NEW YORK — Coterie organizer UBM Advanstar knows times are tough in retail.That’s why interactive and educational experiences are being added to the three-day event, set for Feb. 27 to March 1 at the Jacob K. Javitz Convention Center here. The aim is to inspire buyers to bet on storytelling that fuses content, media, merchandising and technology to increase sales in their stores.To that end, a new augmented reality initiative dubbed “The Coterie Experience” is slated to make its debut at the show. The 4,000-square-foot interactive installation, located near the main entrance, will feature a few environments, each with a different fashion mood — whether boho-chic or grunge — with a selection from the show’s top 100 brands.Guests will be able use iPads to unlock “secrets” and other elements of discovery throughout the space. For example: hovering an iPad over a product might activate a video of a designer talking about the inspiration behind their collection.More than 80 brands will be featured, including Jill Stuart, Intropia, Zadig & Voltaire, Frame, Mes Demoiselles, 3x1, The Kooples, Intuition Paris, No Ka ‘Oi, Naadam and Current Elliott.“Merchandising product and content together is the future of global retail,” said Danielle Licata, Coterie’s vice president and general manager. “The goal is to create a customer experience for our attendees that sparks conversation, creativity and a broader dialogue for engaging the end customer.”The concept was conceived by former Diesel executive Valentino Vettori, whose career has spanned fashion design — he once had his own collection called Improvd — to showroom sales. He later became the chief creative and marketing officer of Century 21 Department Store in New York. Now, he describes himself as a “retail storyteller” and said he simply wants to help make stores cool again.“It’s not true that retail is not relevant anymore. But it is true that it’s boring,” Vettori said. “We’re all trying to figure it out. What is the next move? I have my own personal opinion that it has to be experiential. Racks and racks of clothes don’t belong in stores anymore; they don’t inspire. Every time I see a rack of clothes, I wonder how much more I can find online and I wonder about better prices...Stores need to start removing racks and making space for the consumer to experience. Coterie, for me, was an opportunity to start sprinkling a little bit of technology in a new way for buyers and brands.”But what about guests who prefer to get down to the business of shopping without distraction?“Technology should be invisible, and a choice,” Vettori said. “There should be a unique element of discovery and interactivity with customers, where they have the option to choose.”Furthering Licata’s goal — for Coterie to be a place of learning and discovery — she's also tapped Scott Galloway, New York University marketing professor and founder of L2, to head up a seminar series on Feb 28 and March 1. The four lectures, given by Galloway and his team at L2, will touch upon retail in the digital age — from the evolving world of omnichannel to ins and outs of social media marketing.Embracing new technologies and new distribution channels are the keys to success, according to Galloway.“There’s so much change in the digital space and we’re just taking an opportunity to look at all of it in an academic, data-driven way,” he said. “You have a challenging retail environment. Consumers are spending less on apparel and more on coffee and experiences. There are enormous challenges…and the reality is that retailers and brands have to do more with less.”A few noteworthy brands hoping to make an impact on retailers at the show this season include Grey Jason Wu, Paul & Joe Sister, Stephanie Rad, BA&SH, Aviator Nation and Jacquie Aiche.Julien Haggiag, U.S. vice president of Paul & Joe Sister, said the brand is returning to Coterie thanks to a growing customer base in the U.S. The label plans to introduce pieces from its limited-edition capsule collection for fall, based on Sony Pictures’ “The Emoji Movie,” slated for release this summer.Rad, meanwhile, will be making her debut in the TMRW section. Her namesake label specializes in making perfectly fit trousers — her fall collection contains 18 different pants silhouettes — and she's hoping to expand her reach and connect to new stores.“I am hopeful that people will embrace our brand ethos as a go-to separates collection for the modern woman at a great price,” Rad said.LoveShackFancy, founded by Rebecca Hessel Cohen in 2013, will have its own booth at Coterie this season, decked out in Cohen’s signature aesthetic, which she described as “Scandinavian rustic meets Parisian chic.”She’ll incorporate lush, overgrown florals into the space, as well as objects and pieces of furniture picked up along her travels.“It’s very important for us to have our own brand identity at the show,” Cohen said. “We have a very particular aesthetic and really want to invite buyers into our world.”Cohen’s brand, known for its bohemian frocks, is undergoing a bit of a growth spurt, having recently hired a new vice president of sales, Stacy Lilien, formerly of Rebecca Taylor, to focus on domestic and international sales. LoveShackFancy will also relaunch its web site and e-commerce, introduce a bridal and girls collection, and develop new lifestyle categories, including accessories and home goods.Cooper & Ella, the label founded by Kara Mendelsohn in 2013, will be showing for the fourth consecutive season.“We all know it’s a challenging time in the marketplace; we’re seeing it, we’re experiencing it,” Mendelsohn said. “At Cooper & Ella, we are working to evolve, all the while sticking to what we do best — delivering special details, exclusive prints and high quality at an accessible price. That’s where we’re successful."A few logistical changes are in store at Coterie as well: Sole Commerce will join Coterie this season in Hall 1B as a comprehensive presentation of international footwear and handbag brands, and EDIT, which will remain a stand-alone show this season, will be joining Coterie next September.
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