The focus of the National Retail Federation’s show in New York last week was the poor economy — for once, technology got sidelined.
But new ideas could bring in customers, said Fred Balboni, IBM Global Retail industry leader. “You have to do something that creates excitement around your experience as a retailer,” he said.
Cell phones were a widespread theme, while few executives mentioned RFID. At the Sonic Bar booth, Microsoft demonstrated its platform for tagging objects with two-dimensional bar codes. Microsoft Tag went live this month, and any user can set up, manage and monitor the creation of 2D barcodes on Microsoft’s site. Once the tag is printed and attached to something, such as a garment, shoppers can point their cell phones at a tag and call up a Web site with a video or information about how, for example, an item of clothing was made out of recycled materials using eco-friendly processes.
Avery Dennison has created a similar program and can print its labels and hangtags with its own 2-D bar codes. Such bar codes have already been widely used in Asia to promote brands such as Coke and Estée Lauder.
One of the most intriguing ideas was a kiosk that snaps a photo of a shopper and virtually applies makeup to the image. A major U.S. retailer plans to pilot the EZface Virtual Mirror Kiosk this quarter. CoverGirl and Garnier France already use a version of the technology online. The concept is well-suited for drugstores and the Internet, where products cannot be sampled.
EZface co-founder and vice president of marketing Ruth Gal came up with the idea late at night, when she was researching the latest color trends online while her children slept. “It was hard to see the colors,” she said. “I thought it would be great to have my virtual image and apply all the colors and decide what is the best color on me.” EZface is working with IBM to market and install the application.
IBM also demonstrated a new version of its visual 3-D technology that virtually brings together shoppers via cell phone, Internet and store. A shopper in the store can see anything for sale, such as a chair or dress, floating in 3-D space on a computer monitor. The shopper can send the item to a friend’s iPhone, so the friend sees the item in a product detail page on her iPhone and can chat about it or buy it.
IBM and Sky IT Group revealed that Theory is using its SkyPAD dashboard service to track and react more quickly to sales trends in stores, said Theory chief information officer Keitaro Shigemasa. For example, when leggings did well, the company was able to cut additional ones and sell more. The software also gives Theory more information about individual stores and better end-of-season reports.
Torex, which makes point-of-sale and Compass merchandising software, launched a customer loyalty product with an unusual feature: The software can be set up to recognize when a customer enters a store and can deliver a set of relevant promotions. Customers can be recognized by their mobile phone signals or a card with a loyalty chip in it. The customers could also use a kiosk to swipe their cards and download promotions.
Spencer Maynard, New Look vice president of allocation, said giving customers newness is key to doing well — especially in a down economy. “Fast fashion is now standard in almost all markets from clothing to electronics to food,” he said. The company has about nine million customers, and almost 40 percent of U.K. women shop there. New Look expects markdowns on trendy items and doesn’t try to keep them in stock for more than two or three weeks, he said. Fashion basics, on the other hand, have a longer shelf life and better full-price sellthroughs. “Because we didn’t have high levels of commitment [on fashion items], it frees up working capital, and we had a very successful Christmas,” he said.
For the most recent 12-week period, including after Christmas, total group sales were up 14.5 percent, market share was up 5 percent and margin up 1.7 percent, he said.
“They want to see it in a magazine, go to a shop, do it cheaply and brag to friends just how cheaply they did it,” he said. Any retailer who can do that is in a position to ride the difficult market conditions of the next few years, he added.
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews
“Stranger Things” is getting a new cast member for season 2. Meet @sadiesink_, the 15-year-old who will be joining the Netflix series for its new season. You may recognize her from “The Glass Castle” with Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson, but the Texas native’s next role goes in an entirely different direction. She describes her character, Max, as “a rough and tumble skater girl [who] becomes friends with the boys at school.” The second season debuts on October 27. (📷: @jgreenery) #wwdeye
Amid the Harvey Weinstein controversy, there’s another sector that’s being put under the spotlight for sexual abuse: the modeling industry. While rumors about abuse and sexual harassment of female and male models — and the photographers, agents and others who perpetrated it — have circulated within the fashion world for years, model @cameronrussell started posting stories from models on Instagram last week about abusive situations they’ve encountered — from sexual harassment and molestation to attempted rape. Over 75 have weighed in so far. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews
To celebrate its 16th anniversary, @dylanscandybar tapped designers and celebrities to create mosaics out of candy. The mosaics will be auctioned off to support the philanthropic cause of each participant’s choice. Pictured here is the mural created by @aliceandolivia's Stacey Bendet. For a first look at some of the other artwork being unveiled tonight, go to WWD.com. #wwdeye
The annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in Pacific Palisades this weekend drew Kate Hudson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laura Dern and more. See pictures of the star-studded event on WWD.com. (📷: @chelsealaurenla) #wwdeye
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye
"Nowadays when life is not so happy with everything going on in the world, I think people come to me for a little bit of whimsy and color and fun." - Designer Rebecca De Ravenel on her cult-favorite jewelry line. (📸 : @vsteves) #wwd40
“Everyone is talking about how the retail industry is struggling, but I think it’s an incredible time because brands who are doing something different and innovative are setting themselves up for the future,” said @adamgoldston, who founded the luxury athletic brand @apl with his brother @ryangoldsten. The Goldston’s are part of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables. See the rest of the list on WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
@eyeswoon blogger Athena Calderone debuted her first-ever cookbook, “Cook Beautiful,” which is heavily centered on the presentation and visual expression of food. Pictured here are her miso glazed carrots from the book. Get the recipe on WWD.com. (📷: @johnny_miller_) #wwdeye