November 22, 2011

Thanks For Shopping

Not only is Black Friday the kickoff of the holiday shopping season, but as new initiatives, extended store hours, and promotions galore try to draw consumers into shops, the largest non-religious holiday here in the U.S. is continually threatened by retailers alike. What it comes down to is, we just don't shop like we used to. With the onset of new technology, irregular weather patterns and an even more unpredictable economy, retailers are changing how they approach their customers in everyway possible this upcoming holiday season.

From Loewe’s customizing it’s floors with iphones to track stock to Footlocker’s changing taglines to Old Navy increasing the number of greeters on site as well as keeping trendy impulse items by checkouts, it’s really a game of trial and error to figure out what works best. However, what may work one day just may not the next. 

photo via latimes

One of the hottest trends this season to come, introducing new ipad apps designed to make shopping easier and more entertaining by incorporating interactive media that enhances the overall shopping experience. It seems everyone from Anthropologie to Saks, J.Crew, and even Walmart is creating these digital multi-media catalogs. While research shows only a mere 8% of online shoppers own ipads, those that do, prefer shopping on their tablet versus using a computer or smartphone. The digital arena is growing and digital catalogs are sure to be the next approach sought after by retailers worldwide.

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Another way retailers are adding some fun and freebies into the mix is with the free app shopkick. By simply "checking in" to a store customers have the opportunity to win giftcards, promotions, and special discounts. It's a simple, inexpensive way to get consumers involved and enthusiastic about their shopping experiences.

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What if you could get deals from what you already own? Well, now with, you can. Created by Zappos founder, Nick Swinmurn, the site and mobile app allows consumers to get VIP discounts for things already sitting right in their closets! The more photos you upload, friends you refer, and "liking" you do, the more points you earn. It's also a great resource to get inspired and browse others' closets to explore different brands and labels.

Bodymetrics is a full 3D body scanner that allows consumers to save all their body information digitally online. The difference between this and previous renditions? Well not only is this body scanner less costly, but it can be installed in a mere couple of hours. It's expected to really revolutionize the online shopping experience so we'll keep an eye out for it to pop up in shops across the globe.

photo via Chicago Tribune

So what we are really here to ask is are these new strategies challenging our traditional holiday? More and more retailers like Target, Macy's, Best Buy, and Kohl's plan to open their stores at midnight on the dot. Meanwhile, Walmart plans to open at 10pm on Thanksgiving! As these retailers push to open earlier and earlier what about the employees who have to give up their holiday to deal with the madness of Black Friday? Both J.C. Penney and Sears aren't giving in to all this anti-holiday spirit as they keep their doors closed until the usual 4am early bird special. Maybe one day when technology gets even more advanced, we will be able to entirely shop from home while simultaneously giving thanks. Until then, we think it’s safe to say we still much prefer an old fashioned holiday.

From all of us here at MBF Trend Consulting, Happy Thanksgiving and safe shopping!

November 18, 2011

Knock It Off

With an industry grossing hundreds of billions of dollars annually from across the globe, counterfeiting not only severely damages the luxury market but the overall economy as well. From handbags to clothing to perfume, sunglasses, jewelry, and beyond, is anything authentic anymore? Today we would like to discuss the luxury market, the basics of spotting fakes, and the latest tricks of this underground trade.

Ambria Miscia, is the manager of the designer resale store, Second Time Around as well as one of the personalities behind Bravo’s hit reality show, “Fashion Hunters." From Louis Vuitton to Chanel to Balenciaga, Prada, Louboutin, Gucci galore, she encounters luxury designer goodies on a daily basis. Working with consignors from all over the city, uptown meets downtown as she works to stock the shelves with reasonably priced high-end designer merchandise. With a job like this, Ambria is not only exposed to the real deal but an occasional phony as well. While in some cases these so called “knock-offs” are easy to spot by the naked eye, many times you have to look a bit deeper “into the seams.”

MBF: What is your background in the industry?

A: I went to FIT in New York for college. On top of that, my mother was a clothing and shoe designer so growing up I was given a fundamental upbringing in fashion.

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MBF: Working at a consignment shop you see endless amounts of designer merchandise, what are the best ways to spot a fake designer bag from a real one?

A: I immediately look at stitching and hardware. Those are the two dead giveaways. Louis Vuitton and Chanel have very specific looks, the bags sell for thousands of dollars and fake versions of them don't have the attention to detail in the stitching that real ones do. The hardware also has a certain way of looking and wearing, so once you see hundreds of real bags, you get to recognize a fake in an instant. Sometimes I have to dig deeper, look at the lining, the zippers, the way it sits... There are steps and I have written a manual for the company I work for about it.

MBF: How were you trained to recognize these differences?

A: I trained myself. Handbags are a passion of mine, so why not know as much as possible? And honestly, I hated the feeling of a consignor schooling me on why a bag was fake. It's just embarassing when someone comes into the store and looks at you as an authority but knows more than you. I'm competetive by nature and I hate feeling as if I'm not living up to my reputation as someone who works in re-sale and knows her stuff, which is how I should be percieved. So I just did extra studying.

MBF: How do you keep up with the market and where do you shop?

A: I keep up with the market by staying in the stores as much as possible. I don't have the ability to actually buy for myself at Bergdorf Goodman, but that doesn't keep me out of that store. I like to see what is selling, what's going on sale quickly, what is not selling and what people are wearing. I read indie fashion blogs and I pay attention to Canal Street. It's actually on my way home to the Lower East Side so I'll pass by and let the women try and sell me fake bags. They are really exceptional now, the way they are made. So I'll just take a look to see what their new defining characteristics are so I know what to look for in the new versions. I personally shop at Topshop, Free People and I definitely hit up Bloomingdales for shoes. And of course, Second Time Around.

MBF: Which designers are having the worst problems with knock-offs right now?

A: Tory Burch - handbags and ballet flats. What is so bad about the Tory fakes is that people aren't aware at all what a huge market it is. It's a huge epidemic. The black market has made tons of the gold metal logos and are cranking them out like mad. But the craftsmanship and materials are of course unparallelled with the real Tory Burch items (bags, shoes). Even Chloe has a problem with ready-to-wear. Their labels get knocked off and sewn into silks in China, and people buy them online.

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MBF: Not only is the luxury market losing profits, but also its branding is being severely damaged. What do you think is the best way labels can preserve their exclusivity and fight the further presence of counterfeit merchandise?

A: Being as detailed as possible in the construction of zippers, handles and hardware help. Special markings, like Chanel has with their white sticker that is always in the lining. And also, changing them up. Employees spill secrets, and that's the truth. If you want to stay on top of the black market, you have to stay on top of your own line. You can't just create it and lay back. You have to create new ways to authenticate the bags revolution and prevent duplication.

MBF: In what other markets do you see knock-offs appearing besides with handbags?

A: I could see Diane von Furstenberg wrap dresses being knocked off. Of course the materials, fit and prints will be totally off, but they are in such a high demand and have a textbook signature look I could see it happening.

MBF: What is your “it” bag and are “it” bags still in fashion?

A: I'd say hands down right now, Balenciaga bags are still the coolest bag for everyone to have. They've been on the scene for years, but the bags are definitely keeping their popularity and the masses are now switching up their desire from Coach and Gucci to Balenciaga. They literally fly off the shelves. Lastly, I have to say that Louis Vuitton Speedy's, Chanel quilted jumbos and Chloe Paddingtons will probably never go out of "IT" bag status.

MBF: What do you recommend for someone who can’t necessarily afford a high-end luxury handbag, but still wants an “it” bag?

A: Well, re-sale of course! Second Time Around is an amazing place to find Givenchy, YSL, Hermes... and we have 5 locations in the city so wherever you are, chances are there is one within a mile radius of where you are. Also, the They have really contemporary high end bags, it's basically luxury overstock, and they have amazing bags all the time.

MBF: What are some up and coming designers? Who do you predict is going to be knocked off next?

A: Alexander Wang backpacks could definitely be next. They were such a hit at the Spring show - the absolute 'to die' of fashion week. I also think Prada could start to have another round of knock-offs seeing as their new bags are a bit more simple to make. Since their nylon-satchel and nylon-backpack days, they really got away from producing handbags that were simple to knock off. They've been doing extremely luxurious leathers and switched up their logo to be a bit bigger and beefier so they haven't had the same amount of knock offs. But I was just at Prada the other day and looking at their new line the Saffiano Collection and thinking that those could be next.

November 10, 2011

To Be or Not to Be...Green

In the retail sector, the amount of things to consider when going “green" is well, unthinkable. From production to shipping to brick and mortar operations to actual consumption, there are countless approaches to utilizing eco-friendly tactics. For the next generation of retailers, sustainable practices are going to top the list, as not only consumers, but the world itself demands change and a more eco-friendly lifestyle.

Here at MBF Trend Consulting, we are firm believers in environmental awareness and our responsibility to preserve the world we live in. Just like anything else, what is education without experimentation? While we understand the industry is still rapidly adjusting, today we would like to highlight some brands doing it right and which ones are still in the learning process.

photo via yad!

Marks & Spencer
With an objective to become the world’s most sustainable retailer by 2015, Marks & Spencer is definitely in route. Recently the brand launched its 2012 M&S Sustainable Retailing Challenge, which offers MBA students from around the world the opportunity to pitch their eco-friendly ideas while competing for a cash prize and most importantly, a chance to increase the brand’s sustainability strategies. Not only is the brand trying to get consumers involved but is also on a mission to re-evaluate its packaging strategies as it implements the Packaging Impact Quick Evaluation Tool. What used to take months, can now be done in under 25 minutes as the brand can quickly assess how packaging impacts affect its design process saving energy, time, resources, and money. We look forward to what the UK based retailer has in store for us next!

Uslu Airlines
We've discussed the nail brand many times before, but we just can't help ourselves as it yet again releases another groundbreaking product and this time it's even eco-friendly! While most nail polish removers contain acetone or other harmful substances, Bio, is a new water based product that "penetrates nail polish." While the product doesn't work as quickly as normal nail polish remover, it does get the job done and in a much less toxic way. We feel it's definitely worth the wait!

photo via Monkee Genes

Certified by the strict demands of the Soil Association, Monkee Genes is a fair trade organic denim line. The brand's motto: "no slave or child labor, blood, sweat, or tears." With a range of different cuts and styles, the label is ethical, trendy, and affordable at under $100 USD. Be sure to keep an eye out to see how these "genes" evolve!

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Stella McCartney
Well Stella definitely has gotten her groove back as she releases a new eco-friendly sunglass collection this spring. Made of more than 50% natural and renewable materials, the shades are composed of bio-injected plastic or acetate plastic. Either way, both use minimal pesticides, water, and petroleum. McCartney was quoted saying, "The greatest challenge was the amount of time that was spent on research and testing to get the best quality product possible with the highest performance in terms of resistance, while still maintaining the style and finish we always try to achieve." With a dedication like that, these shades are sure to keep you cool this spring!

photo via

Levi's is another denim label dedicated to improving it's eco-friendly procedures. Not only has the brand worked toward water efficiency and conserving cotton cultivation after severe flooding last year, but now it is ready to introduce stone washed denim that is smoothed by rocks and uses absolutely no water in the process. Keeping with this theme, all tags encourage denim wearers to wash less, in cold water, or simply not at all. The brand advises that putting jeans in the freezer kills more odor causing germs than in the wash. We predict that this "waterless" element will be the next trend to hit the market.

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Meanwhile as so many retailers have made significant progress in the sustainable sector, we have to remember that the name of the game is "trial and error" so the occasional blunder is unavoidable. Greenpeace, an environmental organization, is calling out 14 global companies who are supposedly discharging harmful chemicals into the atmosphere during manufacturing. These brands include everyone from Abercrombie & Fitch to Nike, Puma, H&M, Ralph Lauren, Adidas, and even Uniqlo, among others who many are coincidentally enough members of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. The organization's Dirty Laundry Report, shows that these brands are responsible for releasing hazardous substances into waterways across the globe. Water is a limited resource just like anything else so these brands need to adapt soon and eliminate the emission of dangerous toxins into the environment. We have to know what's wrong to know what's right, right?

While some brands have successfully begun to adapt to the increased demand for more sustainable methods, many are still exposing the world to hazardous mechanisms in an effort to maximize profits or simply out of mere carelessness. While it is a learning process, actions speak louder than words. In the near future, we hope to see more retailers take action and really get out there and make a difference.

November 3, 2011

November MBF Favorite Picks

The constant 24/7 flow of information makes it very hard to stand out in today’s marketplace. Companies are increasingly challenged to keep their audiences interested. How do you create brand awareness in a world that is constantly evolving as social media and real life experiences influence consumers’ choices?

It is no surprise that more and more companies are starting to think outside the box as they strive to decipher what consumers want and how to speak to them. The question is what “language” will get consumers to respond? For this month's MBF's Favorite Picks, we'd like to highlight a few companies experimenting with their vocabularies.

At the forefront of the retail arena is Uniqlo as their campaigns attract the masses. The label recently uncovered a flagship store on 5th avenue in New York and now they are taking their approach a step further by launching an artistic competition called The Science of Style. Collaborating with Dazed Digital, the project reaches out to the community to draw inspiration from Uniqlo’s technologically advanced fabrics and large customer base by submitting concepts for an installation to be exhibited in London sometime in November. The winning idea will go from paper to sculpture with the assistance of artist, sculptor, and set designer, David White who will be translating the leading submission. Click here to enter your ideas! Good luck!

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Calling all innovators, time to get creative! Another retailer trying to get customers involved is Bed, Bath & Beyond as they assign a team from the company, Quirky, at their Chelsea location to hear shopper’s thoughts, comments, and suggestions for new product ideas. The experts will be stationed in the store’s window compiling the best of the best gadget ideas. If a savvy invention is approved and eventually sold in stores, the innovative customer will be given a cut of the profits. A former inventor of the Pivot Power Surge has already earned over $21,000! Not only is the home products retailer practicing honorable business strategies, but at the forefront of a major shift in the marketplace.

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What better way to kill some time while doing laundry than enjoying some gourmet coffee in a comfy lounge setting? A Munich laundromat has elaborated on this concept by creating the German venture, Wash & Coffee. Not only can customers enjoy on site garment care advice and professional ironing but free wifi, expressos, and scrumptious snacks. "Word of the wash" is the company is set on load Amsterdam!

It seems this isn’t the only type of business trying to capture market share in the food industry. How could we not mention the most recent collaboration between Bloomingdale’s 59th street store and Magnolia Bakery?!?! The bakery sold well over 1,200 cupcakes in its first three days in operation! Not only is the famous sweet shop open before, during, and after hours, but has a separate street-side entrance for those with off hour sugar cravings. While it hasn't been confirmed whether or not more Bloomie's stores will get a taste of this sweet tooth, we think it's the best sugar rush of its kind!

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From auction house to virtual outlet mall, Ebay is always finding ways to rebrand itself. This time, the online site hopes to capture sensible price-conscious fashionistas by offering discounts on more than 200 brands from Furla to Stuart Weitzman to BCBG Max Azria, Elie Tahari, Rebecca Taylor, and the list goes on! Discounts range from 20% to 65% off retail prices. The online shop launched in mid September and while some items are made exclusively for the site, the large array of brands is sure to appeal to everyone’s liking.

photo via Moda Operandi

If any industry has gotten creative over the past few years it’s the publishing industry. From fashion advice to the retail arena, magazines like GQ, Vogue, and Esquire are launching online websites that directly sell the merchandise featured in each issue. The search for the hottest items ceases here with the flip of a page and the click of a mouse. GQ has been in this virtual shopping arena with its e-commerce site, Park & Bond which highlights the magazine’s top picks. Esquire’s September issue invited readers to, a site launching this month selling select items chosen by the magazine staff themselves. Last but definitely not least is Vogue magazine’s website which is partnering with Moda Operandi to let subscribers pre-order looks right off the runway! Until now, the catwalk has never been at such a fast pace!

It’s safe to say it’s really just a game of trial and error as companies continually switch up their marketing strategies to find the best method to increase sales and market share. As these innovative approaches attract customers, we can begin to decipher the language of our audiences. So today we ask what “lingo” do you speak?
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