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Blaiz to open debut boutique

Latin American fashion retailer Blaiz is to open its debut permanent boutique on the King’s Road in London, following the success of their previous pop-ups in the same location.

Opening in February, the 2,485 square foot Blaiz boutique will be the clothing e-tailer’s first permanent bricks-and-mortar store, housing its South American inspired fashion, swimwear, accessories and jewellery.

Located at 227 King’s Road, the new store design is being carted out by a top Greek decorating firm, with the aim of capturing “authentic South American freshness and finesse”.

Stephanie Margaronis Mordehachvili, founder of Blaiz said: “Following the huge success of our previous pop-ups within the Sloane Stanley Estate we are so excited to be announcing our first permanent physical boutique on The King’s Road.

Blaiz to open debut boutique

“From here we will offer excellent craftsmanship and stunning designs for fashion lovers, that share our passion for beautiful Latin American clothing. The international feel of our brand is a perfect match for the diverse nationalities that the King’s Road attracts. Furthermore, we will be debuting certain South American inspired experiences in-store, so that our customers have the complete Blaiz experience.”

Hannah Grievson, commercial property manager at Sloane Stanley Estate added: “Blaiz is a very exciting permanent addition to our tenant mix as we consistently look for exciting designers and entrepreneurs that will add to our distinct and vibrant offer.

“As a reputable brand that has caught the eye of the fashion world, Blaiz appeals to the King’s Road shoppers who flock here for a premium fashion experience and to enjoy the best of Chelsea.”

Images: courtesy of Blaiz

​Alexander McQueen teams up with JD.com​'s Toplife

London - Alexander McQueen has partnered up with JD.com to launch a new online store on the Chinese ecommerce giant's luxury platform Toplife, in order to strengthen its presence in China.

The deal, which sees Alexander McQueen opening a dedicated webshop on Toplife, is set to give the luxury fashion brand access to JD.com's firmly-established logistical infrastructure as well as its understanding of Chinese luxury e-commerce. The new online store is set to offer Alexander McQueen complete fashion ranges, as well as accessories.

Alexander McQueen currently operates 15 stores throughout China and Hong Kong and aims to bolster its online reach by collaborating with JD.com “We are proud to collaborate with JD.com with the launch of our store on their Toplife platform,” said Emmanuel Gintzburger, CEO of Alexander McQueen in a statement. “It is a strategic addition to our physical presence in China, part of our multi-channel experience. JD.com’s advanced capabilities will allow us to engage with a larger local clientele, whilst respecting the creative expression of the house.”

Launched last October, Toplife aims to fill a gap in the Chinese e-commerce market by only offering full-priced items from premium global brands. Toplife offers international luxury brands access to its allround system, which seamlessly incorporates an online store, premium customer service, delivery services as well as marketing and branding expertise in China.

“JD is thrilled to welcome Alexander McQueen, one of the world’s most visionary and innovative fashion labels, to Toplife,” added Richard Liu, CEO of JD.com. “With our continued push into luxury, we are committed to bringing top-notch service and a vast array of options to our discerning luxury consumers. Alexander McQueen’s critically acclaimed collections are a perfect addition to the growing range of sophisticated offerings available on Toplife.”

The move follows on from the launch of Saint Laurent's stand-alone online store on Toplife earlier this month.

Photo: Alexander McQueen AW17/18 campaign, courtesy of JD.com

Zalando to open two new outlets in Germany this year

German online giant Zalando is set to open two new physical outlets in Leipzig and Hamburg later this year.

Similar to Zalando Outlets in Berlin, Frankfurt, and Cologne, the new outlets will be centrally located in each city, offering more than 1,000 square metes of retail space. The first location to open will be in Burgstrasse, Leipzig, set to open its doors this summer, with the second outlet near Große Bleichen, Hamburg opening its doors to the public late summer.

Zalando is set to work with Design in Architektur, the interior agency which designed its store in Cologne to create its outlets in Leipzig and Hamburg. The opening of the new outlets will create 120 new jobs. "The Leipzig and Hamburg Zalando Outlets will certainly not be the last stores we open," added Dorothee Schönfeld, managing director of Zalando Outlets, in a statement, noting that physical retail is part of Zalando's business strategy.

Zalando's Outlets offer a wide range of designer and branded products, as well as Zalando's own house brands from previous seasons. The online retailer's physical stores are said to feature approximately 20,000 products in total from more than 500 different brands. The outlets offer shoppers discounts of up to 70 percent.

Photo: Zalando Outlet Cologne, courtesy of Zalando

According to the website willrobotstakemyjob.com the retail industry is “doomed”.

The American-based site saw over 300,000 searches in December, which allows users to enter their job titles in the quest to find out how likely it is for their jobs to be replaced by automation and robots.

According to the site, a colossal 47 percent of US jobs are at risk of being completely automated, triggering a landslide concern over job security.

The retail sector has changed vastly in the past decade, with online shopping changing the entire landscape of how we shop and work. Warehouses have replaced stores, robotic arms are replacing pick and pack humans, automated delivery drones are replacing the delivery van driver.

Dr Hui Cheng, head of China’s JD.com told the Retail Gazette that it operates nearly 7000 distribution centers, providing same day and next delivery to 1 billion people. He stated that during JD’s anniversary sales the company sold 700 million items, with all requiring same day or next day delivery. That is comparable to every inhabitant in Europe buying one item required imminent delivery. “For those logistics pilots human power can just not match the increase in demand.”

According to the Retail Gazette, those who have a 92 percent rating on willrobotstakemyjob.com are likely to see their role change, but not entirely disappear. Although upskilling will be a retailers - and employee’s - prerogative, a human element will always be necessary in maintaining, programming and administering automated machines.

In Pictures: Gucci Garden opens during Pitti Uomo 93

London - Gucci has turned seduction into an art form and its newly opened Gucci Garden, which opened its doors in Florence on Tuesday during Pitti Uomo, underlines the Italian luxury label's skills. The new concept, which includes haute couture in addition to art, haute cuisine and cinematography was designed by Gucci’s Creative Director Alessandro Michele.

Located within the ancient Palazzo della Mercanzia, Gucci Garden is home to an exhibition area, a bazaar-inspired boutique, a cinema room as well as a restaurant, named Gucci Osteria. The concept aims to explore the fashion house’s ‘electric creativity’ by offering visitors the chance to explore a curated range of archival pieces as well as more recent items, memorabilia, and contemporary art. Based on the format of a conventional museum, Michele aimed to reimagine it as a living, collaborative and creative space which shares the ever-evolving aesthetic of Gucci.

In Pictures: Gucci Garden opens during Pitti Uomo 93

Gucci launches new concept during Pitti Uomo: Gucci Garden

“The garden is real, but it belongs above all to the mind, populated with plants and animals: like the snake, which slips in everywhere, and in a sense, symbolises a perpetual beginning and a perpetual return,” said Michele on the concept. Spanning two floors, the Gucci Garden Galleria features apparel, video installations, artworks, documents and artefacts from the luxury fashion house, organised by theme. Michele worked alongside curator and critic Maria Luisa Frisa, head of the BA course in Style Design and Multimedia Arts at Luav University in Venice to create the Galleria displays.

In Pictures: Gucci Garden opens during Pitti Uomo 93

“We decided to make the space a laboratory where you have all the elements with which to creatively experiment,” she said. “In the rooms entitled De Rerum Natura, for example, we see Gucci’s passion for flora and fauna expressed through vintage and current garments, silver animal statuettes made by the firm in the Fifties and original artwork by Vittorio Accornero, who was commissioned to create the Gucci Flora print in 1966.” All Gucci designers work is represented in the Galleria. “The past is very much part of the present at Gucci, which is perfectly in keeping with Alessandro’s idea of the brand, and indeed his attitude to Florence, Gucci’s home, which he sees as a city where history is still vibrantly alive.”

In Pictures: Gucci Garden opens during Pitti Uomo 93

Gucci also invited three-Michelin-star chef Massimo Bottura to open a 50-seat restaurant, Gucci Osteria, on the ground floor of Gucci Garden. Bottura created an entirely new menu of high-end dishes for the restaurant, which was influenced by his travels. “Travelling the world, our kitchen interacts with everything we see, hear and taste,” said Bottura. “With eyes wide open, we look for the unexpected and next éclat.’ The menu will include iconic Italian dishes as well as conceptual twists on classics for an all-day dining experience. The restaurant is a reminder that Florence has always been a centre of cultural exchange, particularly during the Renaissance.”

In Pictures: Gucci Garden opens during Pitti Uomo 93

In addition to the restaurant, the ground floor is also home to a bazaar-like retail area spread across two rooms. The space features products exclusively designed for the Gucci Garden, which will not be sold in any other Gucci stores. Exclusive items to the concept include shoes and bags crafted from special materials, brocade skirts and coats, as well as silk amber jackets that feature Gucci Garden Gothic script. Some of the items feature the dedicated Gucci Garden logo, as new symbols, such as a new eye design and bat. Items from the Gucci Decor collection are also for sale in Gucci Garden, as well as a selection of books and magazines.

In Pictures: Gucci Garden opens during Pitti Uomo 93

Tickets for the Gucci Garden Galleria are 8 euros and half the ticket price is set to be donated to support restoration projects throughout the city of Florence. Prices for dishes at Gucci Osteria range from 20 to 30 euros.

Photos: Gucci Garden, courtesy of Gucci

London - Forever 21 seems to have fallen out of favor as the fast-fashion retailer continues to struggle amidst weakening sales. Forever 21 is set to close its only store in Ireland following poor trading conditions, as it downsizes its UK store estate.

The US-retailer will be closing its only store in Dublin, Ireland in addition to its flagship store in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. In addition, Forever 21 will also be shutting down its downtown store in Vancouver, Canada, due to flagging sales. Recently filed accounts for Forever 21 Style Ireland Ltd indicate the retailer has set aside close to 11 million euros for the lease exit and redundancy costs, which combined with the 4.5 million euro loss recorded in the financial year which ended February 2016 has resulted in a 44 million euro loss.

The fast-fashion retailer first opened its store in Dublin in 2010, and reportedly invested more than 10 million euros in renovating the store. Since then, Forever 21 has expanded to other European markets, such as Germany, Spain, Poland and France. However, the US retailer has struggled in a number of markets, including Britain and may be poised to exit a number of its international markets.

Last year was the first annual decline in consumer spending since 2012, as December sales reported lower than expected, according to data from Visa and IHS Markit.

December saw household expenditure fall by 1 percent, following the similar 0.9 percent decrease in spending in November. The lower than expected festive spending has led to a 0.3 percent decline for the whole year, the first drop in five years.

The figures reveal that face-to-face spending fell by 2.7 percent compared to the previous year, to mark the softest rate of reduction for four months, however, spending in this category has now fallen continuously since last May.

Online spending growth also slowed to 2 percent from 2.4 percent in November, which Visa and IHS Markit states expose the weaker rate of expansion in that channel than seen in recent years.

Spending by sector showed that five of the eight broad categories registered lower expenditure on an annual basis at the end of 2017, with clothing and footwear slowing declines of 2.4 percent.

Mark Antipof, chief commercial officer at Visa, said: “Christmas rounded off a lean year for retailers with consumer spending seeing its first consistent 12 month decline since 2012. December’s consumer spending figures confirm our earlier prediction that the UK would see its first fall in overall Christmas spending in five years. This result has bucked the trend of the previous four years which saw annual consumer spending rise by an average of 1.7 percent.

“Despite some large retailers signalling a strong Christmas performance, it is clear that the high street has suffered recently, while online spending has held up. This is emphasised by the torrid year for face-to-face expenditure, which continued in December as face-to-face spending was again outstripped by e-commerce, a trend we have witnessed in 11 of the last 12 months.

Mayor approves Croydon town centre regeneration

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan has given the green light to Croydon Partnership’s plans to overhaul the Whitgift shopping centre, which will give a “major boost” to long-term plans to regenerate Croydon town centre.

The 1.4 billion pound redevelopment of Whitgift, a joint venture between Westfield and Hammerson, will create more than 1.5 million square feet of retail and leisure space, which will be home to 300 new stores, restaurants and leisure facilities and bring 7,000 new jobs to the area.

The Mayor gave the project the green light after it was approved by Croydon Council’s planning committee late last year.

Commenting on his decision, Khan said: “This marks a crucial step forward in the regeneration of Croydon town centre. This development will play a key role in unlocking the borough’s potential and is set to deliver huge economic benefits to residents and businesses in the borough.

“As well as the creation of 7,000 jobs and the delivery of almost 1,000 new homes, it will also attract many visitors to its brand-new leisure facilities and public spaces. I’m confident the benefits of this scheme will be felt for generations to come.”

Hammerson chief investment officer, Peter Cole, added: “This confirmation from the Mayor of London that he supports our proposals will give further confidence to retailers, investors and the community, giving us the mandate to deliver a transformative, world-class retail and leisure destination which is already stimulating the ongoing wider regeneration of Croydon.”

The new development will feature a new Marks and Spencer flagship store, a 24-hour public walkway and up to 1,000 new homes. Construction for the billion pound scheme is set to begin in 2019.

Image: courtesy of Croydon Partnership

December capped a year of growth for UK retail, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse, as spending over the festive period increased 2.2 percent, compared to last December, helped by spending on clothing and food online.

Mastercard SpendingPulse, which accounts for all spending in the UK, including cash and card payments, revealed that while overall spending fell by 1.3 percent, however, online shopping grew by 11.5 percent year-on-year in December.

Clothing was one of the big winners, with e-commerce clothing sales increasing by 13.7 percent year-on-year, however, luxury goods and jewellery were down by 3.4 percent and 5.6 percent, respectively on 2016.

The results also revealed weaker footfall in the Boxing Day sales, with Mastercard stating that shoppers were satiated by discounting around Black Friday, which impacted the year-on-year comparisons, as some holiday sales shifted into November results.

Scott Abrahams, senior vice president of business development at Mastercard UK and Ireland, said: “When looking at the year as a whole, 2017 saw retail sales increase 4 percent. Although Christmas trading was tough and showed a mixed performance among retailers, these results do show that there some areas of optimism for British retailers, particularly those with a strong online presence.”

Mastercard also released its SpendingPulse results for the US holiday shopping season, which was more positive with 4.9 percent growth. The 2017 festive season set a new record for dollars spent, the largest year-over-year increase since 2011, which Mastercard states is “further indication” of increasing consumer confidence.

House of Fraser aims to slash store rents amidst tough trading conditions

London - British department store group House of Fraser is aiming to reduce rents on a number of stores following difficult trading conditions. The retailer has confirmed it reached out to some of its landlords, asking their "support" for HoF's ongoing transformation scheme.

The request, first reported by Sky News, implies that House of Fraser is still struggling after a tough Christmas season. Competitor Debenhams previously released a profit warning last week, after disappointing Christmas trading results, as retailers faced a volatile market.

House of Fraser, which is set to post its Christmas trading results next week, previously announced it aimed to close stores in Buckinghamshire, Aylesbury, and Leicester last year as part of its five-year turnaround plan. Other areas HoF aims to address in its plan include streamlining its womenswear offering, launching in-store champagne bars and investing 25 million pounds in its e-commerce.

"News of House of Fraser's financial troubles exposes another retailer who has failed to adapt to the relentless pace of structural change sweeping through the industry," commented Richard Lim, Chief Executive, Retail Economics.

"The unforgiving shift towards online spending against a backdrop of inflexible leases, upward only rent reviews and spiralling operating costs has put traditional retail business models under intense pressure. Put simply, many retailers are operating with business models that are no longer fit for purpose in today’s digitally-driven world."

Photo: Courtesy of House of Fraser