retail

Virgil Abloh to Be Celebrated in Nordstrom’s Latest Pop-up

Virgil Abloh to Be Celebrated in Nordstrom’s Latest Pop-up

Nordstrom is dedicating its latest New Concepts@Nordstrom shop to late designer Virgil Abloh.On Thursday, the retailer in partnership with Abloh’s estate, will unveil Concept 018: Virgil Abloh Securities, which will encompass a variety of his endeavors in fashion, art and culture. The shop will include pieces from his apparel brand Off-White, as well as his creative studio Alaska Alaska, art store Canary Yellow and the Church & State merchandise from Abloh’s “Figures of Speech” exhibition on display at the Brooklyn Museum.
Virgil Abloh Securities is a creative corporation founded by the designer, who died in December at the age of 41 after a two-year battle with cardiac angiosarcoma, that hopes to maintain his approach and ethos.

Nordstrom is a sponsor of the exhibition at the museum that runs through Jan. 29, 2023 and the campaign images for the Concept 018 shop were shot outside of the Brooklyn landmark. The retailer partnered with the museum on the exhibition opening party in June, as well as on the “Brooklyn Talk” series that honored the legacy of Abloh. Throughout the duration of the exhibition and the New Concepts shop, Nordstrom will continue to partner on events and activations with the Brooklyn Museum including the Social Sculptures series featuring Jian DeLeon, men’s fashion and editorial director at Nordstrom, and the Teen Night programming where Nordstrom will participate in a mentorship session.

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Sam Lobban, Nordstrom’s executive vice president and general merchandise manager of apparel and designer, who launched the New Concepts concept, said: “We are excited and honored to bring Concept 018: Virgil Abloh Securities to fruition. We started working on the project with Virgil and his team back in March 2021, and hope that the end result can help in celebrating his passion, energy and purpose which he brought to every endeavor. We’re grateful to Shannon Abloh and the Virgil Abloh Securities team for the opportunity and are excited for our customers to be able to participate in continuing his legacy.”

The retailer is a sponsor of the Abloh exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum.

The shop features men’s and women’s ready-to-wear, shoes and accessories. It includes an exclusive capsule from Off-White with embroidered T-shirts and hoodies, varsity jackets, track pants and a check shirt and matching kilt for men, and dresses, cropped T-shirts, sweatshirts, overshirts and lace dégradé tops and pants for women. Prices range from $400 for the cropped T-shirts to $4,465 for an embroidered Strass varsity jacket. There are also baseball caps for $330, dégradé sneakers for $605, bags for $1,935 and the Paperwork fragrance for $185.
The Canary Yellow offering includes T-shirts with an Abloh stripe for $55, a Virgil Abloh Securities logo or the quote: “Design is the Freshest Scam” for $65, as well as grip tape for $28, a candle for $15 and keychains for $12. There’s also a Denim Tears x Canary Yellow hoodie and T-shirt.
Other pieces in the shop include a collaboration with skateboarder Sal Barbier that includes T-shirts, hoodies, jackets, jeans, a cap and sneakers ranging in price from $335 to $940 and a selection of skateboards retailing for $545.
The Figures of Speech/Brooklyn Museum line, which includes children’s apparel as well as adult, ranges from T-shirts and hoodies and track pants to mugs, totes, postcards and stickers that range in price from $9 to $130.

In addition to the shop and exhibit, Nordstrom is making a donation to the Fashion Scholarship Fund’s Virgil Abloh “Post-Modern” Scholarship Fund to foster equity and inclusion in the fashion industry by providing scholarships to students of academic promise of Black, African American or African descent. The fund will include a direct donation to selected scholars and the opportunity for them to be mentored by Nordstrom executives on the retail part of the fashion industry.
Concept 018: Virgil Abloh Securities will be available at 15 Nordstrom locations around the country including the men’s store in New York, the Seattle flagship, units in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh, as well as online.
Previous Concept pop-ups have included those devoted to sports as well as brands Fear of God, Pangaia and Thom Browne.

Despite Store Closures, Niche Brands Can Still Make It Big in China

Despite Store Closures, Niche Brands Can Still Make It Big in China

SHANGHAI — Off-White is the latest international fashion brand to scale back its China operations after the country’s key cities went through months-long COVID-19 lockdowns.According to local media reports, the label founded by the late Virgil Abloh recently shut down four stores in Shanghai, Chengdu and Xi’an.
The brand still operates seven stores in Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Tianjin, Shenyang and Chengdu.
The store inside Shanghai’s upscale Réel Mall has been replaced with Totême, WWD observed on Tuesday. The only store that remains open in Shanghai is located in Galeries Lafayette Shanghai, which is operated by I.T, the same local retail partner as Off-White.
Both Off-White and I.T did not respond immediately to WWD’s requests for comment.

Industry experts believe the brand remains popular in second- and third-tier cities, but as its China franchise operator I.T goes through a retail reorganization post-lockdown, Off-White’s retail future remains up in the air.

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When Off-White entered the market in 2017, the pop-culture association quickly ignited the interest of young hypebeasts.
The brand expanded to 16 stores by the end of 2020. Its marketing initiatives included a focus on exclusive and limited product offerings in China. But at the time, local media outlets discovered that Off-White-related content is highly associated with keywords like “discount” on Xiaohongshu, the popular social-commerce app.
According to local retail insiders, despite quickly expanding its retail network, the brand fell short on localized branding and content creation.
“Shoppers didn’t truly get the vibe of Off-White to begin with, and in China, the cost of forgetting is extremely low,” said a fashion buyer of a well-known retail operator in Shanghai.

Backstage at Trussardi RTW Fall 2022

Daniele Mango/WWD

But Off-White isn’t alone. Italian luxury label Trussardi also decided to suspend direct operations in China recently. The brand is in the process of closing one directly operated store but retains its franchise and wholesale business in China.
“The strategy has evolved in light of the changing context in the market,” Sebastian Suhl, the brand’s chief executive officer, told WWD at the time.
“The pandemic impacted the whole retail landscape for brands in every segment. That’s the negative side of the story,” said real estate operator URF’s chairman and founder Dickson Szeto.
“But on the other hand, we see brands with a positive attitude that have taken branding and storytelling to the next level. That’s why we also see companies like OTB doubling down on the market. They can capture the opportunities presented by clients who couldn’t travel abroad to shop,” added Szeto.

A look from Nanushka for resort 2023.

Courtesy

Samuel Ross’ fashion venture A-Cold-Wall, Sequoia Capital China-backed South Korean fashion brand We11done, as well as Alexandre Mattiussi’s Ami, British handbag brand By Far, Polish underground club kid favorite Misbhv, and Hungarian label Nanushka under Vanguard Group are some entrants gearing up for brick-and-mortar store launches in the Chinese market this year.
Meanwhile, Holzweiler, the Scandinavian brand recently backed by Sequoia Capital China, plans to open a Tmall store this fall, according to market sources.

Angelica Cheung, venture partner at the firm and founding editor of Vogue China, who just relocated from Beijing to Hong Kong with her family, believes Holzweiler has “a huge opportunity to expand to other parts of the world, especially at a time when audiences value nature, the outdoors, and human connection more than ever before.”

Suzanne, Andreas and Maria Skappel Holzweiler.

Courtesy of Holzweiler

In a post-lockdown China, shifts in consumer attitudes have created space for new players that can fulfill shoppers’ changing style needs.
“Consumer’s emotions are increasingly complex and volatile after the pandemic, leading to more eclectic aesthetic needs,” said Xueying Sun, WGSN China’s senior editor. “We see a return to classics and practicality, and at the same time a call for extremely trendy and artistic designs.”
Sun thinks niche brands need to produce products with “flexible design elements with traffic driving features.”
Szeto said brands “can’t ‘lie flat,’ but must aggressively maintain a positive online attitude, or online storytelling approach.”
For Shanghai-based Julio Ng, executive director of the fashion showroom Seiya Nakamura 2.24, which represents more than 40 brands including Rick Owens, Christopher Kane, Dion Lee, Ganni, Marine Serre, Peter Do, Stefan Cooke and Tomo Koizumi, niche brands must also constantly reinvent their hero products to keep the surprise alive.
“Consumers in China right now have the money to spend. The best way to improve and experience fashion is to spend the money to buy it, wear it and try it,” said Ng.
“But once it’s been worn, its photo has been taken or posted on social media, the value of the pieces decreases. So designers have to reinvent their so-called signature pieces constantly. That’s the most important part,” he added.

Eli Russell Linnetz of ERL.

Dominique MAITRE/WWD

To maintain momentum, Ng thinks brands need to pick up the pace with fresh product releases.
“When the market is saturated, and a brand has not been able to reinvent those bestselling styles, it very often leads to a decline in wholesale. And once that happens, it basically just collapsed everywhere,” said Ng.
Both Szeto and Ng suggest young niche brands take on “short-term activities” such as pop-ups or brand-related in-store activities to make some noise in the market when it reaches peak influence.

For example, the Shanghai-based concept store ENG plans to launch a pop-up for Eli Russell Linnetz’s namesake label ERL this September, while Marine Serre is looking into similar activations in the market.
“But we realized that an installation at a store is not enough. What’s more important is how these installation or community programs tie back to the brand and each of the retailers, VIP customers, or followers,” said Ng.
Initial brand building means maintaining a healthy relationship with seed customers, which includes local celebrities, influencers and VIPs, who will become an asset for niche players to help with organic growth.

Marine Serre, spring 2023

Courtesy of Primexposureimage/Ma

“The brands need to make these people feel like they are a part of the brand family, they are cared for, this is also an important attitude to communicate,” said Szeto.
When the brand sees enough traffic on social media and e-commerce sites like Tmall, there’s a window of time to establish a permanent retail presence in the market.
“Normally, I would say if you reach 1 million euros in wholesale orders in China alone, you can consider finding a Taobao Partner company to set up a Tmall International or Tmall Local online store,” said Ng.
“But if you don’t reach that amount, I would say don’t even think about it, because even though if you set it up, you know you end up spending a lot of money for digital and offline marketing. And you might not even see any sort of payoff,” he added.

Dior Signals Confidence in Hong Kong With New Flagship on Canton Road

Dior Signals Confidence in Hong Kong With New Flagship on Canton Road

PARIS — Shrugging off the impact of political turmoil and the coronavirus pandemic on Hong Kong tourism, Dior has opened a new boutique on Canton Road in the city’s bustling Tsim Sha Tsui district.The 9,500-square-foot flagship, featuring a facade illuminated with a deconstructed version of the French fashion house’s signature “cannage” motif, is spread over two floors carrying women’s and men’s ready-to-wear, leather goods, shoes, accessories, fine jewelry, watches, home wares and perfumes.
The interior takes its cue from the brand’s headquarters at 30 Avenue Montaigne in Paris, with an interior in shades of powdery white, gray and gold featuring accents such as Versailles parquet floors and its trademark Toile de Jouy fabric.

At the main entrance, visitors are welcomed by a giant crystal chandelier, and the store features original works by artists including China’s Lu Song, Wang Yuyang and Hong Hao. A spiral staircase at the rear of the store leads to dedicated areas for fine jewelry and home wares.

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The fine jewelry department in Dior’s flagship on Canton Road in Hong Kong.

Marcel Lam/Courtesy of Dior

To mark the opening, Dior is offering exclusive products including box sets containing four embroidered miniature Lady Dior bags; Rose des Vents jewelry creations adorned with colorful gemstones, and selected items from the fall women’s collection designed by Maria Grazia Chiuri, featuring embroidered motifs.
The store, which opened Monday, is also offering early access to the fall men’s collection by Kim Jones, as part of its pre-launch in the Asia-Pacific region.
The absence of tourism continues to weigh on Hong Kong’s retail market, according to a recent report by global real estate consultancy Knight Frank. Burberry confirmed last month it had closed its flagship on Canton Road, one of the world’s most expensive shopping streets.
“In the near term, the outlook for Hong Kong’s retail market remains highly difficult, so retail rents are expected to face further pressure. Uncertainty in the economy, interest rate hikes and delays in the border reopening could weigh on consumption sentiment,” Knight Frank said in a report last week.
On the upside, the local government is set to hand out a second round of consumption vouchers, worth 5,000 Hong Kong dollars, or $637 at current exchange, in August, which should underpin retail sales and restaurant receipts in the short term.

The VIP men’s department in Dior’s new flagship on Canton Road in Hong Kong.

Marcel Lam/Courtesy of Dior

Fred Segal Taps Concept One for Accessories

Fred Segal Taps Concept One for Accessories

Concept One, extending its streak of licensing deals signed in recent seasons, will produce fashion accessories, luggage and handbags for Fred Segal, the cool California lifestyle retailer.The companies disclosed the exclusive multiyear license agreement on Friday.
“Fred Segal is a unique fashion brand, steeped in Hollywood history with ties to celebrities and entertainment for over 60 years,” said Sam Hafif, chief executive officer of Concept One.
“For years, it was my personal favorite spot anytime I traveled through Los Angeles. I’d stop in to see their latest curated designer brands, and to pick up a few fun things to wear while in town. The new flagship location on Sunset Boulevard is a modern-day rendition of the cult classic location that we all remember.”

Hafif said the upcoming line of fashion accessories and handbags will “speak to the Hollywood culture” and launch in spring 2023. The merchandise will be carried at the Fred Segal stores and on FredSegal.com, and will be offered for wholesale distribution through department and specialty stores.

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The leather bags will retail from $250 to $300; the hair, hats and soft accessories will retail from $24 to $36. “The styling will be colorful and contemporary with a focus on smaller shapes,” Hafif said.
Concept One and Fred Segal also plan to collaborate on limited drops with some of Concept One’s other license partners, Hafif added.

A rendering of a Fred Segal bag by One Concept for spring 2023.

“Licensing our brand through limited collaborations and fully branded product categories is a key initiative for us as we expand beyond our Southern California roots,” said Jeff Lotman, CEO of Fred Segal and Global Icons, a branding and licensing company. “Concept One’s design capabilities, product quality, distribution network and passion for Fred Segal made it a natural fit for our program.” 
Global Icons’ clients include Hostess Brands, Turtle Wax, Betty Boop, U.S. Postal Service, Vespa and Colgate-Palmolive as well as Fred Segal. The license agreement with Concept One was negotiated by and will be managed by Global Icons, which is based in Los Angeles.
Fred Segal has five stores; on Sunset Boulevard in L.A., in LAX Airport, as well as in Malibu, Las Vegas and Seoul, South Korea. Another store will open in The Shops at Sportsmen’s Lodge in L.A.’s Studio City.
Segal, who founded his business in 1961, passed away in 2021. He was considered a retail innovator who designed his own collection, collaborated with designers, artists and emerging brands to create unique capsules, and elevated the retail experience with denim bars, shops-in-shop and immersive experiences.
Founded in 1999, the New York-based Concept One Accessories designs and produces licensed cold-weather accessories, handbags, backpacks and luggage, and also has offices in Mexico and China along with a partnership in Canada and a London design studio. In 2021, FUBU signed on Concept One to produce a range of accessories and distribute the products to brick-and-mortar stores and online. Concept One also recently signed deals with Brooks Brothers; Smoke Rise, a men’s streetwear brand and private label supplier that’s part of New World Creation Inc., a Korean American company, and designer Christian Siriano.

A rendering of a Fred Segal bag by Concept One for spring 2023.

Alex Mill Opens Shop at 77 Mercer Street in New York

Alex Mill Opens Shop at 77 Mercer Street in New York

Alex Mill officially will open a new store Saturday at 77 Mercer Street in New York.Founded by Alex Drexler in 2012, Alex Mill already has a store on Madison Avenue and 87th Street, which it opened in December. A little over a week ago, it closed a 3,000-square-foot unit across the street from the store on Mercer, which it had since early 2020.
“It’s our first bi-level store. The new space became available and it gives us a more concise customer experience,” said Somsack Sikhounmuong, cofounder and design director, who joined Drexler in the business in 2019, having worked at J. Crew for 16 years. Alex’s father, Mickey Drexler, became the company’s chief executive officer in 2021.

Sikhounmuong said the new store’s configuration allows them to show “the full breadth of the collection,” and to emphasize core pieces, such as the work jacket, the men’s shirts and jumpsuits.

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Designed by artist Mary Matson, whose whimsical paintings and sketches have been part of the Alex Mill story, the space is grounded by utilitarian furniture and props that speak to the workwear influences in which the Alex Mill core collection is grounded.
The 2,500-square-foot shop has white walls and peg boards, alongside wooden floors and modular display units punctuated with pops of the brand’s signature colors of red, navy and pale blue. Other decor elements are bespoke artwork, such as a handmade quilt that echoes Alex Mill’s ethos “guaranteed to never go out of style.” Campaign images line the walls as well as portraits of the brand’s team. A hot dog stand with an umbrella made from upcycled Alex Mill shirting fabrics acts as a cash wrap.

The cash wrap resembles a hot dog stand.

courtesy shot.

Sikhounmuong’s ceramics are used for the weekly flower arrangements, and Quiet Town, the New York-based accessories label, has designed and created the changing room curtains using their proprietary garment-dyed canvas. With keen attention to detail, the changing room curtains have embroidery that has sayings such as “Uniforms for Individuals.”
The first floor mostly houses the seasonal collection, with the basement dedicated to a jumpsuit store and accessories space as the brand expands its bag and shoe offering. Overall, prices in the store range from $45 to $255, with the sweet spot being $140.
In celebration of the opening, an exclusive partnership with Paris-based vintage store Brut Archives will offer 200 pieces of their specialty vintage lines available in the U.S. for the first time, alongside a small collaborative capsule collection, all made in their Paris atelier. The line, which will arrive Wednesday, features the Alex Mill tote bag, Brut work jacket and bucket hat styles decorated with their hand-sourced vintage and custom patches.
Although the brand began as a men’s business, in 2019, when Sikhounmoung joined, and then in 2021, when Mickey Drexler became CEO,  they started building up the women’s. The breakdown in the new store is now 57 percent womenswear, and 43 percent menswear.
On the lower level, the focus is on different styles of jumpsuits, which Drexler called “The 15 Second Outfit,” and there’s a neon sign on the lower level that says that. The jumpsuits range in price from $168 for the shorts one to $225.

The lower level is dedicated to jumpsuits and accessories.

courtesy shot.

Drexler said the key to all their designs is to “wake up, get dressed and don’t overthink it.”
Right now, the company does wholesale business with stores such as the Mohawk General Store in Los Angeles, Stag in Austin, and Net-a-porter, among others. Drexler said he’s not looking to expand wholesale at this point. Its website started selling internationally last month.
The company has a smattering of accessories, including tote bags, footwear, baseball hats and socks. For men, it carries third party sneakers and some suede wallabees. Women’s footwear is manufactured in-house and includes flats.

The footwear and tote bag display on the lower level.

courtesy shot.

According to Drexler, the collection is manufactured mostly in China and the U.S., while the shoes are made in Italy.
One of the interesting things that Alex Mill does is take surplus goods and rework them into something new. The brand doesn’t put anything on sale, and instead gives new life to surplus styles under its Rework program.
As part of its totes offering, it’s carrying one that is made of leftover sailcloth from Quiet Town. They use Quiet Town’s surplus sailcloth and Alex Mill’s shape and design. Totes range from $135 for the small one to $185 for the big one.
Asked what he attributes the popularity of the jumpsuit to, Sikhounmuong said, “It’s definitely a cool factor and also the practicality.”
Discussing where they’d like to see the next retail store, Drexler said, “We’re not in a rush but want to find the right location.” He said the previous Mercer store “was doing well. This is a much better space.”
Going forward, the brand plans to add more denim for fall, as well as cashmere sweaters and cashmere beanies. They’ve also got a three-piece corduroy suit for fall and a tweed jacket.

Prada Hits the Hamptons

Prada Hits the Hamptons

Prada has joined the proliferation of luxury brands in the Hamptons.
In the heart of the village of East Hampton, Prada on Friday opened a permanent, 1,600-square-foot shop situated at 2 Newtown Lane. It’s the first time the Italian luxury brand has opened a store in the Hamptons, representatives from the company confirmed.
The building is “sober and elegant in keeping with its surroundings, while the interior is framed by a sequence of large windows,” the company said in a statement provided to WWD.
Prada’s ivory and green stripes, also seen in certain of the luxury brand’s other locations, cover the walls, floors and furniture, and there is a green neon sign that provides a fresh interpretation of the Prada triangle logo.
The store houses the men’s and women’s collections of ready-to-wear, leather goods, footwear and accessories and also showcases a special summer-inspired grouping.
Newtown Lane and Main Street comprise the village’s primary shopping venues. Aside from Prada, there are shops for Ralph Lauren, Tory Burch, Altuzarra, Brunello Cucinelli, Loro Piana, J. Crew and Intermix, among other brands.
In other Hamptons openings, Chanel in June unveiled a boutique in East Hampton, at 26 Newtown Lane that will remain open through Labor Day. Spanning two floors, the boutique offers bags, small leather goods, accessories, watches and fine jewelry creations, and modern silhouettes from the Coco Beach 2022 and Métiers d’Arts 2022-23 collections by Virginie Viard.
Intermix has a pop-up operating through July 24 at Ruschmeyers in Montauk, in addition to the retailer’s two permanent stores in Southampton and East Hampton. The pop up offers summer essentials from brands such as Isabel Marant, CaraCara, Staud, Agua by Agua Bendita, Re/Done, Bond Eye and Bahia Maria.

Prada in East Hampton, New York. Photograph by Brett Beyer

Katie Holmes Laces Up in Thong Sandals, Shirt Dress to Mark Christian Siriano’s Connecticut Store Opening

Katie Holmes Laces Up in Thong Sandals, Shirt Dress to Mark Christian Siriano’s Connecticut Store Opening

Katie Holmes joined Christian Siriano to celebrate the designer’s new store opening.
The actress attended the opening party Tuesday night at the fashion designer’s new retail concept, called The Collective West, in Westport, Connecticut. For the event, Holmes wore a simple white shirtdress paired with a black bag and white and black strappy sandals. Holmes was joined at the event by stars such as Debra Messing, Coco Rocha and Laura Linney.

Christian Siriano and Katie Holmes celebrate the opening of The Collective West.

Getty Images for Christian Siria

Siriano’s new storefront is a multibrand retail concept with apparel, furniture, accessories and art all curated by the designer. The store carries brands like Swoon Gallery, Josh Levkoff, Irene Lummertz, Snif, Franny’s Farmacy and Bungalow Decor.

Siriano, a Westport resident, hosted his spring 2021 ready-to-wear runway show at his home in September 2020.

Katie Holmes celebrates the opening of The Collective West in Westport, Connecticut.

Getty Images for Christian Siria

Holmes regularly supports Siriano on his many projects. The actress attended the designer’s spring 2022 rtw runway show in September sitting in the front row alongside Alicia Silverstone, Kristin Chenoweth and others. Holmes wore a black-and-silver checkered suit for the runway show.
The actress is known for her simple, elegant style. Most recently, Holmes attended the premiere for her film “Alone Together” during the Tribeca Film Festival alongside boyfriend Bobby Wooten 3rd wearing a hand-crocheted Chloé white tank top and matching skirt from the design house’s pre-fall 2022 collection.
“Alone Together” was Holmes’ second time directing a film. She made her directorial debut in 2016 with “All We Had.”
PHOTOS: Click to See Christian Siriano’s Resort 2023 Collection

Sizing Up Department Stores and the Survival Instinct

Sizing Up Department Stores and the Survival Instinct

Department stores are fewer in number, still downsizing, but not extinct.Coming off of recent restructurings, heady digital growth, channel integrations and a lot of introspection, the sector has turned a corner, and around the world department stores — from Macy’s and Nordstrom in the U.S., to Germany’s Galeria and Rustan’s in the Philippines — are in varying degrees of transformation.
A retail sector that’s resilient and getting progressive came across at the Global Department Store Summit, organized by the Intercontinental Group of Department Stores, this month, where presentations and conversations centered on ESG, redefining the workplace, reinvention and renewal, not recession. Retailers’ unwavering optimism was evident, leaving looming uncertainties for the near term more on the sidelines than center stage.

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“It’s upbeat,” said Pete Nordstrom, the president and chief brand officer of Nordstrom Inc., when asked about the mood at the summit. “People are really appreciating being able to get together in person, in the same room. There is a sense of camaraderie. The world has become a smaller place. We are all sharing the same challenges and the same issues, whether it’s dealing with the supply chain or working on sustainability. Everyone is battle-tested.”
“We’ve got members 400 years old, 100 years old. How these businesses have survived and recreated themselves is what this conference is all about,” said Andre Maeder, IGDS president and chief executive officer of the KaDeWe Group in Germany.

Pete Nordstrom speaks with Levi’s Chip Bergh.

Nordstrom CEO Erik Nordstrom speaking with Kevin Johnson, former CEO of Starbucks USA.

During the two-day event, hosted by Nordstrom Inc. at the Sheraton Grand in downtown Seattle, while content-rich, the “R” word never surfaced, at least on stage. Why not go there?
“Look, retailers just went through the biggest recession,” explained Simon Susman, honorary president of Woolworth Holdings in South Africa, referring to two years of COVID-19. “They had ongoing rental payments. They were managing bank debt. They were giving out salaries in most cases. They are indeed battle-hardened.”
Susman’s point: retailers are better equipped now to deal with another possible recession than two years ago, and are feeling the moment, with the pandemic on the wane and shoppers returning to stores to replenish their wardrobes. So why not take in the best practices as told by the summit speakers?
“For the last 25 years, the messaging has been department stores are dead, but everyone that is here has survived,” Susman said. “If you are true to what you stand for, invest in your business, make it magical, and think of how you can make the world better, then customers will love to come to your stores.”
“This was a reasonably happy crowd telling us that things are pretty good. I liked the upbeat tempo but I think they were being myopic,” said Shah Karim, CEO of SafeRock, a consulting and technology firm, presenting a different perspective. “Pocketbooks are getting hit hard. Consumers have less discretionary spending. Financial realities were hidden behind the conversations, which were positive. Because of performances of the last year or two, you can effectively paint a very rosy picture now, but the truth isn’t really matching up. Of course, my interest [as a strategic adviser] is to understand who is in trouble. But there was some very good content presented at the conference.”

The event, held June 9 and 10, was themed “Retailing From the Outside-In” and drew some 250 leaders and senior officials from department stores, brands, suppliers and service companies. For its “Toys for Toys” program, Paris in Chile was awarded “the world’s best sustainability/corporate social responsibility campaign” by a department store last year. The annual IGDS summit was not held in 2021 or 2020 due to the pandemic.
Among the key takeaways from the event:

Department stores have a future; perceptions of being “dinosaurs” are passé.
Environmental, social and governance is good for business; retailers and brands must simplify the language of ESG so it’s less technical and consumers can readily understand goals and accomplishments.
In a data and digitally driven world, retail is still about providing experiences.
Companies are grappling with how to remake the workplace with a balance of office and remote situations to attract and retain talent and get the most productivity out of the workforce.

The Workforce and the Workplace
“Millennials and Gen Zers expect to have a voice at the table. They want to bring their ideas and energies to a project without being asked,” said Pete Shimer, chief operating officer of Deloitte USA, discussing leadership. “For them, leadership is about influence rather than authority.
“Sometimes we view the younger generation as being entitled. I don’t. It’s about creating enthusiasm and a sense of ownership that ought to be embraced. The war for talent is real. Two-thirds of Millennials and Gen Z say they will not take a job unless there is a corporate responsibility program.
“The chief purpose officer is going to be the next C-suite role,” Shimer said. “C-suite executives very much believe companies that pursue purpose beyond profit are more successful than those that pursue profit alone.”
Regarding shifts on where employees work from, accelerated by COVID-19, “It’s all about creating the right flexibility and right balance. We did a survey of our employees. Seventy-five percent really wanted to have both an in-person and remote work experience, but one in five said in-person connections with colleagues are difficult to form in this awkward time determining what this hybrid means. I believe you are going to find a balance in the middle. Gen Z is the hardest generation to get back in the office but need it the most, but the best they will do is give you two days a week.”

“The labor shortage is growing, fueled by Boomer retirements,” said Leslie McNamara, managing director, specialty partners, Citi Retail Services USA. “Boomers were the greatest workforce. They invented things like the 80-hour work week. They invented madmen. They found their passion and joy through work. They believed in companies. Many are working into their 70s, saying it keeps them young, connected. Then COVID[-19] happened and they found out they could get their passion, or fulfillment, from places other than work.”
McNamara said 11 million jobs are open and one in three won’t be filled. “Millennials are three times more likely to leave a job than Boomers; retention strategies will be less effective and recruiting strategies are likely not fast enough,” he warned.
“A physical presence is part of the recipe that makes for good communications,” said Pete Nordstrom. “We are trying to find that balance. It’s not going back to what it was. People have different needs and we want to be responsive to that. We have to be explicit about expectations so people can plan their lives.”
“We are all trying to figure it out. It’s arguably one of the great social experiments of our time,” said Levi Strauss president and CEO Chip Bergh.
Reinventing the Store
“Stores need to be more relevant,” said Stephen Spencer from John Lewis Partnership in the U.K., who holds the unusual title of director for the store of the future. John Lewis has embarked on a five-year overhaul calling for new financial targets, remaking the mix, simplifying the customer journey, better way-finding, and “joyful storytelling and immersive product experiences,” said Spencer. “We’ve got one million skus and an operating model that is dated.” The company generates 10.5 billion pounds in annual turnover, runs 36 department stores, 340 supermarkets, four main distribution centers and 26 local distribution centers, as well as farms, hotels and golf courses. For the department stores, Spencer stressed “the importance of not having one size fits all, local relevancy and changing the typical layout.”
“What makes a place an attraction, an experience? Sometimes it’s just mystical, mystery, just creating art,” said architect Kevin Roche, who worked on the redesign of the LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton-owned La Samaritaine department store in Paris, where he had the luxury of reporting directly to the board and chairman Bernard Arnault instead of real estate or operations. “It was the pinnacle of my career to be recognized that design is a key strategic asset.…Trying things that are the unexpected comes from design thinking. You may not get the ROI [return on investment] as high but you get a more interesting experience. PricewaterhouseCoopers believes it’s time to introduce another metric, a focus on the consumer experience.”

For inspiration in recreating Samaritaine, “We examined hospitality, not other department stores. Seldom breakthroughs come from watching each other. The beauty category is where department stores can be really exciting and break away.”
“Customer service has been our North Star since the beginning,” said Jamie Nordstrom, chief stores officer of Nordstrom Inc. “The trick is to keep it simple, continuing to find ways to make service simple. Convenience is a big part of it. Convenience is a luxury. Service in the future depends on how digital and stores make each other better. A liberal return policy in my mind is the single best selling tool.”
“Department stores are very important points of distribution, even though they represent less than 20 percent of our global business,” said Pierre-Yves Roussel, CEO of Tory Burch. “The beauty of the department store is that it offers a customer a multibrand environment. We have a significant database on how customers that shop online and in the store spend three to four times more than a single channel customer.…At the same time we think it is very important to preserve the one brand concept. This has not been the way most fashion brands have operated, especially in department stores,” opting instead to have diffusion lines and licensing agreements. “In my experience that’s not a winning formula. It creates confusion, complexity and cost.”

Bienvenido Tantoco 3rd

“Rustan’s needs to become transformative, whatever changes we make must be connected to our roots. If they’re not, it’s easy to get lost,” said Bienvenido Tantoco 3rd, president of the 70-year-old, family-run Rustan Commercial Corp., which operates five department stores in the Philippines.
While Rustan’s is the leading upscale retailer in the Philippines, it’s not sufficiently resonating with the younger generation, Tantoco said. “Internal change has been slower than external change. COVID[-19] was an awakening. In this new retail Darwinism, caterpillars will die, and butterflies will fly. We’ve been snapped out of a certain sense of complacency.”
The Rustan’s flagship in Manila is being transformed in six phases over five years, with an Italian mosaic facade, a modern beauty hall, a gastronomic gallery of fresh and local ingredients for cooking, art installations, interactive experiences, a Filipino bakery, and a large landscaped sanctuary with an organic sequence of pathways, steps and decks, a grand archway, a shopping arcade, a nursery and a courtyard with a café by a lake. “We want it to be globally competitive, but a very Filipino experience,” Tantoco said. “In this Darwinistic uncertain world, we don’t know what is in store for us but we know what our mission is.”

At Galeria in Germany, which operates 131 department stores as a result of the merger of the Kartstadt and Kaufhof department stores, “We are going through heavy transformation. These two companies haven’t been profitable,” said Miguel Mullenbach, CEO of Galeria. “We still have 131 locations but we are not connected. It’s more about creating emotions and experiences than selling goods. The customer for department stores is dying. We have to rejuvenate the customer base. They’re coming in to buy beauty products, but they don’t go to the fashion department. Is there change needed in the assortment? The answer is yes. We are trading up and trending up in our assortment, to regain fashion expertise to better exploit existing customers and gain new customers.”
With Kaufhof and Karstadt, “The next step is to create a new brand, the new Galeria brand. It’s a hard discussion to get out of Karstadt and Kaufhof,” Mullenbach said. “We think the new Galeria logo can become an icon in terms of a popular brand. We believe in one strong brand across channels. So far, four units have been renamed just Galeria.”
Mullenbach said operating 131 department stores is a lot for Germany. “Years ago we had 250, maybe it will be 100 someday or 80….We have to reduce floor space to increase productivity….The main issue is there is no apparent culture because we merged from two companies. These two companies have to create one company culture, and not lose our heritage.” After his presentation, he told WWD, “Ninety percent of the business was lost during 10 months of COVID[-19]. We are not profitable.”
ESG
“If you are managing your company well, you have strong relations with suppliers and you are managing out waste, the business case is there,” said Cara Smyth, founder of the Responsible Business Coalition at Fordham University, of ESG. Buying power can force a lot of change, she said.
“We have 400 weeks before irreversible climate change is upon us in 2030. Within those 400 weeks we have a big responsibility and a big opportunity…The SEC is now asking for data on how climate change is affecting your business, and how is your business affecting climate change. The government says it’s material. Rules and regulations are changing quickly between 2024 and 2025. There will be real product information required.” A balance of providing understandable, concrete information to consumers without making it into a science list is required, she said. “The time is now to ask, ‘is my ESG data under control?’ The good news is we are all in it together, in getting done what has to be done.”

According to Smyth, while consumers are increasingly searching online for sustainable products, 44 percent feel companies make it easy for them to connect to sustainable or ethical initiatives.
“Everyone we interact with all talk about sustainability. But what does that mean? There are a zillion measurements. How can we define it more universally?” asked Pete Nordstrom.
“Sustainability is becoming a core brand attribute, requiring that we deliver meaningful impact on our footprint and tangible consumer-facing initiatives,” said Noel Kinder, chief sustainability officer at Nike Inc. “Ninety-two percent of Gen Z care about social and environmental issues; 82 percent say they’re worried about the health of the planet.”
He outlined Nike’s sustainability programs, including enabling consumers to donate shoes for recycling into other products, providing reusable bags as well as paper bags, providing no-rush shipments for a lower carbon footprint, simplifying packaging so there’s one box for both shipping and returns, and selling singlets made from recycled polyester. “Today, we are the biggest single user of recycled polyester in the industry,” Kinder said. “For 30 years sustainability has been part of Nike’s DNA.”
“Businesses exist more than just to earn a buck for a shareholder. They exist to make a difference in the world,” said Levi’s Bergh. Levi Strauss, the man himself, “the very first year he made a profit he donated a percentage to a local charity.”
The company has prioritized fighting gun violence and supports “putting common sense laws that almost all Americans support, like national background checks, red-flag laws, age restrictions on automatic weapons. What is happening is ripping the country apart,” said Bergh. In a polarized society, taking a stand on an issue makes the job of a CEO very difficult, Bergh said. “What got us into the whole gun issue was in 2016. A person in a fitting room shot himself in his foot. It could have been an employee, a customer, or a customer’s child,” said Bergh. “There are many states where a person can carry a weapon openly.”
Levi’s also takes on climate change. “If you say, let’s go solve this problem, it forces focus and discipline around the innovation process,” Bergh said. “The apparel industry is not necessarily a good guy when it comes to planet Earth. We need to double down when it comes to climate change. The important thing is consistency in how you talk about values and how you show up as a brand…..We like to say when we lead, others follow. We like to believe CEOs can make a difference.”

Kevin Johnson, special consultant and former CEO of Starbucks USA, advised, “Companies must think about their purpose in a way that goes beyond the pursuit of profit. Start with your employees, think about your customers you are serving, the community you serve. It’s capitalism taking a much broader view than driving the next quarterly results for Wall Street.
“We are starting to see investors, TPG, BlackRock, expect more from companies,” said Johnson. “Starbucks is a profit-positive company, but you can also be planet positive and a people positive company.” He said the company set three fundamental priorities during the pandemic — the health and well-being of Starbucks employees, partnering with health officials and “showing up in a positive way in every community we serve.” Starbucks drive-throughs were kept opened at a time when the Starbucks stores were temporarily closed. “We paid all of our partners whether they came to work or not. We gave them economic certainty.”
On Data
“We have been partnering with retailers on data-driven transformations,” said Shelley Branstein, corporate vice president at Microsoft USA. “Most department stores are only set up to leverage a fraction of the data.”
But there’s Walgreens, which has been “really thinking about data to improve the customer experience.” The pharmacy chain created a walk-through app so shoppers can save time looking for what they want, and works on having the right product in the right location. “Our cloud delivers 200 million predictions of what needs to be in every one of their stores every single day,” said Branstein. With Walgreens pharmacists becoming more critical through the pandemic, the chain developed the “intelligent pharmacists data platform” providing more information on those getting prescriptions and how often they come in, thereby “reducing the operational load and elevating customer engagements,” Branstein said.
She also commended Marks & Spencer. “They lowered the boundaries between the top floor and the bottom floor,” so to speak, by creating an app for CEOs to get direct feedback from store associates on what’s working or not working.
Ken Worzel, Nordstrom’s chief customer officer, said the company uses data in logistics to speed up deliveries and lower delivery costs by finding the best routes and place inventory where the demand is. Nordstrom has an “outfitter” technology utilizing data analytics on products and customers to generate outfitting advice. “We can do it at scale, rather than doing it manually for every customer. Customers don’t know whether it’s generated by stylists or through the algorithm. It generates outfits relevant across a vast set of occasions. Style boards are sent to customers. It’s been live for the last couple of years. We will continue to iterate on this. What’s next for us? Bringing in more context around product.”

Lululemon Unveils Workout Hijabs

Lululemon Unveils Workout Hijabs

Lululemon’s workout hijabs are here. 

The “Scarf-style Hijab” by Lululemon.
Courtesy Photo

The athletic apparel, accessories and retailer quietly unveiled its latest creation last week: Lululemon hijabs. 
The head coverings are worn by some Muslim women in public. As a result, Lululemon said its design team consulted with “hijab wearers across the brand’s global collective” to create the assortment, which includes lightweight and moisture-wicking fabrics that “offer adjustable fits and distraction-free features to support guests during their activities of choice and as they move throughout their day.”

Traditional hijabs are worn by some Muslim women in public. Here, Lululemon’s version.
Courtesy Photo

The first two styles — the “Lightweight Performance Hijab” and the “Scarf-style Hijab” — dropped this month. The “OTM Pull-on Hijab” will be available later this year. The garments come in multiple colorways and range in price from $38 to $42 apiece. 

Lululemon’s “Lightweight Performance Hijab.”
Courtesy Photo

Lululemon follows brands such as Nike and Sweaty Betty in releasing exercise hijabs. The company declined to comment more on the launch. But the workout gear is just the latest for the Canadian company, which has expanded into golf and tennis apparel, bags made from mushrooms, resale and at-home fitness, all during the pandemic. Lululemon is also the official outfitter of Team Canada (a role it will retain through 2028).
Meanwhile, the company continues to grow despite industry-wide headwinds. In April, Lululemon set its sights on a $12.5 billion revenue target by 2026.

Wolf & Badger Opens Its First West Coast Store

Wolf & Badger Opens Its First West Coast Store

LOS ANGELES — For the past five years British clothing and accessories venture Wolf & Badger has had only one U.S. store, located in New York’s SoHo district.But that just changed. The premium multibrand retailer and online concern opened its first West Coast store in West Hollywood on Friday with a carefully selected collection of clothing, accessories, home wares and shoes from different brands from the U.S., U.K. and Europe.
Wolf & Badger’s search for a Los Angeles-area location started more than two years ago but that little thing known as the COVID-19 pandemic got in the way, said George Graham, the company’s chief executive officer. “Last summer we found this spot, and we were really delighted with the location.”

That location is at 8500 Melrose Avenue, which used to house a Bluemercury store. It is in a prime shopping area with Rag & Bone New York across the street and a large The Real Real luxury consignment store and café next door. A few blocks down the road is the Beverly Center shopping center.

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The U.S. has become the top market for Wolf & Badger’s online sales, which make up 98 percent of its business. New York is the top U.S. sales area, but Los Angeles comes in second. “Last year our U.S. sales grew 225 percent to $27.7 million,” Graham said. “We’ve seen a lot of traction in this market.”
The recently opened 1,600-square-foot space has a modern, clean interior design that also incorporates sustainable materials for its floors and countertops and other areas.
In the front are rows of jewelry cases, located next to shelves of housewares, including rows of pillows and porcelain teapots with matching teacups.
A bank of curated posters lines one wall and stationery is evenly placed on a countertop. Hats and bags make up another section. About 20 independent brands of men’s and women’s clothing hang on the racks but are rotated on a regular basis.
“We sell to a customer who appreciates high-quality, stylish products from brands that they might not immediately be familiar with but are excited to discover,” Graham said.
Case in point are brands including Shokan 28 from the U.S., Uskees from Britain and Saz Mifsud from Malta.
Price points for menswear range from about $100 to $300 while womenswear ranges from $200 to $400. Jewelry can go up to $5,000.

A wide variety of merchandise is sold at Wolf & Badger.
Courtesy Wolf & Badger

About 70 percent of Wolf & Badger’s customers are women who fall between the ages of 25 to 45.  “We have fashion students who are our customers, and we have hedge-fund managers,” Graham said. “I think the buying behavior of people goes far beyond their age and gender.”
The company’s top-selling category right now is women’s dresses. During the pandemic, purchases centered around comfort items such as slippers, loungewear and house goods.
The selection of merchandise comes from small independent brands that have some sustainable element to their makeup and pay a fair wage. This is in keeping with Wolf & Badger’s goal to sell sustainable items, which helped the retailer get a B Corp certification last year.
“All the brands get vetted against 15 sustainability guarantees we have listed on our website,” said Magdalene Barclay, Wolf & Badger’s vice president of content and sustainability. “We try to give the brands guidance on how they can achieve all the different guarantees.”

Wolf & Badger’s retail business is a marketplace format. The company doesn’t buy any inventory but supplies a space and sales staff for labels to show their collections in exchange for paying a certain percentage of sales to Wolf & Badger.
Wolf & Badger was launched in 2010 by Graham and his brother Henry, who is the company’s chief creative officer. It started out when the two were living together and got bored with the shopping environment of tried-and-true brands that weren’t that special.
“Everything was so samey, samey,” said George Graham, who was a strategy consultant for PricewaterhouseCooper at the time while his brother was designing jewelry. “We also knew designers who had amazing products that we felt people should know about and should be able to find in stores.”
The siblings, whose nicknames are Wolf and Badger, opened a brick-and-mortar store in London’s Notting Hill, and later a second store in Mayfair. In the last five years they pivoted to become an online marketplace that carries 2,000 brands with 4 million visitors a month, Graham said.
The two London stores have been consolidated into one 12,000-square-foot outpost with a restaurant in Kings Cross, near Google’s headquarters.
Los Angeles is the third store worldwide for the growing company. But there will be more. Wolf & Badger sees strong demand for its products in Texas and Florida, which means Dallas, Houston and Miami are on their retail radar.
“We also have a big following in places like Washington, D.C., and Chicago,” Graham said. “We are looking at the best possible places to provide better service to our existing customers.”

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