September 6, 2012

MBF September Picks

Everyone wants to understand how to predict the future. With businesses changing so quickly and new innovations hitting the marketplace everyday (or less), the retail industry is more unpredictable than ever. However, looking directly at what is happening today, there are a few trends that may hold the key to the future direction of retail.

Look at how much New York City has evolved over the past few years. The infamous 5th Ave used to solely be lined with luxury shops like Prada, Gucci, Chanel, and Bergdorf Goodman. Now, the major shopping destination is graced with everything from Abercrombie & Fitch to Zara. Many contemporary shops have infiltrated Madison Ave as well, like Proenza Schouler and Rag & Bone, who are just a few among nearly 50 stores who have opened in the last year and a half. This explains the unfolding of a new customer who wants to fill his or her closet with a mix of high and low fashion.

video via Clean Technica

Last week, we spoke about how many retailers are downsizing to fit into smaller spaces. However, this shift in updating store designs goes even further with Puma's sustainable store in India and Restoration Hardware positioning itself as a showroom. Is this shift towards eco-friendly elements like solar power, rooftop gardens, and recycled wood just the beginning? Will retail shops cease stocking merchandise and producing actual sales in store, to eventually become mere "touch and feel" establishments? If this happens, brick and mortar retailers will be able to compete with online merchants by shipping products directly to customers at cost. Not to mention, more easily re-merchandise the entire store and lessen the need to have warehouses nearby to replenish stock.

video via

While traditional brick and mortar operations are evolving to try and keep up, online retailers are still one step ahead. just relaunched their website, modernizing to a super stylish new layout that features model Xiao Wen Ju wearing a digital dress on the homepage. But wait, it gets even better! The e-commerce retailer is also initiating Speak & Shop voice recognition software that allows customers to shop online by simply talking to the computer. Not only does this technology simplify browsing, but acknowledges up to eight different languages.

photo via ecouterre

Speaking of digital technology, after spending time at tradeshows in both the U.S. and Europe this past July, we can affirm it's all about digital printing. And with Constrvct, a new online tool, anyone can create a made-to-order t-shirt or dress with any image they want. It's even predicted that one day, people will have affordable at home 3D printers to produce their own clothing, towels, and utensils.

photo via NY Times

As technology continues to change the face of retail, across the city many bookstores are becoming more like galleries than actual shops, recognizing the beauty and sacredness that books offer as an art form. With irregular hours, rare finds, and sometimes in hidden locations, these stores like Karma, 6 Decades, Specific Object, and Printed Matter, appeal to everyone from the average reader to collectors and fanatics alike. These book galleries serve as a permanent think tank and not only display contemporary book art, but offer publishing services as well. It's establishments like this, that are  dedicated to the promotion and preservation of the future of their industry, that will endure as they further look to redefine the business.

photo via WWD

Overall, the entire industry is over-saturated with sameness, which challenges retailers to incorporate cutting-edge concepts, innovative marketing strategies, and unique merchandise into their approaches. Retailer Nine West is rolling out new store concepts over the next few weeks catering to themes like "The World According to 9" at its 555 Madison Ave store, which features walls filled with merchandise according to trend and a "Vintage America Collection" in SoHo that will sell exclusive products from such collaborations with Kate Ciepluch, former Shopbop Director and Monica Botkier, among many others. This is an excellent example of how companies are learning to to balance an international presence while still recognizing American pride.

photo via Media Post

Still, some are taking their strategies straight to the internet. For instance, Clavin Klein will launch its new Push Positive bra line via a black and white video featuring model Lara Stone this month on YouTube. In addition to this, there will be an interactive Facebook App, Twitter hashtag sweepstakes, and sales associates in store will be given iPads to help with fittings.

photo via Departures

For the booming menswear luxury market, it's all about the details, with a rise in made-to-order, made-to-measure and bespoke clothing. From building a full suit at Brioni, Ascot Chang's custom shirtings to Giorgio Armani's made-to-measure tuxedos or Louis Vuitton's custom Taiga briefcase, men can now customize everything from head to toe. According to the CEO of Brioni North America, Todd Barrato, "Men like to be involved in the process." In today's world, consumers in general continue to look to buy more meaningful pieces. For many shoppers, money is tight and if they are going to splurge on something, it is going to be of excellent quality, a superb fit, and tell some type of story which leads us into our next point...

We've discussed "Made In America" before, both on our blog, Made For Us, and at our MBF Salon, Transitioning from the Recent Past to Generation Y: Concepts. Well it's making the news again and why wouldn't it be? There is a continued growing interest in the domestic manufacturing of apparel and textiles as more companies look to build relationships with vendors and factories right here in the U.S. For businesses, the advantages are plenty, like quick replenishments, more flexible timelines, and quality products. "There is a certain amount of apparel we can and should be making in this country because we can make it in a matter of days, giving us quick response and test-marketing abilities," explained Gail Strickler, the assistant U.S. trade representative for textiles and apparel. While many believe this shift towards a "Made in America" mentality is the future, questions still remain like "is it sustainable?" and "how will it evolve?"

photo via WWD

You've heard of the black market, but what about gray markets? According to WWD, "Gray markets refer to the trading of goods through legal but unofficial paths, ones that original manufacturers may not have intended." Here, originates Graymarket, a boutique in Williamsburg, that through a network of friends who collect, buy, sell, and trade clothing birthed the shop that now sells a plethora of archival men's and women's clothing and accessories. The shop, full of clothing from designers' past collections, is all unworn with tags and features a mixture of designers like Givenchy, Undercover, Gareth Pugh, Maison Martin Margiela, and Carol Christian Poell. Each of these pieces is described as "significant" and "iconic" to a particular season or designer. And just as the name states, merchandise comes from all over the place, even people's personal collections.

photo via USA Today

So what are the key themes that will lead us into the future? Despite trends of customization, sustainability, digital printing, voice recognition, and a shift towards showroom type retail establishments, there seems to be a back and forth swing between the new way of doing things via the latest technology, and still preserving the humble past of domestic sourcing and support for traditional industries. In addition, the rise in smartphone and iPad technology is slowly challenging the use of tangible cash via such innovations as Google Wallet and Square. The balance between old and new is super important as we move forward into the unknown because the best way to progress, is to learn and evolve from the past. 

1 comment:

  1. There is a lot of talk about whether online retailers will eventually phase out retail locations. I think there is a certain exhilaration the sense feel when you touch, smell and see the merchandise in person. It also encourage impulse buying.


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