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Neighborhood Goods: Making retail relevant

Physical retail traditionally exists in a vortex of information, which doesn’t make sense for brands these days, says Matt Alexander, co-founder and CEO of new department store Neighborhood Goods, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast. 

The company’s inaugural space, which launched in Plano, Texas, in late 2018, carries a selection of new and established brands in an environment that is hyper relevant to both its location, and its customer, through the use of data. 

Alexander’s view? Success lies in information. “If you’re a direct-to-consumer, digital-native brand, you’re going to look at this world, and you’re going to say: ‘We should be able to capture a certain amount of informative data to dictate how we should run that store, and how we should merchandise [it]’.” he explains. “That’s what they do on the web all day long. The moment you land on any of their websites, they know a huge amount about you, and exactly how you’re interacting with that site. And they optimize around it.”

His brilliant phrase: it’s all about operating in an economy of relevance. 

It’s for this reason many legacy retailers are otherwise struggling, he explains. In a basic sense it comes down to them not creating the goods, services and experiences that they know for fact the consumer wants. There is therefore a lot for them to learn from D2C incumbents – from Everlane to Casper – who have placed this front and centre in their strategies. 

Join us for this episode as we also explore why experiential retail needs to go beyond just putting a ball pit in the store, how modern brands are using the physical space for entirely new reasons, and why Alexander believes legacy retailers may still have the ability to play catch up after years of ignoring consumer needs after all.

Listen here: Entale | Spotify |  Apple Podcasts | Android Google Podcasts | Stitcher | RSS

Catch up with all of our episodes of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by the Current Global, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more. 

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Editor's pick Retail

Neiman Marcus blends retail and tech at Hudson Yards megastore

Department store Neiman Marcus is claiming a stake of the $25bn Hudson Yards development opening in lower Manhattan in NYC this week with a megastore that merges traditional and omnichannel retail.

The space, which takes up five out of seven floors of the retail complex, is the retailer’s latest play at engaging with a new luxury consumer that is not only seeking products, but experiences and education alongside.

On the lower floor, for example, the retailer is hosting a kitchen for live demonstrations, while Neiman Marcus Live is a space on the middle floor that can hold up to 100 people for events like talks and Q&As with fashion designers and industry pioneers. The store also features a bar, named Stanley, which overlooks the Thomas Heatherwick-designed Vessel structure, a larger-than-life center piece for the Hudson Yards complex.

Technology is being blended into the space in order to give the luxury customer a one-to-one, tailored interaction with sales staff.

The Current Global’s CTO, Scott Emmons, who is the former head of the Neiman Marcus iLab, and was responsible for the technology execution in the new store before his departure, said: “We applied creative approaches and partnerships so that the consumer-facing technology was both useful to the shopper, and fit naturally into a very luxurious retail environment.”

A smart fitting room at Neiman Marcus

This includes a smart fitting room where customers can ‘check in’ upon entering, which will then act as a communication tool between shopper and sales associate. The customer can request new items, different sizing and even signal they are ready to check out through a personal screen, which is then communicated to the associate’s mobile POS system.

The fitting room experience was designed to easily be updated with new capabilities in the future, such as self-checkout or recommendation technologies, as well as enhance the ever-important role of the associate.

“Technology in this instance, is being used to not only deliver an optimal customer experience but act as a digital exoskeleton to supercharge the capabilities of the sales associates,” Emmons added.

It’s for this reason he believes this store is an example of what retail needs to look like in the future. “New York is one of the toughest places in the world to be a retailer and stand out from very capable competitors. Technology is not the only answer but when combined with the visual aspects, the right merchandise, experiential aspects and so forth, it can put you over the top.”

“This is how we think about things at the Current Global – removing technology from its vacuum and into the wider context of creative innovation in order to meet pressing consumer demands. At the end of the day, traditional retail must be weaved together with modern tech to enable customers to be seen and treated like individuals, and not market segments. Technology for the sake of it will never respond to basic human needs of having emotional connections when purchasing luxury.

“At a time when so many department stores are failing, what Neiman Marcus has pulled off is an inspiring example of what luxury retail should be. It’s a combination of great experience, great staffing, great environment and the right tech.”

How are you thinking about retail innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. The Current Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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Campaigns e-commerce Editor's pick social media

Harvey Nichols introduces shoppable choir visits via Instagram

Harvey Nichols' Harvey's Angels
Harvey Nichols’ Harvey’s Angels

Ahead of the holiday season, British department store Harvey Nichols has introduced a charitable shopping experience discoverable via a real-life choir whose looks are available via Instagram.

The initiative benefits women going into the job’s market through the Smart Works charity.

The Harvey’s Angels, as the choir is called, were sent to offices across London – from Google to Estée Lauder – last week, donning partywear available to shop from the retailer, by designers such as Roland Mouret and Peter Pilotto. All looks could be purchased directly through its Instagram account via shoppable posts.

Additionally over four days, 10% of all purchases made at Harvey Nichols’ Knightsbridge location or online using the code “HNAngels” went to Smart Works.

“At Smart Works we are lucky enough to witness every day the impact that great clothes and good advice can have on a women’s life. We believe that fashion can be used as a force for good, and that is why we are thrilled to be working with Harvey Nichols on this exciting Christmas shopping experience,” says Kate Stephens, CEO of Smart Works. “Every shopper at Harvey Nichols who uses the dedicated code HNangels online or in store over the next three days will be helping a women to be her best.” The charity gives women across the country the tools to enter the job’s market, including clothing and self-belief and practical tools required to succeed.

For Harvey Nichols, the campaign ties to the company’s history as well as its continuous support of women in the workplace – at present, seven out of nine people of the company’s board are women.

“Our partnership with Smart Works is a natural extension of our values. Christmas is the fashion season, because it’s also party season. But we know that our customers are rushed off their feet,” said Deb Bee, group marketing and creative director at Harvey Nichols. “So we have partnered with Smart Works to raise awareness of this partnership and help busy women in London find a party outfit even if they can’t take time out of work. This will be delivered in the most Christmassy way we know; with a fun, glamorous, party-song-singing, shoppable Christmas choir.”

Are you thinking innovatively enough in your brand messaging? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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product Retail

Benetton launches Selfridges line featuring 109 colorways

United Colors of Benetton
United Colors of Benetton

United Colors of Benetton is teaming up with Selfridges on an exclusive capsule collection that will feature items in 109 different colors.

The collection will draw from the Italian brand’s archives and aims to reiterate its colorful history, with a modern British twist. Meanwhile, the vast color choice aims to pay an homage to Selfridges itself: the department store’s iconic yellow is number 109 on the Pantone palette. Shades will vary from bright pop hues to more pastel tones.

“It’s our first collaboration with a department store and it is an exciting new line that celebrates the colorful look, history and Italian ethos of the brand,” said Tommaso Bruso, chief operating officer of the Benetton Group. “It’s a confirmation of the brand’s history. From the Sixties to today there have been social and cultural revolutions and this has become the essence of the brand.”

The unisex collection, which will launch as a pop-up at Selfridges this Friday (September 14) to coincide with London Fashion Week, will feature sweaters, co-ords and accessories such as caps and duffel bags. Prices will range from £10 to £180.

In line with the nostalgia trend that has pervaded fashion for the past few years, sportswear and 90s favorites such as Benetton are increasingly coming back into the spotlight and joining the cultural conversation with collaborations with contemporary brands or retailers.

Sportwear label Champion is another example, teaming up with the likes of Danish cult label Wood Wood and Japanese streetwear retailer BEAMS on exclusively collaborations; meanwhile this month, Polaroid celebrated its 80th anniversary by releasing a limited edition sneaker with Puma that features its iconic rainbow stripe; and from a luxury standpoint, subversive French label Vetements has been responsible for resurrecting a few old favorites on its runways season after season, such as Juicy Couture, Eastpack and Umbro.

How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about helping you build innovative integrations and experiences. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology, powered by a network of top startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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Editor's pick product Retail

Balenciaga’s new trainers can only be bought by appointment at Selfridges

Balenciaga 'Track' sneakers
Balenciaga ‘Track’ sneakers

Balenciaga is launching a new shoe, named the ‘Track’, by appointment only at London department store Selfridges.

In order to book an appointment however, shoppers must visit a dedicated site to reserve a pair, and collect at a designated time slot at the store’s Corner Shop.

“This service model has been in place for brand launches for a few years, and it has helped eliminate queues and customer dissatisfaction,” Sebastian Manes, Selfridges buying and merchandising director, told Vogue ahead of the launch.

The retail strategy demonstrates once again the influence that streetwear’s drop culture has had on luxury as a whole, from product to shopping experience. Under Demna Gvasalia’s tenure, Balenciaga has borrowed from the hype generated by the Georgian designer’s other role as the head creative of Vetements, which gained him cult following by playing up irony in fashion.

With that mindset, Balenciaga led the trend of the ‘ugly’ sneaker in luxury fashion with its Triple S model. This new model, however, takes inspiration from traditional hiking and running styles, using similar high tech materials that aim to enhance performance.

Balenciaga 'Track' sneakers
Balenciaga ‘Track’ sneakers

“Balenciaga sneakers have been one of the most in-demand pieces of footwear since last year,” continued Manes. “Every time we restock the Triple S, it sells out within hours thanks to a growing waiting list. Our clients can’t wait to see what’s next from Demna Gvasalia – he has truly reinvented the house for the modern day woman and man.”

The new model will come in four styles, which can be previewed on the interactive site. Given the popularity of its predecessor, both the brand and retailer expect it to become another cult classic.

Selfridges’ Corner Shop, which is the store’s pop-up space, will also host artworks by artist Mark Jenkins at the same time that the coveted sneakers are on sale.

How are you thinking about product and retail innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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Campaigns Editor's pick

Bloomingdale’s launches anti-bullying campaign with in-store activations

Bloomingdale's
Bloomingdale’s

Bloomingdale’s has teamed up with NGO Kind Campaign to launch an initiative to help end bullying among young girls. 

The week-long programme will see multiple activations happening across different store locations, including creative workshop stations and pledge walls. The American retailer worked with Kind Campaign to curate different activities, all of which aim to teach the importance of kindness and collaboration to young girls. 

One station, a pledge wall, will encourage children to write anti-bullying slogans, as well as share kind words and drawings, with the resulting murals being donated to local schools. The two remaining stations are more directly linked to Kind Campaign itself: one booth will invite children to build bracelets with empowering messages, while the other allows anyone interested in joining the organization to become an ambassador, or even start their own Kind Club in their local community.

Bloomingdale's x Kind Campaign merchandise
Bloomingdale’s x Kind Campaign merchandise

The collaboration also includes a capsule collection of t-shirts with uplifting slogans reading “Find Your Kind” and “Kindness is Magic”, with 10% of sale profits being donated to the NGO.

Kind Campaign, which is one of the country’s largest anti-bullying organizations, focuses solely on female bullying as it believes the majority of the behavior is related to verbal abuse, therefore requires a different approach to male bullying.

To learn about how kindness and accountability can help companies further innovate and tap into an engaged community, listen to TheCurrent Innovator’s episode featuring Louise TroenBumble’s SVP for international marketing and communications.

Are you thinking innovatively enough in your brand messaging? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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Campaigns Editor's pick film technology

Barneys unveils VR film with Samsung and contemporary dance company

Mantle by Barneys New York
Mantle by Barneys New York

Barneys New York has launched Mantle, a virtual reality film and experience in collaboration with New York-based Martha Graham Dance Company and Samsung as its tech and distribution partner.

The film aims to blend fashion, technology and contemporary dance as it showcases dancers wearing exclusive designer looks straight from the runway.

“Barneys New York has always been centered around fashion and its role within culture,” said Matthew Mazzucca, creative director of Barneys New York. “By partnering with another iconic New York institution, the Martha Graham Dance Company, along with Samsung, we are proud to give our customers an immersive experience in our stores and on Barneys.com that fuses high design with art, performance, and technology. All of these elements are pillars of the experiences Barneys New York is known for.”

Mantle features four principal dancers from the Martha Graham Dance Company, each embodying different parts of the human psyche – power, ethereal, possessed and the cleaner – as well as former company members ranging up to 70 years of age. The cast wears designs by Prabal Gurung, The Row, Rick Owens, Loewe and Craig Green, all of which will be on display in the department store’s windows, as well as in the Mantle viewing experience inside.

The film is available to watch in virtual reality in-store with Gear VR powered by Oculus headsets through the Samsung VR app, and online on Barney’s online platform The Window. Users of Samsung’s VR content service app can also access it from home through their own headsets.

“No other medium can really envelop consumers into a brand universe and create brand affinity like virtual reality. We are thrilled that Barneys New York was inspired by our Gear VR technology and the immersive storytelling that VR can facilitate,” said Zach Overton, VP of brand experience at Samsung Electronics America. “At Samsung, we aim to create innovative partnerships, like our relationship with Barneys New York, to help brands reinvent how they connect with consumers.”

Filmed using a 360-degree camera, the short film was by Theo Stanley and choreographed by former MGDC teacher Cynthia Stanley. Additional collaborators include set designer Stefan Beckham and composer Sam Wagster.

“We’re creating a new experience,” Mazzucca told WWD. “We’ve gotten into pursuing what the idea of storytelling means. There’s a lot of great innovations happening in AR and VR. We understand what the retail experience can be. Seeing apparel in a VR space and how it’s captured will start something. Having immersive experiences is something we’re going to keep hammering at.”

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business digital snippets e-commerce film mobile product social media sustainability technology

What you missed: Ralph Lauren’s Instagram Stories, Apple’s augmented reality, brand activations at NYFW

Ralph Lauren on Instagram - Instagram Stories
Ralph Lauren on Instagram

A round-up of everything you might have missed in relevant fashion business, digital comms and tech industry news over the past week.


TOP STORIES
  • Decoding the digital strategy behind Ralph Lauren’s ‘garage’ show [BoF]
  • Apple shows off breathtaking new augmented reality demos [The Verge]
  • Apple’s new Animojis are the latest sign that brands need to embrace augmented reality [AdWeek]
  • 7 of the smartest brand activations so far at NYFW [PSFK]

BUSINESS
  • Should Amazon buy Nordstrom next? [Recode]
  • The modern luxury supply chain is log jammed at the front door of your apartment building [LeanLuxe]
  • Kering and LVMH draft charter on models’ well-being [The Fashion Law]
  • Everlane founder Michael Preysman: ‘Denim is a really dirty business’ [Glossy]

SOCIAL MEDIA
  • Cath Kidston collaborates with Pinterest on “Colour” QR codes [The Industry]

MARKETING
  • Matchesfashion.com to launch daily content with Style Daily [The Industry]
  • AI is so hot right now researchers are posing for Yves Saint Laurent [The Verge]
  • Rodarte’s Laura and Kate Mulleavy on their first feature film [The Impression]

RETAIL & E-COMMERCE
  • To save retail, let it die [BoF]
  • Amazon’s 1-click patent is about to expire. What’s the big deal? [NPR]
  • Alibaba to open ‘More Mall,’ a physical mall connecting online shoppers in China [Jing Daily]
  • eBay launches new digital concept to mark New York Fashion Week [Fashion United]

TECHNOLOGY
  • Data from your clothing could soon earn you digital currency thanks to this blockchain integration [Forbes]
  • How AI is transforming the shopping experience based on the images consumers look at online [AdWeek]

PRODUCT
  • Nike to launch custom shoes in less than 90 minutes [Fashion United]
  • Adidas has created a pair of beer-repellent shoes [PSFK]
Categories
business e-commerce Editor's pick mobile

Nordstrom’s new store concept will carry no inventory

Nordstrom Local
Nordstrom Local

US department store chain Nordstrom has announced it is preparing to roll out a new store concept that will tap into consumer demand for convenience and speed with a smaller and much more dedicated retail space.

Nordstrom Local stores will carry no dedicated inventory, with customers who want to shop only able to do so via Personal Stylists. In a bid to  focusing on tailored service over footprint, the space will sit at 3,000 sq. ft, compared to the average 140,000 sq. ft Nordstrom store.

“As the retail landscape continues to transform at an unprecedented pace, the one thing we know that remains constant is that customers continue to value great service, speed and convenience,” said Shea Jensen, Nordstrom’s senior vice president of customer experience, who led the Nordstrom Local initiative. “We know there are more and more demands on a customer’s time and we wanted to offer our best services in a convenient location to meet their shopping needs.”

Customers can book in appointments online, over the phone or in-person. Following one-to-one conversations, the stylists will then transfer in suitable merchandise for the respective clients to come in and try. Stores will have one styling suite and eight dressing rooms accordingly, all of them surrounding a central meeting space where customers can enjoy a drink and talk to their dedicated stylist. Other services include Alterations & Tailoring, Click & Collect and Curbside Pickup, access to Trunk Club and an on-site nail salon.

The on-site personal stylists will also be armed with the retailer’s new digital tool, Nordstrom Style Boards, which allows them to create digital boards filled with personalised fashion recommendations that customers can view on their phone and purchase directly through Nordstrom.com. Customers can also log into the app to have more extensive conversations with salespeople and stylists.

The first Nordstrom Local is set to open in Los Angeles, California, on October 3. It follows the announcement of Nordstrom’s increased Reserve & Online Try In Store service earlier this month.

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e-commerce mobile

Why Nordstrom’s latest customer experience tool is all about convenience

Nordstrom's Reserve Online & Try In Store
Nordstrom’s Reserve Online & Try In Store

If time is the greatest luxury for modern consumers, Nordstrom is steadily proving that convenience is one of the foremost things it can offer its shoppers.

The department store is expanding its Reserve Online & Try In Store service to over 40 stores nationwide, following the success of its pilot in six last year.

The premise, which is built around making it easier for customers to shop in the way that they want to, enables app users to select items they like, then book to have them set in a fitting room for them in the store of their choice, ready to try on in person. There is no commitment to purchase at any stage.

“Many of our customers like to feel and try on clothes and shoes before they purchase them and we’re excited to offer them a more convenient way to do so,” says Shea Jensen, senior vice president of customer experience at the company. Read the full story, including further insight from Jensen, via Forbes.