, wooden floors and vintage display case look.” Rather than tapping into that same aesthetic, Tonnaer created a concept, together with a design studio in Amsterdam, which aimed to convey the brand’s identity to consumers. “We tried to ensure it reflects our brand identity to the consumers, as well as our key values.”

In Picture: Kings of Indigo unveils debut retail concept at Modefabriek

However One of the main aspects of the retail concept sees all the materials used were as ‘green’ as possible. “Much like our products, I wanted to make sure that we use the best quality materials, which were also produced sustainably or recycled, and easily reusable and eventually recyclable.” For example, the pallets used to display the products are recycled pallets made from leftover wood chips, which were then layered with a biological was and covered it all with a transparent coating to give it a glossy finish.

In Picture: Kings of Indigo unveils debut retail concept at Modefabriek

“Much like our clothing, most of it it is made from recycled materials, but sugarcoated into something new. It is modern, well designed, but not ‘granola’ - like our collections.” The new concept also reflects the blend of American and Japanese design aesthetics which are found in Kings of Indigo garments, such as the hanging campaign photos, or the raw wood pallets and the reclaimed stools. “We have received a lot of positive commentary which is nice, because this is first time we have presented a retail concept to the public that we developed ourselves.”

In Picture: Kings of Indigo unveils debut retail concept at Modefabriek

So when can we expect to see the retail concept in store, in person? Little by little Tonnaer and his team are working on creating a modular retail system which can be implemented into Kings of Indigo’s own debut retail store, which is set to open its doors later this year, as well as in its shop-in-shops in department stores such as Selfridges. “We hope to use the concept to host events in store, such as Amsterdam Denim days, pop-up stores, as well as stand exhibits like this.” Tonnaer hopes to have found the ideal location for the denim brand’s first store by September this year, ideally somewhere in Amsterdam, but is not ruling out locations in neighbouring cities, like Haarlem.

In Picture: Kings of Indigo unveils debut retail concept at Modefabriek

Kings of Indigo hopes to open its first store by September or October this year. “It depends where we find a suitable location first, but Amsterdam would be the best because than I can easily pass by the store and even work a few days in store and speak to the store workers on a regular basis.”

Photos: Courtesy of KOI

AllSaints opens first store in Mexico

British fashion brand AllSaints has opened its first store in Mexico as the retailer looks to continue its expansion in Latin America.

The 2,368 square foot store in Mexico City’s Antara shopping centre, located in Polanco, offers menswear and womenswear collections alongside key looks from the autumn/winter 2016 collections and The Capital Collection handbag range.

The space has been designed with the distinctive AllSaints aesthetic, including tailor made fixtures and handcrafted industrial display units, whilst showcasing a unique feature wall displaying signature sewing machines against an LED backdrop.

The retailer’s debut in Mexico was facilitated by Grupo Sordo Madaleno, which currently operates across 25 retail locations hosting fashion, cosmetic and toy franchises.

Commenting on the opening, AllSaints chief executive William Kim, said: “Expansion in Latin America has always been an integral part to our growth strategy and we are thrilled to work with Group Sordo Madaleno on this venture.

“With over 50 years expertise in the Mexican retail sector, Group Sordo Madaleno were an obvious partnership choice for us. Not only do they excel in their existing market, they share our passion for exceptional customer experience and bringing AllSaints’ contemporary designs and premium quality collections to fashion lovers in Mexico.”

The opening in Mexico follows the stores in Peru and Chile launched at the end of 2016. The retailer has 220 directly operated stores, franchises, concessions and outlets in 23 countries including the UK, Europe, North America, Asia and the Middle East.

Image: AllSaints

J.Lindeberg to expand in North and South America

Swedish fashion brand J.Lindeberg plans e-commerce expansions into both North and South America this year, in a move that could boost its online revenue by more than 100 percent by 2018, the company said.

The move follows the recent expansion into the Canadian market, where the company believes there is a “huge opportunity”, with David Feiner, acting director of e-commerce, adding: “We see the online channel as a catalyst. We look forward to quickly expanding into these new territories.”

Jonas Andersson, president of US operations, said: ”Our success has been driven by well-executed strategies starting with a re-platform in summer of 2015. Controlling our own destiny by bringing e-commerce in-house, hiring a director dedicated to its growth, and partnering with eCommerce solutions provider BestRetail, has been a formula for success.”

J.Lindeberg, known for its men's and women's fashion, golf apparel and accessories, reports that it doubled its online business in 2015 and anticipates similar results for fiscal 2016, and this can only continue with the expansion into North and South America.

Andersson added: "We have barely scratched the surface for J.Lindeberg in the Americas, specifically online. We remain committed to fueling growth in this digital world and furthering our partnership with BestRetail.”

BestRetail is a provider of cloud-based retail platforms and provides J. Lindeberg with the platform for its online presence.

Founded in Stockholm in 1996, J.Lindeberg is distributed in more than 35 countries. It’s collections consist of menswear, womenswear, golf, and skiwear.

Image: J.Lindeberg website