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International fashion brands are going online-first in India

An increasing number of international fashion and lifestyle brands are deciding to go the online route when first opening a shop in India. British fashion brands River Island, Dorothy Perkins and Miss Selfridges are examples of this growing trend.

India's huge consumer base is certainly part of the attraction as well as the fact that these consumers are highly net-savvy individuals who are used to browsing and purchasing online. Among the popular online buying categories are (in this order) fashion apparel, handbags, beauty products, accessories, health foods and watches according to business consultanting firm RNCOS.

India's e-commerce growth is fuelled by small towns

The massive growth of e-commerce in India, which is fuelled by the small towns, is tempting many international brands with an online-first launch, hoping for an easier entry into the country than with a traditional store. A tie-up with established online portals like Flipkart, Jabong and Myntra makes it even easier for foreign brands as they can take advantage of the online retailers' customer base and their knowledge of the customers and territory.

"E-commerce is creating a lucrative market for brands looking for ways to increase customer engagement," confirmed Michael Adnani, the VP of retail and head of brand alliances at Flipkart. "The market intelligence we provide helps them position and launch their products far more effectively. And that too at a fraction of the cost they would incur on conventional retail," he added.

International fashion brands are going online-first in India

Reaching consumers in the metros and tier II and III cities is one priority of brands and retailers in India but in view of a growing middle and upper class across the country, reaching fashion conscious and luxury customers regardless of where they live is becoming increasingly important. Thus, e-commerce spaces are viable alternatives because they do not incur heavy costs and their reach is far, becoming attractive even for brands with established brick and mortar stores in the country like Mango and Aldo.

"Through the e-commerce platform, we want to make our brand accessible to a larger audience," confirmed Josie Roscop, marketing director of River Island. The brand just opted for an online-first entry into India through a tie-up with Jabong.com.

For the Indian e-tailers, the arrangement works too as they can woo Indian consumers eager to shop for international brands. Thus, Flipkart and Myntra only recently tied up with e-commerce consultancy firm Ace Turtle to launch a host of global fashion brands like Guess, Desigual and Scotch & Soda.

Indian online portal Styleandyou.com has even launched a Luxury Lounge where it will offer brands like Tory Burch, Versace, Aston Martin and Coach to attract luxury consumers who do not have access to the brick-and-mortar stores of their favorite brands or prefer the convenience of shopping online. "We cater to those brands that are not in India and have no plans to enter India for the next few years," said Styleandyou CEO Ashish Mediratta.

Coming back to why online-first is becoming such an attractive option for international brands, real estate is part of the answer too. Premium spaces in shopping malls and high streets are scare and available prime properties quite hard to get and costly to rent. "Real estate is expensive and the number of malls available is very limited. E-commerce can provide the right environmen and pan-Indian reach," stated Arun Chandra Mohan, CEO and co-founder of Jabong.

Photos: River Island at Jabong / Emporio Armani at Styleandyou
River Island to exit Russian market

After only 6 years in the Russian market River Island is to close its 10 store portfolio and cease operations.

The UK high street giant stated it's Russian trading partner, Maratex, was due to exit the fashion sphere, leaving 50 percent of the company without an owner. In Russia it is nearly impossible to become the sole owner of a business if you are a foreign entity.

River Island will continue to sell to Russia online

River Island will continue to sell to Russia via its online boutique and its relations with a local e-commerce partner are thought to remain unaffected.

According to reports, Maratex is to close its company, which may also affect its franchise agreements with Italian fast fashion group OVS and Esprit.

Earlier this autumn River Island stated it would focus on expanding in international markets, including South Africa and the Philippines. It also launched direct e-commerce websites in Australia, France and Germany.

In the autumn of 2008 River Island opened its first boutique in Moscow in conjunction with Maratex.

At the time River Island's chief executive Richard Bradbury said he will take a cautious approach to growth in the country. “We will adopt our normal policy – open a shop, trade it, see how it goes. Russia is a very big market, but it’s also a costly place to do business,” he said.

After London comes Paris, or at least for J.Crew, who are eyeing the French capital for its next instalment of collegiate fashion.

J.Crew is thought to be opening two stores in Paris in 2015, in addition to its fifth outlet in Lnodon.

The first Paris store, measuring 2,260 square foot, will open next March on Rue Malher, while a men’s store will open nearby in September.

“Paris is one of the great fashion and consumer cities in the world, and lots of French customers are shopping in our New York stores, so it wasn’t a difficult choice,” chief executive Millard Drexler told WWD.

He added that France is now among the top 10 countries for J.Crew’s online business.

In London, the brand plans to open its fifth store in a former bank on Marylebone High Street. It will span 3,000 square foot, opening in Q1 next year, carrying just womenswear.

British fashion chain Topshop will open the doors to its brand new flagship store on New York\'s Fifth Avenue this Wednesday. It will be the chain\'s second store in New York, and second only in size to Topshop\'s Oxford Street store, making this the brand's second largest store in the world.

Finding the Fifth Avenue location took some time. Topshop opened its first New York store in Soho in 2009. According to Arcadia boss Sir Philip Green, Fifth Avenue is the dream location of every retailer, but it required patience and hard work to realize this dream. In an interview with WWD, Green said: "This has been a long journey. There is nothing simple in New York. Nobody understands the word 'easy'."

According to WWD's sources, the London flagship generates annual sales of 250 million dollars (156.4 million pounds). The Fifth Avenue store - which counts 4 floors and 33,000 square feet, making it a third the size of the London store - is expected to generate annual sales of at least 80 million dollars (50 million pounds).

Green refused to speculate or divulge information regarding the expected sales volume. "I'm a retailer, not a clairvoyant," he said. He does, however, expect to make a profit with this new location, as opposed to some retailers who regard the high-cost address as more of a marketing tool than a profit-making enterprise.

Retailers suffer from warm weather autumn

It may be Halloween on the calendar, but the weather is scarily warm for this time of year.

High temperatures for this time of year has been a bain in retailers\' existence, with slow sales of heavy clothes, outerwear and anything remotely wintery. In fact there hasn't been a day this season where hats, scarves and gloves where necessary.

Retailers issue profit warnings due to warm weather

While unseasonable weather is great for the every day, for businesses it is another story. No surprise then that profit warnings from the likes of Next and Supergroup were announced when there is little customer interest in buying winter clothes.

But while Supergroup and Next say they will hold firm on pricing in the run-up to Christmas, others have already started discounting, with Gap offering 40 percent discount on some lines, and general promotions from mid-season sales to full on Christmas price wars.

Most major high street retailers had special offers in the run-up to Christmas last year, according to PwC. Marks & Spencer, for example, had a “mega day” of discounts, while in November retailers imitated America’s “Black Friday” in an effort to kick-start Christmas spending.

The result was battered top lines at a range of retailers in January. M&S chief executive Marc Bolland said “unprecedented” discounting was one of the main causes.

“We are seeing a lot of competitors discounting very heavily already,” said Euan Sutherland, chief executive of Supergroup.

Promotions drive footfall, and retailers will be doing everything they can in the run-up to Christmas to maximise their sales.

Despite the positive news of the economy bouncing back, the level of discounting this holiday season will be indicative of how buoyant the retail industry is.

Deloitte publish holiday spending report

The holiday season is fashion retailers\' most lucrative time of year and according to Deloitte\'s Annual Holiday Survey, US consumers are expected to spend more than 2013.

Total Holiday spending is expected to increase by 13 percent to 1,299 dollars per household, while spending on gifts is expected to rise 9 percent to 458 dollars per household. The number of gifts consumers expect to purchase has increased to 13.4, up from 12.9 in 2013, but omnichannel consumers who shop across store, mobile and online channels are expected to spend 66 percent more on gifts that those that only shop in physical stores.

Meanwhile, the survey also found that online and discount/value stores are the top shopping venues for the holidays this year, with 45 percent of consumers planning to shop at the former and 44 percent planning to shop at the latter.

Clothing remains the most popular gifts items

The top gift item remains clothing, with 45 percent of respondents planning to buy it, while gift cards are still in second place with 43 percent although they are not as popular as they were in 2007 when 69 percent of people said they would buy them.

"With the short, 27-day shopping stretch between Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day, retailers need to be sharp with their promotional timing, inventory management and distribution capabilities,” said Alison Paul, vice-chairman and retail sector leader at Deloitte LLP. “Retailers that can fulfil orders from both online distribution centres and store inventories, for example, may be more nimble and poised to respond quickly to pockets of high demand for certain gifts - and ensure timely holiday deliveries."

Beyond Retro, the UK’s largest vintage retailer is set to open its first pop-up in London next month, which will feature novelty Christmas jumpers in support of Save the Children\'s Christmas Jumper Day.

“As the Beyond Retro brand continues to evolve and develop we’re constantly looking at extending our offering; our customers are as diverse as the areas that our stores occupy and Old Street with its unique mix of independent businesses, creative industries and office workers is an obvious location,” commented Kate Peters, Beyond Retro’s Managing Director.

“We've been championing the outrageous Christmas jumper for many years now and are delighted to be partnering with Save the Children’s Christmas Jumper Day; this year our customers can make a sustainable fashion choice by wearing a vintage jumper, whilst also supporting a charitable cause.”

The temporary store, located within Old Street station, is set to open its doors 11 November and will run for six weeks until 21 December. After selling over 8,000 holiday knits across their UK stores last season, Beyond Retro has decided to partner with international children's charity Save the Children and support its Christmas Jumper Day campaign, set to take place on 12 December. The vintage retailer has pledged to sell 10,000 Christmas knits this season and will be donating one pound for every Christmas Jumper sold in their UK stores and online to the charity.

“We're thrilled that Beyond Retro is supporting Save the Children’s 2014 Christmas Jumper Day,” said Douglas Rouse, director of Corporate Partnerships at Save the Children. “The range of festive knits is fantastic and what’s best is that the money donated from each jumper sold will support our much-needed work to help the world’s most vulnerable children.”

Online fashion retailer Boohoo.com has opened its first physical store in New York, offering its customers direct access to its product range to celebrate the brand\'s relaunch in the US.

The British e-tailer will operate a pop-up store on 462 West Broadway, which is set to remain open every day over the next three weeks, from 11 am to 7 pm.

The pop-up shop will offer 8000 selected items for men and women and will feature collection previews, VIP evenings and music sessions for selected customers who engage with the brand via its social media platforms.

Carol Kane, Boohoo.com joint chief executive told Retail Week the reason behind their decision to host their first pop-up store in New York was because the “the American market continues to be a key focus for Boohoo.”

“We want the consumer to be able to experience our brand first hand and at the pop-up visitors will be able to touch and feel the product and order straight from site.” Customers will also be able to order items online and have them delivered to the store for local pickup.

Macy’s Inc has announced plans to open its first Macy\'s and Bloomingdale\'s stores in Abu Dhabi in 2018, after entering into a strategic partnership with Al Tayer Group LLC, a leading UAE-based company, who will operate the stores underlicense.

The Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s stores will anchor Al Maryah Central, a new super-regional shopping destination on Al Maryah Island being developed by Gulf Related, a joint venture between Related Companies and Gulf Capital. The 3.1 million square foot development will offer retail, cafés and restaurants, as well as a cinema, health club, luxury hotel and residential dwellings.

Macy’s will operate over four levels spanning 205,000 square foot, while Bloomingdale's will occupy 230,000 square foot on four levels. Both stores will offer an assortment of merchandise as well as ambiance and customer service similar to the brand’s shopping experienced in the US stores.

This will be the first international location for Macy's and second for Bloomingdale's, following the 2010 opening of the Dubai store, for which it also partnered with Al Tayer.

Terry Lundgren, Macy’s, Inc. chairman and chief executive officer, said: “As a spectacular new world-class shopping destination, Al Maryah Central provides an outstanding opportunity to introduce Macy’s to customers who live and work in the booming UAE market, as well as to visitors who come from around the world for events, business and holidays.

“Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s already are well known globally. They are destinations for international tourists to the United States and play an important role in popular culture domestically and globally. We are continuing to study various international markets and to better understand how customers worldwide shop in stores, online and via mobile. While macys.com and bloomingdales.com have been selling online in about 100 nations since 2011, we are especially interested in the omnichannel dynamics of worldwide markets, and the role that physical stores play in that equation.”

US department store Neiman Marcus has teamed up with Slyce, a leading mobile visual search firm, to launch a new mobile app that enables shoppers to take photographs of fashion items and instantly be provided with close matching products.

The service, named Snap Find Shop, has been integrated into the retailer’s existing app and allows users to search for handbag and footwear products with just a picture and it will offer them similar items sold by them that have similar characteristics, such as colour or material. The items will then be available to purchase from “snap to shop”.

"Today, most online shopping begins with search - either through key words or navigating filters, and as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words," said Wanda Gierhart, CMO, Neiman Marcus Group. "Visual search removes hurdles, taking you directly from inspiration to gratification. In essence, Snap. Find. Shop. is a revolutionary way to service our customers at any time and any place."

Mark Elfenbein, president & CEO at Slyce added: "Slyce has often been described in the media as the 'Shazam for Stuff' and this integration with Neiman Marcus offers users that highly-intuitive, one-click, snap-to-result experience for luxury fashion. With this partnership, the Slyce platform is able to flex its muscles and deliver on the promise of visual search - in the curated fashion landscape."

The US retailer is testing the technology across its success handbag and footwear categories and if successful it has said that additional fashion categories will be “consider” in the future.

The Neiman Marcus app is available for US shoppers to download from the iTunes app store.