Appetite for luxury by Chinese consumer has increased by 20 percent, returning to its 2013 level, according to the 2017 Hurun Chinese Luxury Consumer Survey.

China’s Hurun Research Institute annual survey, which reveals brand preferences, consumption habits and lifestyle trends of China’s wealthiest individuals, shows that 90 percent of Chinese millionaires are confident in China’s economic development.

There was good news for the UK in the results, Britain was ranked 6th in the preferred international luxury travel destination list, rising four places in the rankings from last year, behind the Maldives, France, the US, Australia and Japan.

Harrods took the best London luxury shopping destination honour for the fourth consecutive year, while Backes and Strauss were named the best British jewellery watch brand for the first time, and Jimmy Choo was crowned the best shoes for women.

There was also good news for Burberry as it bounced back into the top ten brands for gifting for men, ranking sixth after Apple, Cartier, Louis Vuitton, Moutai and Chanel.

In the women’s gifting top ten, Louis Vuitton took top honours ahead of Apple, Chanel, Bulgari, Cartier, Hermes, Montblanc, Dior, Gucci, and Prada.

Overall best fashion label for women was taken by Chanel, as was the best accessory for women honour, while the best fashion label for men was awarded to Giorgio Armani, and Cartier was named best accessory for men.

JD Sports staff required frequent hospitalisation, says report

JD Sports staff at its Rochdale warehouse has seen at least 140 of its staff members sent to hospitals, a Guardian investigation reveals.

According to documents the newspaper obtained under freedom of information, ambulances visited the warehouse 166 times in the last four years, with 140 of those incidents leading to a trip to the hospital.

The warehouse employs 1500 people, including agency staff, however JD Sports stated not all ambulance dispatches have been related to workplace incidents, despite occurring during working hours.

The news follows a Channel 4 investigation last year where workers said the warehouses was “worse than a prison”. JD Sports responded the company was “deeply disappointed and concerned by the footage” and was not an accurate portrayal of the company's work culture.

“Health and safety is a high priority and JD have invested heavily in, and are proud of, health and safety at the Kingsway facility, evidenced by our four star for occupational health and safety compliance from the British Safety Council,” the company told the Guardian.

Photo credit: JD Sports store, source: Wikipedia Commons

Under Armour to takeover French Connection Oxford Street flagship

In a changing of the guards, American sportswear giant Under Armour could soon take over French Connection's flagship store on London's Oxford Street.

The British retailer has been looking to offload the building according to the Telegraph, however with a lease expiry date of 2025, it is asking for a swap deal of 10 million pounds.

French Connection has been troubled for some time, however despite the company closing further stores, it saw pre-tax profits increase to 3.5 million pounds form 1.6 million pounds.

French Connection was founded in the early 1970s by Stephen Marks, who remains chief executive, it is based in London and its parent French Connection Group PLC is listed on the London Stock Exchange. The company became notorious for the use of the "fcuk" initialism in its advertising campaigns in the early 2000s, but has struggled to build its success in the 2010s.

Photo credit: French Connection Coven Garden, source: Wikipedia

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