London - Fast-fashion retailer Forever 21 has found a new partner to oversee the debut of its standalone beauty store concept Riley Rose. General Growth Properties (GGP) and Forever 21 announced their new partnership on Friday morning, which will see Forever 21 open Riley Rose at 13 GGP regional shopping centres across the United States.

The announcement comes a few weeks after speculation first emerged that Forever 21 was preparing to enter the beauty market with a innovative, stand alone boutique, beauty offering. “These new, experiential spaces will be focused on accessories, cosmetics and home goods for the millennial consumer,” said Do Won Chang, CEO of Forever 21. “We will open 10 stores in 2017, and follow up with three more in 2018.”

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The new Riley Rose beauty boutiques are set to target millennial consumers by offering social media friendly products, at an affordable price point. “Customers have come to expect lifestyle options at their regional shopping centers,” added Sandeep Mathrani, CEO of GGP. “Millennials have embraced the Forever 21 brand, and GGP is thrilled with the introduction of Riley Rose. We know our shoppers will enjoy it.”

Forever 21 has yet to reveal Riley Rose brand offering, and the exact location of the first stores to open, as GGP currently owns and operates 127 retail proportion in 40 states.

Pre-Ramadan rush for British Luxury still hits home

In spite of economic concerns linked to Brexit, the ‘pre-Ramadan’ rush still continues on across the UK, driven on by the pull of the weakened pound and the allure of British luxury according to new data from tax-free specialist Global Blue.

International tax-free shopping spend by Middle Eastern nations, including the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait grew 8 percent last month year on year and is up 12 percent for the year to date. Ahead of Ramadan, which runs from May 26 to June 24 this year, Middle Eastern visitors are known to take a luxury holiday before their month-long religious commitment. This surge in visitor spend comes despite reports indicating a slowdown in Middle Eastern economies.

Middle Eastern visitors led the way for Pre-Ramadan rush in the UK

“The ‘pre-Ramadan rush’ is a key annual calendar moment for UK retail tourism operators,” commented Gordon Clark, Global Blue Managing director for UK and Ireland, “reaffirmed by consistent year on year growth. Middle Eastern visitors have continued to make travel decisions to the UK in the face of low oil prices and, consequently, reduced economic growth forecasts.”

“The favourable exchange rates have, without a doubt, encouraged visitors’ UK purchasing behaviour, as well as the market’s sincere appreciation for British luxury goods accompanied by a high level of service.” Data from UKinbound shows that shopping remains one of the most popular activities in the UK for tourists, in particular for visitors from the Gulf States who spent over 1.5 million pounds in the UK in 2015.

Data from Global Blue confirms this, as Middle Eastern nations collectively account for the largest share of the international tax-free spend market in 2017 with 37 percent, 17 percent more than China at 20 percent. On average Middle Eastern shoppers spend 1,101 pounds per transaction. In particular, Qatari shoppers accounted for the highest average spend in April at 1,744 pounds per transaction, followed by the UAE at 1,318 pounds and Saudi Arabia at 1,082 pounds.

“With Ramadan ending in the last days of June, we anticipate a high volume of spend from Middle Eastern shoppers during July - a few weeks earlier than last year - contributing to another strong month for UK retail tourism.” Overall international tax-free spend in the UK increased 38 percent in April year on year, marking the tenth month of consecutive growth.

However, this increase was in large due to a boost in activity from China, the UK’s single largest [non-EU] tourist market, as visitor spend increased 81 percent. Visitor spend from the United States, another key market, grew 56 percent and Hong Kong visitors’ spend grew 50 percent.

Photo: Global Blue

In Pictures: Geox unveils new store concept 'X Store'

Footwear and apparel retailer Geox has unveiled its newest store concept in Milan, Italy which aims to bring together technology, design, sustainability, and well-being.

In Pictures: Geox unveils new store concept 'X Store'

Known as the 'X Store' concept, the new design preserves and enhances existing architectural features in the building, such as glass windows, columns, ceilings and exposed brickwork and works them seamlessly into the new concept.

In Pictures: Geox unveils new store concept 'X Store'

In line with Geox focus on sustainability the new store concept, which has been unveiled in Geox flagship stores in Rome, London, Toronto Kuala Lumpur, uses only green materials. In fact, all materials used in Geox X Store concept, ranging from the terracotta tiles to the natural wood, are compliant with Leed Certification, in line with the company's commitment to the environment.

In Pictures: Geox unveils new store concept 'X Store'

The new concept also features a range of digital touchpoints to offer consumers a multi-sensorial shopping experience. These range from integrated digital screens and interactive displays where customers can learn more about an item, to charging stations in the fitting rooms. X Store is said to offer further proof of how important technology is to the Veneto-based company.

In Pictures: Geox unveils new store concept 'X Store'

"This is a brand-new approach to retail. As soon as customers cross the threshold of a Geox store, they breathe, see and absorb the values which inspire our corporate design philosophy and mission day by day, gaining insight into our immense motivation to constantly improve quality and performance," said the company in a statement.

In Pictures: Geox unveils new store concept 'X Store'

"Our ultimate goal is to achieve day-to-day excellence, not only in terms of what our customers wear but also in terms of real coherence between urban life and the ethics of sustainability."

Photos: Courtesy of Geox

Hammerson unveils plans for 1.4 billion Brent Cross redevelopment

UPDATE Hammerson and Standard Life Investments submitted a detailed planning application to Barnet Council for the 1.4 billion pound redevelopment of Brent Cross Shopping Centre in London on Friday.

The new plans include the refurbishment and extension of the shopping centre which will see more than 200 new retail stores, 60 restaurants, a cinema, hotel accommodation, a new town square, an enlarged bus station as well as improved public spaces. The redevelopment sees Brent Cross doubling its retail space to close to 2 million square feet.

Hammerson unveils plans for 1.4 billion Brent Cross redevelopment

“Our plans for Brent Cross London are progressive and ambitious. We are in discussions with a breadth of retail and leisure brands who are equally excited at becoming part of north London’s premier shopping centre," said James Stevens, Head of UK Development, Standard Life Investments.

The proposed redevelopment, designed by architects Callison RTKL and Champan Taylor, is set to see Brent Cross Shopping Centre feature a new Marks & Spencer anchor store in addition to John Lewis and Fenwick. All three department stores are said to have been part of the original Brent Cross, which has been credited with revolutionizing retail when it first opened its door in 1976.

Hammerson unveils plans for 1.4 billion Brent Cross redevelopment

The new living bridge, green landscaped boulevard also offer improved public spaces to the area, as the 41-year-old shopping centre will be transformed into a world-class, retail led destination. Depending on planning consent, preliminary work on the redevelopment could start as early as summer 2018.

Peter Cole, Chief Investment Officer for Hammerson said: “This marks another significant milestone in the transformation of Brent Cross. We will create a world-class retail destination that will be the catalyst for a new and vibrant quarter. Brent Cross has been an iconic part of retail for more than 40 years and our plans seek to ensure that it continues to define the next generation of retail in London”.

Photos: via Brent Cross London

Fashion demand to slow as consumers brace for price hike

REPORT As the outcome of the Brexit remains uncertain, UK consumers are bracing themselves for an expensive future. 83 percent of Brits are concerned prices may increase on goods and services soon, with 26 percent of consumers fearing a growth in clothing prices, according to Mintel's British Lifestyles report. This fear, combined with the fact that consumers are choosing to spend their money on other activities, means the UK fashion market is expected to grow a much slower pace this year.

Mintel estimates fashion sales will grow a mere 1.9 percent in 2017 - down from 2.4 percent growth rate in 2016 and 5.6 percent in 2015. Although the UK fashion sector has remained relatively strong in the past, the market has continued to slow down over the years as consumer increasingly prioritize spending money on other leisure activities, such as eating out or a weekend away, then on clothing and footwear. In comparison, the entertainment and leisure sector in the UK grew 3.2 percent in 2016, which is more than the fashion market in the same period.

Fashion demand to slow as consumers brace for price hike

UK fashion sales growth slow in wake of Brexit

The UK fashion is already facing challenging times, and the uncertainty following Brexit will put even more fashion retailers under pressure. Even though most retailers were not directly affected by the devaluation of the pound following the vote to leave the EU, they are likely to be impacted by increased costs in 2017, which will more likely than not result in higher clothing and footwear prices - a detrimental hit to the market.

However, in spite of Brexit woes, there is one category within the fashion sector which is predicted to do well - menswear. The men's clothing market has been growing at a faster rate than womenswear, with sales increasing 2.8 percent in 2016 and is predicted to increase 23 percent over the next five years to 17.3 billion pounds. In addition, just one in five men said they spent less on clothing over the past year in comparison to one in four women (26 percent).

“Whilst womenswear continues to be the dominant category across most of the UK fashion sectors, growth in clothing, footwear, and accessories is being driven by menswear purchases, as male consumers take a greater interest in their personal appearance," commented Samantha Dover, retail analyst at Mintel. "Across the board, footwear and sportswear are proving to be the most robust categories – benefiting from changing lifestyle trends."

"However, as a whole, the fashion sector is facing difficult times: consumers are prioritizing leisure activities when spending disposable income, and high levels of discounting are stunting sales growth. The challenge for fashion retailers in future will be to encourage full-price purchasing, with season-less products and more innovative and personalized in-store experiences likely to resonate.”

Photos: Pexels

Customer dissatisfaction with online shopping at all time high

REPORT More than 78 percent of UK consumers said they would switch to an alternative retailer when shopping online if they had a negative ordering experience in the past, as customer dissatisfaction with online shopping and delivery services reaches an all time high.

This dissatisfaction with online services comes as online shopping continues to rise in the UK, according to the third annual JDA/Centiro Customer Pulse 2017 Report carried out by YouGov. A survey of more than 2,000 UK shoppers found that 56 percent of respondents had encountered issues with an online order over the last 12 months, which is an increase from the 53 percent in 2016.

What's more from these 42 percent said they experience late delivery and 37 percent claimed to have missed a delivery despite being at home on time. In addition, 25 percent failed to their order at all, while 24 percent said they received a damaged item. However the report reveals that customers are not just dissatisfied with home delivery services - a number of respondents also claimed to have experienced a number of problems with click & collect services.

Customer dissatisfaction with online shopping at all time high

UK consumers discontent with home delivery and click & collect services

UK Retailers have been working hard to address the problems customers were previously having with click & collect, which is evident in the number of shoppers who reported an issue. 43 percent of respondents experienced an issue with click & collect this year versus 45 percent. From the 43 percent, 26 percent of respondents cited long waiting times due to lack of staff and 18 percent said staff had been unable to find the click & collect delivery in store.

In spite of these complaints click & collect service usage remains high in the UK, with 54 percent of respondents using the delivery option over the last 12 months, with nearly a quarter of shoppers claiming to have made an additional purchase in store when picking up a click & collect order. The report also highlights customer returns, which remain a retail headache for many UK retailers.

“As the data shows, UK retailers face a challenge on several fronts when it comes to online shopping. Fulfillment and ‘last-mile’ issues continue to hinder retailers’ efforts at a time when consumers are becoming increasingly intolerant of poor service. Today’s shoppers expect retailers to offer a high-level of service across all channels – those retailers that fail to keep up with demand put themselves in serious danger of being left behind,” commented Jason Shorrock, vice president, retail strategy EMEA at JDA.

Customer dissatisfaction with online shopping at all time high

“However, it does appear retailers’ continuing investments in Click & Collect are starting to pay off. Almost a third of UK adults made an additional purchase when visiting a store for a Click & Collect item, which demonstrates the new revenue streams that can open up when a customer sets foot in a physical store. In the online age, some might argue that footfall has lost some of the importance it once held, but these figures could signal the start of an about-face.”

In addition, the report also found that 33 percent of online shoppers returned up to two non-food items a year, with 25 percent returning three or more. The main reason for making a return among UK shoppers was because the item it did not fit their expectations (38 percent), followed by the item being faulty (25 percent), and ordering several alternatives to ensure one item fits well with the intention of returning the rest (17 percent)

“Effectively dealing with returns can’t be ignored. The research shows that for nearly two-thirds of consumers, the ease of being able to return items factors into who they shop online with,” added Niklas Hedin, CEO of Centiro. “Retailers need to see returns as another customer touchpoint, and a way to make a positive impression that engenders greater customer loyalty. It will be those retailers that offer a full-circle brand experience that will capture the larger share of customer wallets.”

Photos: Pexels.com

Online fashion retailer Zalando is currently running its first geolocation-based delivery test in Europe in Belgium in partnership with local start-up Parcify.

The concept is aimed at customers who aren't able to wait in for their deliveries at home or at work, instead, they could use the new service to allow the couriers to use the geolocation on the customer's smartphone to deliver the package.

The test will be carried out for three months in the cities of Brussels, Ghent and Antwerp and customers participating will be able to choose when and where they want their parcel to be delivery, and they will also be able to change the time and place of delivery at short notice using smartphone-enabled GPS tracking.

Zalando have stated that the idea is to “innovate the shopping experience making it even more personal and frictionless” as part of their focus on “reducing the barriers of online shopping”.

For customers to use the new service they need to download the Parcify app and when shopping add the special ‘Parcify address’ for their delivery. This will mean that once the parcel has been delivered to the courier the customer will be informed via push notification to specify their preferred geolocation and time. With customers able to schedule deliveries seven days a week from 7am until midnight.

French bow tie brand Le Colonel Moutarde has opened its first UK store in Shoreditch, east London.

The independent French brand, which currently has stores in Lille and Paris in France, offers more than 250 handmade bow ties, in various colours, patterns, shapes and fabrics, as well as matching cufflinks and pocket squares, with prices started from 26 pounds.

In addition, the store also stocks a large selection of accessories, including braces, boxer shorts, kids bow ties, socks, bracelets, doggy bow ties, ties, and bandanas.

Le Colonel Moutarde also offers bespoke services, where the customer can select the style of bow tie, the colour and the fabric, or if they wish they can supply their own fabric to create unique tailor-made pieces.

The French brand’s bow ties are all handmade by 10 expert couturiers in Lille, northern France.

Le Colonel Moutarde’s store is located at 10 Cheshire Street in Shoreditch, east London.

Quiz opens new digital flagship store in Westfield Stratford City

Fast fashion womenswear retailer Quiz unveiled its newly reopened flagship store in Westfield Stratford City. The refurbished 2,400 square foot unit offers the omnichannel brand’s first ever in-store digital kiosk, as the retailer aims to incorporate a greater digital offering alongside its existing product assortment in store.

The new digital kiosk offers customers the freedom to browse and purchase Quiz’s entire collection online on the spot, regardless of whether the product itself is in the store. Digital has rapidly become a key focus for the brand, which is why Quiz has also implemented a number of iPads throughout the store to supplement the new digital kiosk. In addition, the new store refurbished also includes a high-level scatter wall to visually stimulate customers as they walk by. The new wall is set to feature social media content, campaign videos as well as a wide variety of photos from Quiz.

“Just like our clothes, this store is designed to stand out,” commented Omar Aziz, Retail Operations Director at Quiz. “Our products are designed to make women feel glamorous, so we want our store experience to reflect this by making our customers feel special and to leave them with a lasting impression. Social is huge for us so we are delighted to be able to incorporate this into our physical stores via the scatter wall. By bringing the latest technology in store, we can showcase our wider offering and bring the Quiz brand to life.”

Founded in 1993 in Scotland, Quiz first began trading out of three stores. Since then the brand has expanded its presence to 20 countries, counting over 300 stores and concessions.

Photo: Quiz

Frame launches international shipping

Frame, the fastest growing premium brand in the US, has launched international shipping to a host of countries including the UK, Canada, Australia, Japan and a number of European countries as part of its expansion plans.

Founded by Jens Grede and Erik Torstensson in 2012, Frame quickly became known as the off-duty models favourite denim brand. The LA-based label has since evolved into a contemporary label with a distinctly European aesthetic, producing four ready-to-wear collections a year across women’s and menswear.

Frame launches international shipping

The label launched its e-commerce platform in April 2016, shipping only within the US, and as part of its expansion it has added the UK, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, South Korea and Sweden. With more countries expected to follow.

Frame launches international shipping

The e-commerce site offers the brands womenswear and menswear collections, from both Frame ready-to-wear line and denim ranges. In addition, the website offers an extensive denim fit guide, and a number of e-commerce exclusives.

Frame launches international shipping

Frame is also stocked in more than 1,000 retailers worldwide and in April 2016 it opened its first store in Melrose Place, Los Angeles, with two more stores to follow this year.

Images: courtesy of Frame