H&M's newest brand Arket to open its doors in London this fall

London - Swedish fast-fashion giant H&M Hennes & Mauritz AB shows no signs of slowing down or fear of competition as the group has announced the launch of a brand new retail brand: Arket.

The announcement comes as the H&M Group revealed a 7 percent sales increase in its first quarter sales to 28 February 2017, and few months after initial speculation first emerged that the fashion group was preparing to launch a new label. Named Arket, the new label is set to open its first store on Regent Street in London sometime in early autumn this year. The move sees Arket following in the footsteps of big sister brand COS, which first launched on Regent Street a decade ago, as the H&M Group hopes to recreate COS success under a new formula.

H&M's newest brand Arket to open its doors in London this fall

H&M Group unveils brand number eight: Arket

"Ten years ago the first COS store opened, and since then we have added a number of new brands to the H&M group. Each with its own unique profile, our brands attract customers in various different segments," said Karl-Johan Persson, CEO of the H&M Group in a statement. "We are now looking forward to launching Arket after the summer this year." Arket is set to offer a wide, yet selected range of "essentials for men, women and children" in addition to a smaller curated collection of items for the home, similar to the style of H&M.

"A fantastic team with diverse backgrounds and areas of expertise have come together to build Arket. We’re very excited to soon reveal the brand and share our collections with customers"

Lars Axelsson, Managing Director at H&M Group

However the debut brand aims to offer simple, yet timeless and functional designs, focusing on materials used, function as well as fit. The modern products are set to sit within a "broad price range", which is in a "slightly higher price segment than H&M" added the Group, due to the focus on materials. Arket means ‘sheet of paper’ in Swedish. "It both relates to our origin in the Nordic tradition of functional, long-lasting design and symbolises the blank sheet, the sense of optimism and possibility we felt creating this new brand," explains Ulrika Bernhardtz, Creative Director in a statement.

Arket stores will offer both the brands collections, as well as a selection of external brands which are not part of H&M Group, similar in style to a concept store. In addition Arket Stores will also include a cafe - where location permits stresses Persson, to offer consumers an new shopping experience. The in-store cafés will be based on the 'New Nordic Kitchen' concept, which focuses on offering consumers quality ingredients while promoting healthy living.

H&M's newest brand Arket to open its doors in London this fall

Arket to open debut store in London this fall

The debut Arket store is set to open its doors in London and will launch online in 18 European markets in early autumn 2017. Afterwards the H&M Group aims to roll out ARKET to neighbouring leading cities, including Brussels, Copenhagen and Munich. “We have seven brands today – H&M, COS, & Other Stories, Monki, Weekday, Cheap Monday and H&M Home – and soon it will be time for our next exciting launch, Arket," said Persson.

Arket's launch comes as the global fashion sector continues to push through a turbulant time. "Retail is going through a challenging period of change in which customers’ shopping behaviour and expectations are changing at a fast pace as a result of growing digitalisation," added Persson. "This is an accelerating development which also brings great opportunities." At the moment H&M remains the Swedish fashion group's largest brand, present in 65 markets across the world and most succesful brand. However in order to ensure the group's addditional brands continue to thrive, Hennes & Mauritz needs to makes sure it expands both its new and established brands into new markets while tackling competition in mature markets.

"The announcement of H&M’s new brand Arket comes at an interesting time," commented Bernadette Kissane, apparel and footwear analyst at Euromonitor International. "While the company has been teasing consumers with the potential launch of a new brand for a while now, the concept of Arket is quite unlike anything we’ve seen from the company before. The company’s results have been falling short of expectations recently, consistently outpaced by key rival Inditex and illustrated in its latest annual report."

"Rather than adopt a faster sourcing strategy to compete, the company has opted to introduce new brand Arket to effectively cater to shifts in consumer behaviour, while simultaneously making progress towards the company mission to develop a more sustainable business model... Perhaps more interestingly, is the company’s decision to host third-party brands in store, aiming to create a convenient shopping experience for time-restrained consumers," continued Kissane. "On paper this new shopping format sounds promising, taking into consideration the rapid shifts in consumer trends and fashion retailing, and may well provide H&M with the leverage to gain back some lost market share."

Photo: via H&M

UK retailers call for free trade with EU

Theresa May this week made her long awaited speech about triggering Article 50 to initiate the UK's divorce from Europe.

For British fashion brands, retailers and businesses in general, there are enormous consequences to consider as without free trade between European nations many brands may not be able to survive.

The UK’s leading lobby group for retailers on Wednesday urged the government to prioritise reaching a free trade agreement.

UK retailers can't afford to have import tariffs on clothing

British Retail Consortium chief executive Helen Dickinson said the UK’s retail industry “depends on a continuation of tariff-free trade on all products” with the EU, and this needed to be prioritised so consumers are not “hit with the costs of unwanted import tariffs at a time when the pound is already weakened”.

She recommended the UK pursued a “phased implementation” scheme as she believes it will maintain a free and open trading environment until a new trade deal could come into force.

“Whether through reaching a new trading relationship quickly or securing a phased implementation deal, this must be at the heart of plans for a smooth and orderly Brexit,” Dickinson said.

She also said UK’s post-Brexit labour and immigration policy should be framed to enable retailers and other domestic firms to access the skills and workers they need from the EU.

“The UK retail industry employs approximately 120,000 EU nationals who make a huge contribution in every type of role from the boardroom to distribution centres and customer service,” Dickinson said.

“Workers from the European Union are part of the reason that British retailers are often able to deliver affordable and high-quality goods.

“UK’s post-Brexit labour and immigration policy, should therefore be framed to enable domestic firms, including retailers themselves, to access the skills they need.”

Photo credit:Brexit, source: Alex Edmans

H&M to open largest UK store

Fashion retailer H&M is to open its largest UK store at Westfield Stratford this month to bring a “global flagship” to London.

H&M is relocating from its current store in Westfield Stratford to take up a unit spanning three floors and covering 54,616 square foot of sales space. The flagship will not only be the largest in the UK but also one of the biggest H&M stores in the world.

The new flagship, which opens April 21, will allow H&M to expand its offering in the shopping centre to feature all its collections across women’s, men’s, Divided and kidswear, in addition to stocking the brand’s homeware and beauty ranges.

H&M’s country manager UK and IE Carlos Duarte said: “H&M are delighted to be expanding in Westfield Stratford. The new store will become our largest in the UK and IE, as well as a Global Flagship store. Westfield Stratford gives the brand an exciting opportunity to showcase our entire fashion offering to both new and existing customers.”

Founded in Sweden in 1947, H&M opened its first UK store in 1976. Forty years later, the UK and Ireland portfolio has grown to include in excess of 260 stores.

Image: courtesy of H&M

Coach to open debut store in Birmingham

London - US luxury label Coach is set to open its debut store in Birmingham. Global real estate property management Hammerson announced the New-York based brand is set to open a 280 square meter store in the Bullring shopping centre in Birmingham. The exact opening date of the store has yet to be announced.

The debut store will be located on the upper east level of the shopping centre and offer Coach full range of handbags, footwear, outerwear as well as accessories. The Birmingham store opening will be the second Coach store to open outside of London, following on from the brand's store in the Victoria Quarter, in Leeds.

"We are delighted to be opening our first standalone store in Birmingham. Bullring has a reputation as the region’s premier retail destination, and so it is a perfect fit for Coach," said Andrew Stanleick, President, Coach Europe in a statement. "Following a successful launch in Leeds’ Victoria Quarter last week we are looking forward to bringing Coach’s modern luxury concept and collections to Birmingham.”

Iain Mitchell, UK Commercial Director at Hammerson, added: “This latest signing reflects the strength of Bullring’s leading retail mix, attracting high-end, aspirational brands to the city. We’re delighted to welcome Coach’s first standalone store in the city, which significantly strengthens the already dynamic retail line-up at the centre.”

Photo: Coach SS17 Campaign, Coach website

Jacamo launches on Asos

London - Menswear retailer Jacamo has launched on Asos as part of its digitally-led strategy to boost brand awareness among millennials.

The move is seen as part of owner N Brown Group wider scheme to begin offering curated ranges of its brands on a number of partner websites to further extend their reach online. Jacamo was selected as the first brand to test out the scheme, as it is currently in the process of repositioning its brand image as a size specialist which caters to all men, for any occasion.

Jacamo's new partnership with Asos sees the online retailer offering a capsule collection of approximately 25 pieces, available in sizes L to 5 XL. A number of the products available will also be available in both regular and longer lengths, for taller men. "This is a really exciting opportunity for the Jacamo brand, especially as we continue to drive our digital-first strategy," said Martin Roberts, head of buying at Jacamo in a statement.

"With ten years of trading under our belt, we have expertise and an established place in the market when it comes to being a specialist fit fashion retailer. We’re confident the Jacamo collection will resonate well with Asos’s customer base." Depending on the outcome of Jacamo's trial run on Asos, the menswear retailer may expand its product offering on the British online retailer in the future.

Photo: Jacamo SS17, Courtesy of Jacamo

Meadowhall refurbishment attracts new signings

The 60 million pound refurbishment of Yorkshire’s Meadowhall shopping centre has attracted six new signings and upsizing totalling over 85,000 square foot.

The biggest upsize will be from budget fashion retailer Primark which is extending its existing 21,000 square foot store to create a 95,000 square foot flagship, as it moves into part of the former BHS unit.

While Sports Direct has leased the remainder of the former BHS unit, increasing its presence in the shopping centre to 44,000 square foot. Work has already started to create the larger stores for both brands, with the new regional flagships expected to launch this autumn.

Meadowhall refurbishment attracts new signings

Tom Meager, group director of property at Primark, said: “The chance to create a larger store at Meadowhall was one we could not miss. We will open our new store at Meadowhall just as British Land completes the bulk of its refurbishment, so the timing could not be better.”

They will be joined by new stores from Schuh Kids, which is opening a 9,000 square foot store and Timberland, who has secured a new look 1,950 square foot store, both are opening on Meadowhall’s High Street in April.

The other signings include household goods retailer Wilko and coffee shop Second Cup.

Richard Crowther, asset manager for British Land, added: “With the refurbishment gathering pace, more and more brands are seeking to locate their leading stores at Meadowhall. For many, this means expanding their existing presence, allowing them to stock their full product range and benefit from the placemaking activities British Land brings to all its retail centres.

“These signings are ahead of previous rents, complement the refurbishment and reaffirm Meadowhall’s reputation as the leading shopping destination in the region. This is a very exciting time for the centre.”

The latest signings and upsizes follow recent openings by Nespresso, Hawes and Curtis, T2, The Entertainer, Barburrito, Coffika, and Pret A Manger, along with new larger stores for JD Sports and Virgin Holidays.

Images: courtesy of Meadowhall/Primark

​Mr Porter expands watch offering with Bell & Ross

London - Mr Porter is set to offer a curated selection of 21 watches from high-end Swiss label Bell & Ross.

The move sees Mr Porter expand its current watch offering, which includes premium smartwatch Montblanc. Set to launch on April 4, Mr Porter will offer key pieces from Bell & Ross Vintage and Instruments collections, including WW1. BR 123 and BR 126 Chronograph timepieces.

"We are thrilled to be launching Bell & Ross on Mr Porter, an independent brand creating true utilitarian timepieces, with a unique blend of contemporary and heritage style," commented Toby Bateman, Managing Director at Mr Porter. "Our customers will have the pleasure of browsing a curated selection of 21 styles, ideal for both the aspirational buyer as well as the established watch collector."

​Mr Porter expands watch offering with Bell & Ross

In honour of the Swiss label's debut on Mr Porter, the online platform is set to feature Bell & Ross and watch expert Robin Swithinbank in its new video series named 'Tick Talk' on April 6. The curated collection launch on Mr Porter builds on Yoox Net-a-Porter foray into the high-end luxury watches and jewellery sector, as the Group aims to increase its offering. Prices for Bell & Ross watches on Mr Porter are set to range from 1,400 pounds to 5,000 pounds.

“We are excited to be working with Mr Porter. The retailer shares our vision of innovation through digital and is constantly striving for excellence as we are. The selection of timepieces available on Mr Porter consists of a range of classic Bell & Ross time instruments," added Carlos A. Rosillo, CEO, Bell & Ross. "All timepieces are made with the most advanced watchmaking techniques and intricately developed design details that we know the Mr Porter consumer will appreciate."

Photos: Courtesy of Bell & Ross

John Lewis opens applications for accelerator programme JLAB

The John Lewis Partnership is accepting applications for its JLAB 2017 programme, an annual global start-up accelerator that will kick start a company with funds of 100,000 pounds.

The retail tech accelerator is aimed at companies with disruptive retail tech ideas and run by innovation specialist L Marks. John Lewis launched the programme in 2014 to help talented tech start-ups fast-track their growth by giving them inside access to John Lewis’s resources and the chance to apply for funding in exchange for equity.

The scheme enables John Lewis to tap into emerging innovation in retail, which will see five to ten successful applicants take part in a 12-week programme. In return John Lewis will be at the forefront of shaping the retail experiences of the future.

Selected applicants will receive support from senior-level mentors and free workspace in John Lewis’s head office in London’s Victoria and Waitrose’s head office. Applications for the accelerator open on March 28th.

Photo credit:John Lewis Jlab logo

The store of the Future: Q&A With Richard Hewitt, Head of Digital Stores at Marks & Spencer

With many retailers seeing investments in digital store experience pay off with increased sales, in-store innovation is becoming more important than ever as well as a transformation journey. However, with this rapid pace of change and so many unknowns, turning a digital concept into reality can be a huge challenge.

Richard is Head of Digital Stores for M&S, where he leads the charge on in-store digital solutions. Today he is sharing his thoughts on the trends for the future and what retailers need to do to capitalize on them.

At 31 st May, he will give live insights on how to foster an culture of innovation during Future Stores: the event for 150+ retail innovation professionals. The store of the Future: Q&A With Richard Hewitt, Head of Digital Stores at Marks & Spencer

Together they’ll share experiences, benchmark ideas and discuss the latest technologies at Europe’s only event that is focused on driving in-store sales through digital. You can see the full agenda here.

What technological trends do you believe will grow over the next 12 months?

Over the next year I suspect we are going to continue to see the rise of the Internet of Things, with more and more everyday household and personal items becoming connected to the internet. It’s like that we’ll see the wearable technology become come commonplace, along with the growth of new payment vectors

What is the one thing that retailers need to keep front of mind when considering new technologies?

New technology can seem to be very attractive, what I like to call the ‘Buzz Lightyear Effect’. It’s important to be clear on whether there is an early or first mover advantage to bringing on a new piece of tech. For most retailers it’s probably worth learning from others first and copying with pride without having the cost of investing in unproven early- stage technology. It’s not unusual for companies to get wooed by early stage businesses, who use their first rounds of customers as test-beds for un-proven concepts. Be clear on the problems that is being solved and make sure that the technology being proposed is relevant, scalable and can co-exist with the current technology stack

What can digital do to help improve the role for store associates?

With the advent of greater mobile connectivity the potential touchpoints for brands to be engaging with consumers, this means that the in-store experience is only part of a greater web of engagement. Putting the customer at the heart of the experience and not injecting technology for the sake of it is crucial here. It may look cool to give everyone a Tablet on the shop floor, but make sure that it’s not getting in the way of the human interaction customers are expecting in-stores.

Customers elect to come into stores, expect, and in many cases prefer, the human touch. Digital needs to be un-intrusive and complementary during customer interactions.

On the operational side there is a considerable amount that can be done to improve internal processes and operational efficiency more generally. Converging around fewer types of devices, building store operations around event based task management, reducing duplicated efforts and the like are all strong candidates for digital solutions.

Why are you attending Future Stores this year?

Future Stores gives is a great opportunity to network with colleagues from adjacent businesses and get a picture of what common challenges there are. Seeing what’s coming on the horizon from new and existing vendors is always good and I’m looking forward to being wowed by the amazing new things that are bound to be on display.

Richard will share his insights live at Future Stores, in the following session:

PANEL REVOLUTION: Fostering a culture of innovation: How can you encourage your staff to overcome a fear of failure mindset and embrace an ethos for staying ahead of the game with new digital business transformation concepts?

Paul Wills, Director Dealer Development, Hyundai Motor UK

Richard Hewitt, Head of Digital Stores, Marks and Spencer

Moderator: Francesca Danzi, Former Director of Global Beauty- Burberry, Managing Director & Founder- Danzi

You can see the full agenda here to find out who else is speaking, and how attending this event can benefit your omni-channel strategy. If you want to attend at 31 May - 1 June in London, be sure to use code FASHION15 when booking online, to guarantee 15% off the ticket price.

Ted Baker to open debut outlet in Roermond

London - Ted Baker is set to open its debut outlet store in the Netherlands later this year as the high-end retailer continues to expand its presence in newer markets.

The lifestyle brand aims to open its first outlet store in Designer Outlet Roermond, the Netherlands, a shopping centre held by the McArthurglen group, revealed Ted Baker in its annual report for fiscal year 2016. The exact location of the store and the opening date have yet to be announced.

The outlet opening follows on from Ted Baker's debut in the Netherlands in 2012, which saw the brand open a series of shop-in-shops at premium department store De Bijenkorf. In September 2015, Ted Baker opened its debut standalone store on Leidsestraat, in Amsterdam, which pays homage to Dutch classical artists and painters.

In addition to opening its first outlet store in the Netherlands, Ted Baker is also set to open another outlet store in Gloucester, UK as well as new standalone stores in Oxford and Paris, France. Ted Baker also aims to strengthen its presence in Europe by opening a series of further concessions in the UK, France, Germany and the Netherlands.

Across the ocean in North America, Ted Baker aims to continue building its presence through a string of new store openings in Los Angeles and Houston as well as new concession openings in Canada with a premium department store. Ted Baker also aims to build brand awareness in Asia this year, and will be opening another store in Shanghai, China as well as new concessions in South Korea and Japan.

Photo: Courtesy of Ted Baker