2020, the year the fashion industry is going green

Sustainability is high on the list of operational priorities for global brands and retailers, as their supply chains, manufacturing and sourcing are no longer acceptable to be vague, cloudy grey areas. Customers are demanding to know where their goods are made, in what capacity they are produced and more importantly, what they are made of.

As the consumer demands greater insights into the products they buy many brands use a meager sustainability effort to loudly broadcast their green credentials in the media. How often are we not told of a brand who has introduced a small percentage of organic fabric in a capsule collection, or a collaborative effort working with a local manufacturer?

How genuine are big brand's sustainability efforts?

While every step towards sustainability is a step in the 'right' direction, one cannot help the disingenuous boasts from retail behemoths for their 'efforts' while they continue to produce 95 percent of their clothes in cost-saving markets using cheap labour in countries with little regard for the welfare of people, animals, or the impact of processes on the environment.

The high street has been the main driver of disposable fashion

The high street is already full of green options, like H&M's Conscious collections, though it is typical of these corporations to make sure the consumer is boldly informed of all the good they are doing. Yet at the same time their footprint left on the environment by over-producing clothes the world doesn't need is a less addressed conversation. The high street, lest not forget, has been the main driver of disposable fashion, yet the slowest to take on responsibility.

2020, the year the fashion industry is going green

Ironically, the year 2020 has become the target year where many brands and retailers aspire to becoming green. H&M, for example, have a widely publicized goal to use only cotton fabric free of pesticides by 2020. And this week Zara announced it wants 10 percent of its clothing to come from recycled or organic fabrics. This is part of Inditex's wider environmental strategy for 2020, where it hopes to reduce emissions by 55 percent and run eco-efficient stores.

2020, thus, is the magic year the fashion industry, and specifically the fast fashion groups, will truly embrace sustainability.

What is interesting in Zara's goal is that the company is partnering with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to create new, high-quality recycled fabrics.

MIT will launch a contest aimed at Spanish universities and their research teams to present environmentally driven projects. The winners will receive funding to develop their ideas with the support of MIT experts.

“We want to catch up with specialists in this field, which means us developing recycling technology and new fabrics," Inditex said in a news release about the effort.

Of course the mountains of clothes Inditex produces on an annual basis will show no sign of slowing down, but at least some of these mountains will have a path leading to a greener future. Let's wait and see what changes 2020 will truly bring.

Photo credit:Christian Boltanski 'No Man's Land' exhibition, a 50 ton mountain of used clothing

Apple and Google once again dominated the NetBase Brand Passion Report in the UK, which takes a closer look at the brands consumers express the most love for on social media.

While technology brands took the top two spots, there were a number of retailers who made the top 25, including supermarket giant Tesco, which came fourth in the ranking with 111,957 mentions on social media, while sportswear brand Adidas was just below in sixth place, and fashion house Gucci was the top luxury label at number 9.

Other mentions in the list included retailers Marks and Spencer and John Lewis, which took 15th and 16th place on the ranking, respectively. They will joined by Burberry in 19th spot and Rolex which rounded off the ranking at 25.

Consumer goods dominated the ranking with 32 percent of the brands listed, followed by automotive, and technology, with retail coming in fourth place. However, when it came to distribution of UK love by volume of mention the technology brands topped the chart with 58 percent, while consumer goods could only manage 17 percent and retail 7 percent.

The ranking has been gathered from a year of data from April 2016 to April 2017 and analysed 2.4 million mentions across social media.

London - Leading beauty players such as Sephora, NYX, Ulta and Kiko Milano may soon have to contend with another affordable beauty retailer - Forever 21 as the Los-Angeles based fast-fashion retailer is said to be preparing to open a number of stand alone beauty stores.

Forever 21 currently offers its own in-house make-up collection, in addition to offering affordable cosmetic brands such as E.l.f and NYX, as well as Korean beauty products in stores. However a new report from WWD claims that Forever 21 is looking to open 10 dedicated beauty stores under the name Riley Rose by the end of the year. In line with current target audience, the new stores will features a new concept described as retail experiential that focused on millennials. If the beauty stores are well received, Forever 21 may open another 10 stores by March 2018, according to an unnamed source.

A post shared by forever21 (@forever21) on

The new beauty stores are set to offer a wide range of beauty products, including cosmetics, skin care, hair care, tools and Korean Beauty products. Forever 21 push into beauty is set to underline the fast-fashion retailer latest expansion move, following on from the re-launch of its plus-size collection and the expansion of its lower-price offering F21 Red.

However, Forever 21 would not be the first fast-fashion retailer to foray into the beauty world - H&M has expanded its beauty offering over the past few years, expanding its cosmetics range last year and toying with the idea of stand alone beauty stores through its East London beauty pop-up store. Urban Outfitters offers a wide range of beauty and skin care products in store, as does Topshop.

The UK remains a nation of shopkeepers

The UK is still a nation of shopkeepers, according to research from the Local Data Company (LDC) and British Independent Retailers Associations (Bira).

Their findings show traditional independent retailers opened more shops than they closed in 2016 across Great Britain's 500 town centres. Whilst the national chains continued to see a fall, independent shops saw an increase of 159 shops (15 percent) in 2016. This equates to a 36 percent increase from 2015, where 117 shops were added across GB.

In 2016, a total of 29,083 independents either opened (14,621) or closed (14,462), down on 2015 where 29,936 shops opened (15,026) or closed (14,910).

Women's clothing stores saw a decline

Service retail increased by the greatest number of units at 587 units, up from the 385 increase in 2015, up 1.92 percent in 2016 versus 1.28 percent in 2015, however women’s clothing stores saw a decline.

London saw the greatest decline

The East Midlands showed the greatest increase of independents at 87 units, up 1.19 percent in 2016, whereas Greater London saw the greatest decline at -154 units, down 48 percent.

Scotland has seen a boost in the number of independents with an increase of 130 units in 2016 compared to an increase of 75 units in 2015.

Matthew Hopkinson, Director at the Local Data Company commented: “Independents are becoming ever more important to our High Streets. Year by year, the net gain of small businesses is accelerating, even as the net loss of chain stores increases. They are changing the face of our towns as well, as Barbers and Bars replace Clothing shops and Newsagents, with Service and Leisure gradually substituting for Comparison shops.

Not all towns, or even regions, are benefiting from that growth, though. The East, South East and South West of England saw a fall in the numbers of independents in 2016. None, though, saw as big a fall as Greater London, with its rising rents. That challenge is to be amplified over the next five years by rising rates bills as well.”

He added: “The high levels of openings and closures among independents must be seen as a sign of continued buoyancy in our towns. But there is no room for complacency – with a gain on balance of just 159 shops on the back of more than 29,000 openings in 2016, it would take very little for net gains to become net losses.”

Alan Hawkins, CEO, British Independent Retailers Association (Bira), said: “It’s good to have some positive news at last, especially in Scotland. It’s clear that the real winners are those areas where the customer has to be present such as hair and beauty. Service, Leisure and Convenience stores all showed good positive net openings with only Comparison shops doing worse. The truth that most bira members are in this oddly named category is an issue we and our members are working hard to redress.

Given that there are over 100,000 independents in the top 500 towns, this is news to celebrate, as is that 65 percent of all retail and leisure outlets are independents. The fact that net growth is still in the low hundreds means no letup in our effort to convince government that support is needed. Without them it would be a much emptier exchequer. The next few LDC surveys will make interesting reading as the government has failed to deliver the fundamental rates reform we were looking for and we expect some economic realities to hit home.”

LDC is the UK’s leading data creator using real people on the street to acquire the most up to date, on demand location and company specific data for the retail and leisure sectors.

The British Independent Retailers Association (bira) is the voice of independent retailers to help them trade more effectively, profitably and sustainably for the future.

Photo credits: LocalDataCompany.com

Mobile search for fashion and retail up 23 percent

London - As smartphone usage and digital technologies change how consumers shop, it comes as little surprise that online retail searches has grown by 7 percent in the first quarter of 2017.

Fashion is the most searched for sector

According to the latest BRC-Google Online Retail Monitor retail searches on smartphones saw an increase of 23 per cent year-on-year. Fashion was the most-searched for sector by overseas consumers on smartphone devices, reporting growth of 52 per cent in the first quarter. Department stores was also another popular sector for overseas consumers on smartphone devices, increasing 50 per cent the first quarter.

In terms of the UK’s regions, the South West had the fastest growth in search volumes at 23 per cent compared with the same quarter a year ago, while Northern Ireland and Wales both grew by 19 per cent. London, in contrast saw a decline of eight per cent in the first quarter.

British retailers and stores scored high in Estonia, who had an 84 per cent search increase on smartphone devices.

“This points to the significance of retailers tailoring their online offering to suit both traditional browsing and mobile platforms in order to satisfy shoppers,” British Retail Consortium (BRC) chief executive Helen Dickinson said. "Smartphone-ready sites and quick loading times are essential to holding customers’ attention and converting searches into sales. A closer look at the different areas of the UK shows that online searches from nations and regions beyond the centre are growing at a faster rate than urban hubs such as London, which actually saw a fall. Meanwhile, browsing activity from overseas remains strong, with countries as far flung as Estonia and large markets like Germany seeing particularly strong growth. Online sales now consistently make up over a fifth of total retail sales at home, while the appetite for UK brands abroad is clear to see. Satisfying this interest from home and abroad, via computer or smartphone, is the key for UK retailers to make the best of their online offering.”

“Smartphone growth shows no sign of slowing down"

Google retail director Martijn Bertisen said: “Smartphone growth shows no sign of slowing down, with retail searches from mobile devices up 23 per cent year-over-year, seven percentage points higher than last quarter. Looking overseas, the EU continues to fuel growth in demand for UK brands. In particular, Eastern European nations like Estonia and Romania showed growth of more than 70 percent year-over-year from smartphones."

“Closer to home, we saw a slowdown in retail-related searches from Greater London, however there was an increasing appetite from the rest of the country, particularly on mobile. This highlights the importance of thinking local, we have seen up to 40 per cent of searches on Google have local intent, as consumers are more likely to research their purchases online before visiting a store.”

This research would confirm the habit of webrooming when consumers research products online before going into the store for a final evaluation and purchase. This is the opposite of showrooming, which is when a shopper visits a store to check out a product but then purchases the product online. One reason for this is while many people still prefer seeing and touching the merchandise they buy, many items are available at lower prices through alternative e-commerce retailers. As such, local stores essentially become showrooms for online shoppers.


Photo credit: Google

In Pictures: H&M opens its largest store in the UK

London - H&M is set to open its largest UK & IE store to date on May 5, 2017. Located at Westfield Stratford City, the new flagships store features floor-space over 5070 square meters making it one of the largest stores in H&M's global portfolio.

The new flagship store will offer shoppers H&M's entire fashion range, including Ladies, Menswear, Divided and Kids, across three floors. The store will also feature H&M's Home and Beauty ranges, in dedicated sections which see the Westfield Stratford stores become one of London's first "full concept flagship stores."

H&M biggest store in the UK & IE opens at Westfield Stratford City

Hover your mouse over the image below to learn more about H&M biggest UK store

In Pictures: H&M opens its largest store in the UK

At the moment there seems to be little slowing down the aggressive expansion scheme of Swedish fast-fashion chain H&M. In order to reach its growth target, H&M aims to increase sales in local currencies by 10 to 15 percent each year with high profitability. And what better way to attract customers than with a new flagship store?

"H&M are delighted to be expanding in Westfield Stratford City," said Carlos Duarte, H&M's Country Manager for UK & IE. "The new store is not only the largest in the UK & IE, it is also one of H&M's largest Global Flagships. This gives us an exciting opportunity to showcase our entire fashion offering to both new and existing customers."

In Pictures: H&M opens its largest store in the UK

To mark the opening of its biggest flagship store H&M is gifting the first 500 customers in line an exclusive goodie bag, as well as a 25 percent discount wristband which can be used for their entire purchase on the day itself. Shoppers who make a purchase today will also be eligible for a complimentary manicure in store, as well as access to a braid bar. For those who spend more than 30 pounds in store, H&M is also offering access to its monogramming and patch studio for garment personalisation.

The flagship store opening comes as H&M after H&M relocated and expanded its Covent Garden store in order to offer a dedicated beauty area. H&M opened its first store in the UK back in 1976. Now 40 years later it current has more than 260 stores across the UK and Ireland, operating in total more than 4,100 stores in 62 countries around the world.

In Pictures: H&M opens its largest store in the UK

Photos: Courtesy of H&M

Express exits Canadian market, to close all 17 stores

Express has initiated an additional measure as part of its continued strategic approach to improving profitability and managing and optimizing its store footprint. As part of this plan, Express intends to close all 17 Canadian stores and discontinue its Canadian operations through its Canadian subsidiary, Express Fashion Apparel Canada.

Commenting on the development, David Kornberg, Express President and CEO said in a statement that, "The challenging Canadian retail environment, coupled with unfavourable exchange rates prevented us from meeting the expectations we had when we entered the market in 2011. The decision to exit Canada is consistent with our long-term strategy and will have no impact on our operations in the US, which remain in a solid financial position.”

For the fiscal year ended January 28, 2017, Express Canada had net sales of approximately 34 million dollars and contributed a net loss of approximately 6 million dollars to the Express consolidated financial statements.

Express Canada currently has 17 stores across Alberta, British Columbia, and Ontario. To facilitate an orderly wind-down, Express Canada intends to conduct store-closing sales beginning mid-May. Subsequent to the closings, Canadian customers will continue to be able to make purchases through the company's e-commerce website, Express.com and the Express mobile app.


Hammerson has joined forces with Appear Here, digital marketplace leader for renting retail space, to launch a new initiative: Up Market. This new initiative sees the retail destination owner working together with Appear Here to introduce new and emerging independent retailers its existing UK portfolio of shopping centres.

Up Market is said to include a number of the country's leading independent makers, crafters, designers and artisans curated by Appear Here. Set to launch at the iconic Bullring shopping centre in Birmingham this week, Up Market will see a rotating line-up of the top up and coming food, fashion and lifestyle brands. The new initiative, which consists of a three year agreement, sees Appear Here curating commercial mall space in Hammerson's UK shopping centre portfolio, with four Up Markets planned in the first year alone, including Brent Cross, London, Cabot Circus, Bristol and Victoria Quarter, Leeds.

"We are always looking for ways to help the independent brands using Appear Here access the best spaces to showcase their ideas. Even if that means creating space where it didn’t exist before," said Ross Bailey, CEO at Appear Here. "Up Market gives young brands a chance to build brand awareness, test their concept and meet local customers face to face in a prime retail destination while also giving shoppers the chance to discover new brands. Hammerson is a great example of a forward-thinking landlord, which is always looking to create new experiences for its shoppers."

Each Up Market is set to run for a minimum of eight weeks, offering local entrepreneurs and start-up businesses with the chance to trial new products and concepts on a wider-scale in a tried and tested retail environment. Via Up Market independent retailers will be able to rent primer retail space for as little as 300 pounds a week. Brands set to launch at the first Up Market in the Bullring, located on the Upper East end of the mall. include Bug, an eclectic jewellery label and Zero Skin, a natural and organic skincare range.

"We are delighted to announce the launch of Up Market at Bullring, one of the UK’s most iconic retail destinations," Iain Mitchell, UK Commercial Director at Hammerson, commented. "In line with our strategy to create differentiated destinations where more happens, this initiative will shine a spotlight on the UK’s most exciting and innovative retail talent, providing unknown artisan brands with an unparalleled opportunity to engage with millions of customers on a national scale. Rotating the mix of emerging independents will also ensure that our portfolio of leading retail destinations continue to offer personalised experiences, enhancing the customer offer."

"We look forward to working with Appear Here over the coming years, and we are excited about the potential to discover new and emerging brands as the Up Market tour rolls out across our UK-wide portfolio of retail destinations."

Asics to open new flagship store on Regent Street ahead of UK push

EXCLUSIVE Sportswear label Asics is set to open a new flagship store on London's Regent Street this year, as the brand looks to expands its presence in the UK. The flagship store will be the first store from the Japanese sportswear brand to bring together all of Asics performance and lifestyle brands under one roof and will be the first UK store to feature part of the brand's new retail concept.

At the moment Asics currently count 3 stand alone stores in London, as well as one outlet store in Wembley. The new two storey flagship store, which will open at the former French Connection location on 249-251 Regent Street, is set to offer Asics full range, as well as Asics Tiger, Onitsuka Tiger and Häglofs collections. "We have signed a lease for Regent Street. It will be the first store to bring together all Asics brands," said Scott Wakefield, Retail Director for Asics to FashionUnited at the opening of its new flagship store in Amsterdam. "The store will partly feature Asics new concept (the Performance section), and the other brand sections are set to reflect the current store concept. This new concept will also be launched in Asics shop-in-shops."

Asics to open new flagship store on Regent Street ahead of UK push

Asics to open flagship store on Regent Street

The new store concept, which was designed by London-based design agency Brinkworth, aims to reflect Asics roots in running and Japanese heritage. Open spaces with natural lighting, real plants and warm colours, as well as a blend of natural and man-made materials are all key aspects to Asics new store concept. "The store concept offers products and services to runners, as well as the younger generation of all-round active enthusiast and fitness explorers," added Wakefield. The new concept, which was first debuted in Asics store in Brussels last December, is currently being implemented in Asics stores around the world, including Brisbane, Australia, New York, US and Berlin, Germany.

Asics new Regent Street store opening comes as the brand turns its focus to expanding its presence in key locations in order to compete with rivals such as Nike and Adidas."It is a competitive business. Nike, Adidas and Puma excel in their sport lifestyle offering, and no one does that better," said Asics European CEO Alistair Cameron to FashionUnited. "Adidas in particular is on fire. They offer a lifestyle ideal which connects very well with millennials. However, our strength is in the technical and performance side. We must make our products, which are highly qualitative, more visually attractive now. Everyone wants to look better and there is no reason why our products should not look nice." According Alistair Asics retain a 40 percent share of the European market, although it varies depending on location.

Asics to open new flagship store on Regent Street ahead of UK push

Asics to expand its presence in the UK

At the moment Asics is investing in both product innovation and enhancing its retail experience with its new store concept. But in addition to opening a new flagship store on Regent Street, which will exist alongside of the brand's stores on Argyll Street and Oxford Street, Asics also aims to open a number of stand alone stores across the UK to strengthen its local presence. According to Alistair. the brand sees big potential in becoming a stronger player in the country, in spite of the current challenges it faces. "Britain remain a difficult market. The distribution system in this market has been destroyed and it's hard to achieve significant turnover here because the cost of business is very high," said Alistair.

"We could be stronger in the British market, that I will honestly admit. Which us why we are looking at how we can achieve that. We will be opening a new store on Regent Street soon, as there are 35 million people in London, so we can have more stores there. We also plan on opening more stores in the South and East of Britain." Asics is seen as one of the oldest sportswear brands. Founded in 1949 by Kihachiro Onitsuka, the brand is best known for its high performance running shoes.

Photos: Asics

UK sees four years of falling store prices

London - Four years of falling shop prices have seen store costs deflate 0.5 percent in April, down from 0.8 percent in March.

According to the British Retail Consortium, this is the shallowest deflation rate in four years, since November 2013.

Prices on apparel and footwear saw the further decline, down 5.4 percent year on year. Non-food deflation decelerated to 1.4 percent from the 2.0 percent decline in March.

Helen Dickinson, BRC's Chief Executive stated: “This month’s figures mark the four-year anniversary of falling shop prices as competition in the industry continues to keep a lid on prices for consumers. Nevertheless, the rate of deflation has been decelerating month-on month as retailers battle with inflationary pressures resulting from the impact of the weaker pound on input prices.

“Prices are undoubtedly on an upward trajectory, which we expect to gradually play out over the course of the year. With the squeeze on household incomes tightening, the retail industry expects plans from the next Government that puts consumers first in the Brexit negotiations, ensuring that ordinary shoppers are protected from the cost of unwanted new tariffs.”

Mike Watkins, Head of Retailer and Business Insight, Nielsen commented: "Shoppers are seeing inflation in travel, fuel and when spending away from home, so retailers are cautious about passing on cost price increases. So there continues to be deflation in shop prices albeit we are already seeing inflation in food. In the non-food channel and with a late Easter there was a need to stimulate demand and clear stock in readiness for summer ranges, and seasonal promotions also kept prices low as retailers looked to increase footfall and maintain consumer spend.”

Photo credit: Inflation; article source: www.brc.org.uk