Supreme Luxury: Scarcity is the Best Strategy

The Wall Street Journal: “Supreme, an underground streetwear brand with 11 stores and a cult following, is now worth more than teen retailer Abercrombie & Fitch Co., which has about 900 stores around the globe … Founded in 1994, the seller of skateboarding T-shirts, hats and sweatshirts has tapped into the zeitgeist of teens seeking hard-to-get looks. Unlike traditional retail chains, which aim to sell as much as possible, the label has relied on product scarcity and word-of-mouth referrals to generate hype around its name.”

“Supreme sells merchandise from other apparel brands, but the most coveted items are those with the Supreme logo. A limited number are released throughout the year, and fans frequently check blogs and Facebook groups to learn about the latest offering … Online, the items sell out promptly, appearing later on eBay and other reselling platforms at much higher prices.”

“Supreme’s popularity has surged as ’90s streetwear styles have made a comeback. It ranked as the fourth-most preferred website among upper-income male respondents, after Amazon, Nike and eBay, based on a recent Piper Jaffray survey of 6,100 teens. With so few locations, the brand’s shop in New York City has become a tourist attraction. On a recent Sunday, families with teens and twenty somethings wrapped around three streets to wait for a chance to enter the store.” A fan comments: “Waiting is part of the experience.”

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Late & Great: Arthur Cinader

The New York Times: The late Arthur Cinader “decided to start J. Crew in the early 1980s while running the Popular Merchandise Company, a business, founded by his father in Rye, N.Y., that used a catalog to sell affordable clothing and home furnishings directly to consumers … The new venture took the word “crew” from the water sport and affixed a J in front because it was thought to be graphically appealing … Mr. Cinader empowered his daughter, Emily Scott, to conceive of the company’s aesthetic and oversee the design of its apparel while he focused on the financial side of the business and on marketing through the J. Crew catalog.”

“J. Crew opened its first store at the South Street Seaport in Manhattan, followed by stores in San Francisco, Chestnut Hill, Mass., and other places. The segue proved successful, and by the mid-’90s the company had several dozen stores collectively generating revenue in excess of $500 per square foot … The success of the company owed much to Mr. Cinader and Ms. Scott’s scrupulous focus on their target demographic: affluent, high-achieving people who wanted to signal a certain pedigree with their fashion choices, but not one so stuffy that they would think twice before associating with it.”

“Articles in the business press over the years have described J. Crew’s niche as one notch below Ralph Lauren and one notch above retailers like Gap or the Limited. While the company’s first catalog featured photographs from the Weld Boathouse at Harvard, J. Crew marketed itself to the man or woman who might have attended any college or university and simply wanted to evoke a hint of the Ivy League.”

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Columbus: The Silicon Valley of Retail?

The New York Times: “A combination of demographics, geography and luck turned Columbus into the nation’s consumer laboratory. This Rust Belt city has historically been a microcosm of the national population’s age and ethnicity, ranking fourth among metropolitan areas in its resemblance to the United States over all, according to data compiled by WalletHub.”

“Ohio State University’s 65,000 students mean young shoppers are always on hand. Columbus is within a day’s drive of nearly half of the United States population, making it a convenient hub for distribution. The city’s relatively small size and contained media market make it affordable for companies to run advertising campaigns and measure their effectiveness. And its relatively low profile allows brands to try something and fail — without the scrutiny they would draw in New York or Los Angeles.”

“Perhaps most important, a robust network of retailers and service providers — from big brands like Abercrombie & Fitch to small design firms that focus on store layouts — has taken root in Columbus. Today there are more fashion designers in Columbus than in any other American city besides New York and Los Angeles.”

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CVS & The Prescription Experience

Fast Company: “With the profusion of online pharmacies, CVS realized that to give people a reason to come in, it had to design a better service. A new pill bottle system is just one piece of a larger service-design challenge … hinged upon understanding the user end-to-end, rather than one transaction at a time.”

“CVS realized that one lever it had for creating more customer loyalty was the prescription itself—and how often those prescriptions go wrong. About a third of recurring prescriptions never get filled; of those that do, about one third are forgotten after the first couple refills. CVS’s bet is that a better service can improve those figures, and, in doing so, make patients not only more healthy but better customers as well.”

“The new prescription labels are just a start for a number of things CVS has on its roadmap, including ways to bundle together medications meant to be taken at the same time and an in-home delivery service. But perhaps their most user-friendly aspiration is to redesign the role of pharmacists. Today, they typically spend most of their time counting pills … CVS is working to have better service procedures, in which the pharmacists become a front-line in talking to patients—for example, by giving every patient taking five drugs or more an automatic consultation, which includes talking them through the new prescription schedule.”

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Nike & The New Ornamentalism

Blake Gopnik: “Sneaker fiends may know it as Nike’s grand new home, but design fans should soon be recognizing it as one of the most exciting and intelligent structures to be built for decades, anywhere. It is also one of the few that revives the old, pre-Modernist joy that we find in the ornate. The new building sits on the site of the long-demolished Prescott House, a wildly decorative hotel built in 1852, when masonry was still what held a building up and windows pierced it at their peril.”

“One end of the building’s wide facade is built around the kind of narrow window openings that had been required by the Prescott’s brick construction; they have elaborate terra-cotta surrounds that pay homage to the Prescott’s ornate lintels and sills. The other end of the same frontage has the much wider piercings that were the goal of SoHo’s cast-iron architecture … The surrounding decoration stretches and compresses to suit the ever-changing fenestration. Halfway down the building, that decoration even turns a somersault as a band of ornate terra cotta goes from sitting flat on the facade above the narrow embrasures to becoming a protruding cornice over the wider ones.”

“It conveys a sense of generosity, with each ornament conjuring up the moment when one human being made the decision to put it there, as an aesthetic offering to others. The facade’s details invite a closer approach and a dialogue about what they’re up to; they ask for interpretation and understanding, like letters in an alphabet you only just grasp.”

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Maximalism: Ugly Design vs. Minimalism

The New York Times: “If you have read a design magazine or, really, ever been inside a house with a subscription to one, you will be familiar with the words: midcentury, modern, minimalist, Scandinavian … Ksenia Shestakovskaia, for one, finds it all unbearably boring. She was working as a textile designer in Berlin when she came to see that simplicity and marketability had overtaken creativity … So she left her job and started spending time on eBay, browsing furniture listings and collecting images of her favorite pieces. Some may call it killing time; Ms. Shestakovskaia thinks of it as research.”

“Her findings first surfaced on her Instagram account, @decorhardcore, a stream of furnishings that could be described as ’80s glam meets ’90s kitsch meets grandma’s tchotchke cabinet.” Jonas Nyffenegger, 30, “and his friend Sébastien Mathys, 31, created Ugly Design, a collection of found images that form a counterargument to minimalism, as well as everything you might learn in graduate school. Their interests extend into fashion, and recent posts on Instagram include ripped jeans patched with raw-meat-printed fabric, and a toilet that also happens to be a giant high-heeled shoe.”

“Ms. Shestakovskaia disagrees with the idea that maximalism’s appeal comes from its inherent ugliness.” She comments: “I struggle with ugly and horrendous and heinous, but strange is really good.”

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Ypperlig: IKEA’s ‘Excellent’ Adventure

Quartz: “IKEA’s new collaboration with Danish product designers HAY is intended to ‘challenge people’s perception of IKEA quality and design.’ Ypperlig (Swedish for ‘excellent’ ) debuts as IKEA’s newest and most collectible furniture line … The 15-year old furniture design brand is among the leading players in the modern Scandinavian design scene—their Copenhagen showroom is a regular stop in design tours of the city.”

“Design connoisseurs swooned over the handsome Ypperlig injection moulded chairs and coveted the stylish color update to IKEA’s iconic Frakta shopping bag.”

IKEA spokesperson Johanna Martin comments: “We believe in making products that our customers want to keep and live with for a long time, regardless if it’s a product made in collaboration with someone or part of our ordinary range. But there is also an emotional connection which is important when making things sustainable. If you like the product you will keep the product longer.”

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Fiskars: It’s All in the ‘Snip’

Business Insider: “In the late 1960s, Finnish designer Olof Backstrom helped Fiskars create the world’s first pair of plastic-handled scissors. They were supposed to be black, not orange. But when Fiskars accidentally used some leftover orange plastic from a juicer production line, the company realized it’d created something great. The company put the color to a vote. Orange won out over black 9-7.”

“Other colors have come along since then, but the orange pair is by far Fiskars most treasured creation. The scissors became a permanent fixture in New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 2004, and the color even has its own trademark.”

“Before each pair leaves the factory, professional “scissors listeners” make sure they produce the right snip sound as the steel blades slice together. According to Fiskars, the scissors ‘are inspired by nature, physics, and the human anatomy to solve problems in surprising ways.’It’s no accident designers lump them in with other perfectly designed products, like Sharpie markers and Post-It Notes. Fiskars has been around since the 17th century. It’s had some time to get the cutting experience just right.”

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Disney Brings Its ‘World’ To Retail

The New York Times: “Quietly, like a mouse on tiptoe, Disney overhauled its retail store at the Northridge Fashion Center mall in late July. Out went the twisty Pixie Path aisles, the ornate displays, the green walls and the color-changing fiberglass trees. In came a movie-theater-size screen, a simplified floor plan, white walls and more items for fashion-conscious adults … the Disney Store here was a prototype, and the company has been monitoring sales and consumer feedback as it prepares to revamp its 340-store chain.”

“The redesign makes Disney’s stores a bit more like Disney’s theme parks. For instance, daily parades at Disneyland in California and Walt Disney World in Florida will be streamed live to those colossal video screens. During the parades, store personnel will put out mats for shoppers to sit on and roll out souvenir carts stocked with cotton candy and light-up Mickey Mouse ears. The screens could easily be used to stream other events, such as red carpet arrivals for Disney movie premieres. That kind of programming could bolster foot traffic, and thus sales — while also turning the stores into a more potent promotional platform for Disney’s films, television shows and theme parks.”

“As it attempts a new mall strategy, Disney is also remaking its e-commerce operation. ShopDisney.com is replacing DisneyStore.com. The new site will have a less cluttered look and a vastly expanded assortment of designer merchandise aimed at adults (Mickey-themed Ethan Allen furniture and a $350 Siwy denim jacket with Minnie embellishments will be on offer). The site will also stock more items that previously were available only in stores inside Disney theme parks.”

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