Leading high street department store, John Lewis, is currently making a big push to integrate multi channel shopping methods into their store service. Over the next 12 months, the retailer will start a roll out of bespoke like stores to mix inlocalised products and to support multi channel operations, whilst they will also introduce virtual style mirrors into their main line fitting rooms to provide a quicker and more interactive customer service.
Andy Street, Managing Director of John Lewis, said: “There is a huge potential, and a clear demand from customers, for John Lewis to expand into more key locations in the UK.
“This new flexible approach to the size of our shops allows us to forge ahead with our growth plans to introduce John Lewis branches and our full-line assortment to cities and towns where we have long wanted to have a presence.” He continued, ‘The introduction of new, flexible format branches is in addition to our at home format and we aspire to have ten of these open by the end of 2012. He continued, “John Lewis is committed to continuing to invest in ‘bricks and mortar’, particularly as we know that new shops stimulate our brand presence and online sales in areas where we trade.”
Whilst supporting ‘bricks and mortar’ trade, the retailer is, however, continuously looking at ways to make the consumer experience more interactive.
So, starting at the Exeter City Centre store, John Lewis shoppers will now be able to ‘try on’ multiple fashion lines using a virtual mirrors system; whereby the mirror superimposes clothing products and accessories onto their reflection. The virtual mirror is expected to use sensors to gauge the measurements of a customer and provide a search option capability that allows them to mix and match outfits.
Director of Customer Experience at Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group(the tech company behind the equipment) Clive Grinyer, explains the system will provide new opportunities for cross sell and that “The technology takes the drudgery out of searching for items and exposes people to a wider range of clothing,” he continued, “It will be more efficient and provide the retailer with the chance to cross-sell brands and accessories, while at the same time improving levels of service.’
The new computerised means of shopping aren’t meant to replace more traditional changing room methods, but are due to work in tandem.
“It will be very complimentary to John Lewis’ current set-up, sitting between traditional changing facilities and the company’s fashion adviser service. The quality and speed is refreshing and customers will be able to enjoy being able to see what looks good on them,” Grinyer argues.
Other fashion retailers are likely to follow – word is already out that New Look is too in talks with Cisco.
With a growing industry focus on projecting healthy body shape and image, Bravissimo, the company which makes clothes for full chested, curvy types, have picked a pertinent time to relaunch. However the new, mid-market, clothingoffering ‘with a chest in mind’ will take a more fashion focused direction and will launch on March 21st 2011 under the name, Pepperberry.
‘Bravissimo was receiving more and more requests for products to be added to the collection, so in the end it seemed right to launch a new stand alone retailer,’ remarks Pepperberry product director, Beverley Latchford-Brown.
Beyond this exciting new launch, which will see nationwide store openings (first Aberdeen and Edinburgh), an online store and mail order service, Pepperberry’s arrival also has broader resonance, marking astounding developments in this niche market. ‘Bravissimo was founded in 1995 as just a lingerie retailer for women with average sized bodies and bigger chest sizes but expanded to swimwear, nightwear and clothes,’ continues Latchford Brown. ‘We will now launch Pepperberry with 60 different clothing styles and also a small accessories range. And moreover we have had such customer demand, Pepperberry will also include multiple party, trend led looks.’
But with Bravissimo already having launched their new L size cup at the beginning of the year to the great relief of loyal customers, why is demand in this niche market reaching such a pitch?
Firstly, for comfort reasons. Ill fitting bras, for those who carry these larger chest sizes, can be fatal, causing discomfort, marking or swelling – L-cup breasts are actually a whole stone in weight. According to Latchford Brown, research shows that for years women have been wearing bras too big at the back and small in cup size and have only recently looked for alternatives. Surveys conclude that at least 60% of British women are wearing the wrong sized bra. Another reason for the sudden market growth is simply women’s growing breast sizes. Why? Our modern day obesity levels; breasts consist largely of fat. There are also links between oestrogen levels and bigger breasts, and the decrease in family size amongst today’s generation means that women are more exposed to oestrogen.
It’s also easy to forget how badly women carrying these larger chest sizes are affected in their daily lives. So much so, polls actually show that breast reduction operations have become more recognised and affordable, and that each year about 10,000 women undergo such surgery.
So Pepperberry look to have caught a zeitgeist.
Good Honest Fun, An Honest Day’s Work and Reinvent act as the 3 key inspirations for the launch collection with an in house design team looking at current trends and beyond, and prices range from around £25 - £69. There is also an easy size guide, so for example if you wear a dress size 12 but have a bust of a size 16, then opt for 12 Super Curvy.
‘We will be growing the Pepperberry brand, increasing the volume and scope of styles on offer, and rolling out Pepperberry stores nationwide’ adds Latchford Brown.
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Ángela González Rodríguez
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