Real-Time Retail: Fanatics Seizes Micro-Moments

The New York Times: Micro-moments “happen all the time in sports: A player reaches a milestone, has a breakout performance or is traded to a new team. Apparel companies have traditionally been poorly positioned to meet the accompanying fan demand as it surges. Fanatics … a sports merchandise company … is changing that and, in the process, carving out a lucrative niche in a fiercely competitive online-retail industry largely dominated by Amazon.”

“The company is similar to fast-fashion retailers like H&M, Uniqlo and Zara, integrating design and manufacturing with distribution to fulfill orders within hours. After the Chicago Cubs won the World Series last year, Fanatics used Uber to deliver championship gear to some fans within minutes … As a result, Fanatics has more than doubled its revenue in just a few years.”

“Among the micro-moments that highlighted the new need for speed was Jeremy Lin’s emergence as a sudden star for the New York Knicks in 2012 amid the so-called Linsanity phenomenon.” Fanatics chairman Michael Rubin comments: “When Linsanity happened, within 12 hours to 24 hours, there were no jerseys to get. So you had this huge demand, and there’s no jerseys available. Then you order them like crazy, and by the time they get in, the moment’s over.”

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Saks Save Me & Wardrobe Malfunctions

The Wall Street Journal: “Sure, online shopping is convenient. But physical stores are banking on offering a human touch and personal service that not even their own online stores can replicate. Increasingly, brick-and-mortar stores are providing more personalized services, including those once reserved for VIPs, hoping to further endear themselves to shoppers.”

Brooks Brothers “typically opens locations in metro business districts earlier than 10 a.m. so people can make pit stops on their way to work. Staffs are trained to be prepared for clothing-accident victims, such as asking basic questions or swiftly assessing or measuring sizes, while keeping the person calm. Stores keep steamers close, ready to get wrinkles out of a freshly unfolded purchase. They are stocked with replacement items such as shirts, blazers and ties, especially around mid-morning breaks and lunch.”

“Saks Fifth Avenue’s women’s and men’s stores in Brookfield Place are the only Saks in the U.S. with a hotline, called Saks Save Me, that customers can email with fashion emergencies before the store’s 10 a.m. opening … J. Crew opens its doors before Brookfield Place’s 10 a.m. open three to five times a week to accommodate everything from the customer who spilled coffee on her blouse on the subway to one who ripped his button-down shirt getting into a cab … Ann Taylor stores see women needing an interview suit on the fly … Its city stores will open earlier than usual, sometimes on request.”

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Wegmansmania: Bigger than the Beatles?

The Wall Street Journal: “Across the U.S., grand openings of specialty grocery chains such as Whole Foods Market, Stew Leonard’s and Wegmans Food Markets Inc. are attracting customer hordes … By 7 a.m., roughly 2,000 people had swarmed a shopping center in Hanover, N.J., to mark the arrival one Sunday this summer of a Wegmans and its exotic cheeses and hen-of-the-woods mushrooms.” Robin W. Dente, community-affairs coordinator for the township comments: “It reminded me of when the Beatles came to America.”

“Wegmans, which has drawn lines of loyal ‘Wegmaniacs’ to opening days since at least the 1950s, doesn’t give out freebies to woo shoppers at dawn, according to the company.” However: “As part of its multibillion-dollar expansion, the German discount grocer Aldi Inc. is running multiday openings with tastings of chocolate truffles and imported brie—and a chance to win produce for a year.” Meanwhile: Stew Leonard’s, a Connecticut-based chain known for holding Christie Brinkley wine tastings and other celebrity events, has dialed down a bit.”

“Before it entered Long Island last year, it hit local media and attended a village pumpkin festival and other events, handing out 100,000 $5-off coupons. Then, more than 20,000 people showed up at its Farmingdale store the first day, and the crush clogged the aisles … The company reassessed its approach. For the debut of a second Long Island store in August, it invited local politicians for a party but kept the grand opening pared down, said Stew Leonard Jr., the chain’s CEO,” who says: “We’ve gone from a thunder to a rain philosophy.”

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Eaton Workshop: On The Left Past Trump Hotel

Quartz: “Eaton Workshop in DC is billed as the world’s first politically motivated hotel, the flagship location for a brand built on the premise of liberal activism and civic engagement. With another hotel set to open in Hong Kong in 2018 and construction in San Francisco and Seattle scheduled for 2019, the chain is making the bet that a partisan mission does not preclude doing strong business.”

“Visitors will be greeted with video montages of the 2012 and 2016 US presidential elections when they walk in the lobby. Hotel programming will include a lecture series centered around liberal themes. The co-working space will prioritize memberships for progressive startups and activists. Even the minibar will contain an “activist toolkit” that includes information on how to call your representatives in Congress.”

“Katherine Lo, founder of the brand, says she isn’t worried about alienating potential guests … Lo hopes the brand will be able to operate like a ‘nonprofit, but better,’ eventually using revenue to fund local arts initiatives. There are plans for a writer’s residency program to support investigative journalists and a multimedia activism-themed arts program.”

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Start-ups Bring Novelty to Shopping Malls

The Wall Street Journal: “Landlords of top U.S. malls used to rent most of their space to the biggest national retailers, which boasted the best credit and the most desirable selection of goods. Now they are looking beyond big chains and toward lesser-known retailers and startups that started online but have amassed customers and brand recognition.”

“The reason: such retailers tend to offer novel products that resonate with web-savvy customers, particularly millennials, a massive group of potential customers landlords are eager to cultivate.”

“Some of these stores are showrooms and don’t carry inventory so customers will have their purchases delivered to them or they could pick up their purchases at the store at a later time. Such stores take up less square footage since they have don’t need to hold inventory at the back of the store.”

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Quotes of the Day: Earl Lucas

Earl Lucas, Chief Exterior Designer, Lincoln Motor Company: “I always knew I wanted to do something with design. I studied industrial design focusing on jewelry — rings, pendants and earrings — for two years at the College of Creative Studies in Detroit. The college also happened to have an outstanding automobile design curriculum. After taking one class in that program, I was hooked. It turns out the principles of designing a ring are the same as designing a car.”

“I try to reflect the personality of the brand. In the case of Lincoln, our cars embody effortless luxury. We think of our car as a friend. We convey that through form, shape, color and texture. The most influential design element may be the front grille. It has to stand out but be in proportion with everything else. The centerpiece is our logo — called the Lincoln Star — which was developed in the 1950s. I have managed to tweak it a little.”

“While there’s something to be said for autonomous cars, I believe people will still want to drive. They want to be in control. They want to enjoy just taking a drive without knowing where they are going and being able to decide en route. It comes down to a bigger question: Do humans want to be part of a collective or be an individual? It’s a matter of how much freedom we want.”

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Silly Question: Are Your Customers Good Artists?

The New York Times: “When 156 people were recently asked if they could draw some of the world’s most iconic brand logos from memory, some of their recreations were laughably off the mark … fewer than one-fifth of the participants could remember the correct positioning of the familiar blue-and-red rectangle of Domino’s, or the three black stripes of Adidas. Even Target — whose emblem involves a simple red bull’s-eye above the brand name — confused people: 41 percent forgot the number of circles.”

“A study conducted in 2014 by psychologists at the University of California, Los Angeles similarly asked 85 participants if they could draw the familiar Apple logo from memory. More than half the subjects even identified themselves as strictly Apple users. Yet only one could draw the icon perfectly, as scored by a 14-point rubric.”

“Perhaps the most surprising result of the study was the company that fared best: Ikea. The Swedish furniture maker with the distinctive blue-and-yellow logo plastered across its giant retail stores was redrawn near-perfectly by 30 percent of the participants … The hardest logo to draw was Starbucks, which was redesigned in 2011.”

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Hermes Windows & The Art of Retail

The New York Times: “Hermès has turned window shopping for handbags and saddles and suitcases into high art. On Nov. 8, the luxury design house opened a free exhibition at the Grand Palais museum to celebrate the pastime of looking at — but not buying — goods in store windows. The exhibition consists of eight fantasy shop window displays created by Leïla Menchari, the Tunisian-born queen of design who reigned over the picture windows at the Hermès flagship on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré from 1978 to 2013.”

“The Hermès pieces in the exhibit are one-of-a-kind works of art and not for sale. (The same was true when Ms. Menchari was creating her windows: Most of the pieces that Hermès artisans were assigned to make for them were never available for purchase.) Each display in the exhibition is constructed like an intimate, open stage, on a larger scale than an actual Hermès window, but without a barrier of glass that would have created distance from the viewer.”

“One display, based on a window in 2011, features a horse sculpture of stainless steel and tawny brown leather pieces by the French sculptor Christian Renonciat; it is flanked by matching silver and brown leather-trimmed suitcases … The exhibition coincides with the release of “Leïla Menchari, Queen of Enchantment” … Illustrated with 137 window displays, it traces Ms. Menchari’s life and work, from her birth approximately 90 years ago into a family of wealthy landowners to her fine arts studies in Tunis and Paris, her arrival as a window display assistant at Hermès in 1961 and the extraordinary career that followed.”

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What’s That Smell? Eu de Holiday Inn

The Wall Street Journal: “What does a cheap hotel smell like? These days, it may be notes of jasmine mixed with wood and honeysuckle. Luxury hotels have scented lobbies, hallways and other public spaces with carefully crafted perfumes for several years to create a memorable brand image and stealthily calm guests as they arrive. Now budget chains are spritzing, too. Hotels have arguably never paid so much attention to how they smell, employing expert “noses” from leading perfume makers to entice travelers with just the right amount of sandalwood.”

“ScentAir, a Charlotte, N.C., company that develops and delivers scents for hotels and other industries, says its highest area of growth right now is in value hotels. Hotels say the scent has to fit the brand, and mixing the right fragrance is crucial to marketing. Experts say what we smell and hear can create lasting impressions stronger than visual cues. Just as favorite songs get attached to memories, so, too, can pleasing smells link a certain brand or place with happy thoughts.”

“A side benefit for hotels: Just about every brand now sells its scent in candles and other products for home use. Marriott says sales of all its scents, such as a room spritzer to add the lemony, seductive W smell to your own bathroom or bedroom, are up 35% compared with a year earlier. The Carlyle in New York, a Rosewood hotel, sells more than 2,500 bars of its scented soap each year at $6 a bar. The soap grew so popular, Carlyle now uses the scent in the lobby.”

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Outside the Box: Walmart Podcasts its Values

Fast Company: “Walmart has a podcast called Outside the Box that “looks at business issues like sustainability, American manufacturing, the workforce of the future, and more through a collection of entrepreneurs, innovators, and thought leaders. Senior Walmart staffers are seamlessly woven in among them … Outside the Box is an interesting and engaging podcast, even when it does have company folks involved because they include those we’d actually want to hear from, like chief sustainability officer Kathleen McLaughlin. It’s about as far from a sales pitch as possible.”

“Walmart says the podcast is about stories that align with the brand’s values, and so far, discussions have unfolded from a business perspective, not a Saturday shopper’s. Walmart’s senior director of digital communications Chad Mitchell comments: “A key tenet of our strategy is reaching people where they’re naturally consuming content, and all signs point to podcasts these days.”

“Mitchell says the idea was to give people a better sense of what was happening within the walls of Walmart today and what Walmart stands for.”

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