Uniform Identity: Airline Apparel & Brand Experience

The New York Times: “Long ago, airline uniforms reflected the glamour of flight. Now, they have to serve more utilitarian needs. Do they reflect the airline’s image? Will they look good on most everyone? And, perhaps most important, are they comfortable? … For American Airlines, which introduced new uniforms in September, the different look was an important step in conveying a unified brand image since its merger with US Airways in 2013.” Brady Barnes of American comments: “There was a visual difference in what people were wearing, and I think, inherently, that kind of creates a barrier.”

“Most of the uniform overhauls include clothes not only for flight attendants and gate agents — ‘above the wing’ jobs — but for the luggage handlers, mechanics and other workers who make up an airline’s ‘below the wing’ work force … Shashank Nigam, chief executive of the consulting firm SimpliFlying, said uniforms were a crucial part of an airline’s brand, especially with the decline in the number of in-person encounters a traveler experiences.” He comments: “Today more than ever, the uniform is the most important symbol of an airline that a passenger interacts with and sees.”

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Nike Goes Local & Gets Physical

The New York Times: “Nike shaped itself into one of the globe’s most recognizable brands. Now it has a new idea: Go local. Facing pressure from investors and competitors like Adidas, Nike said Thursday that it was shaking up its organization to focus more on consumers in just a dozen cities around the world and on releasing new products faster in those places.”

“To keep its products relevant and make its service more personal, Nike aims to develop what it called a ‘local business, on a global scale’ and ‘deeply’ serve customers in 12 cities, including New York, Paris, Beijing and Milan. Those places are expected to deliver 80 percent of the company’s growth over the next two and a half years.”

“Despite the move to online shopping that is transforming retailing, Nike is not giving up on its physical stores. Instead, the company will use the stores to try to foster relationships with customers and further link the shops to its digital efforts. Nike, which is known for sponsoring star athletes like LeBron James and Rafael Nadal, will also try to speed up how quickly it designs and works with its suppliers to deliver new gear. The company wants to cut its product-creation cycle time in half.”

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Footwear Revolution: Sneaking Up on Fast Fashion

Quartz: “A sneaker starts with a sketch. Before a brand can turn that idea into a prototype, it has to produce the patterns that serve as the instructions for the factory putting it together, and create the metal mold used for the sole. This process alone takes weeks. It then makes a sample, which usually requires more fine tuning. Several samples may be necessary, with the process repeated each time a new one is made. It can take a year before a final design is ready for production.”

“Now virtual prototyping is letting brands shorten that timeline dramatically … 3D printing is also hugely beneficial for rapid prototyping, since it lets brands skip the tooling step needed to build molds for foam soles. That alone can take a month. But brands can now print prototypes of a sole in a matter of hours.”

“Why should shoppers care? Together these changes in design and manufacturing mean they won’t need to wait to get the products they want, and it should soon be feasible to get items custom-made, since it will be easier and cheaper for brands to produce just one of an item … For the brands themselves, cutting back lead times will let them respond to the market better, meaning they won’t need to make vast quantities of shoes in advance.”

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Supermodel & Supermarket: Klum & Lidl Collaborate

USA Today: “Former supermodel Heidi Klum is going to offer her designer fashions in the oddest of places … Lidl, an upstart discount supermarket chain based in Germany that opens its first U.S. stores on June 15 … That means buying a dress and salad dressing on the same shopping trip. Mass merchandisers like Target and Costco have long offered grocery departments in their stores. The Lidl idea flips the concept to make fashion secondary to food.”

“Lidl stores offer weekly promotions of non-food products, ranging from fitness gear to power tools to small kitchen appliances, like juicers and panini presses, according to Lidl U.S. spokesman Will Harwood. In the supermarket business, non-foods are known for typically offering some of the best profit margins in stores — and unlike cucumbers, they aren’t perishable except for long-term fashion whims.”

Lidl spokesman Will Harwood comments: “She’s an international fashion icon. She’s extremely passionate, creating incredible fashion that is high end, but also attainable and it worked really well with what we do. We’re very focused at delivering top quality and great prices. She integrates with that really well.”

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The Stitch Fix Secret: Make Shopping Easy

The New York Times: Stitch Fix is a mail-order clothing service that offers customers little choice in what garments they receive, and shies away from discounts for brand name dresses, pants and accessories. Despite a business model that seems to defy conventional wisdom, Stitch Fix continues to grow … To the company’s founder, Katrina Lake, success comes down to delivering what consumers want: making it easier to shop … In her view, what was important was helping customers find clothing they liked without taking lengthy shopping trips and returning dozens of items.”

“At the company’s warehouse, Eric Colson, formerly a top data scientist at Netflix, spoke to the role that data science — once the province of high-tech giants — plays in nearly every aspect of the Stitch Fix business. Mr. Colson excitedly illustrated on whiteboards how the company’s systems can narrow down a broad range of women’s pants to a relative few that each individual customer is statistically likely to keep … Algorithms have even cut the number of steps needed for workers to pick out clothes for individual clients.”

“Yet the question remains whether customers who are initially thrilled by receiving a customized box of clothing will remain customers for months or even years … Stitch Fix executives declined to share their retention statistics, but claim that they are above industry averages.”

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Nanometer 555: The World’s Most Visible Color

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Fast Company: “Vollebak, the same company that brought us a pink hoodie designed for maximum relaxation, is launching something new: The Nano Meter 555 Midlayer, which features two details that hack human perception to make you, theoretically, as noticeable as possible … The jacket is green, but not just any green. It’s a green that reflects with a 555-nanometer wavelength, which, according to the U.K. National Physics Laboratory, is the point at which the greatest number of cones of your eye are stimulated the most.”

“The second perceptual optimization? Reflective dots that, when applied to the jacket, work much the same way a motion capture system digitizes human movement … The reflective dots allow a human figure to be spotted, in otherwise total darkness, in a quarter of a second.”

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Greats Sneakers Pop-Ups: All You Need is Wi-Fi

Wall Street Journal: “Greats, an online sneaker brand founded in 2013, plans to open at least 10 locations over the next two years by signing short-term leases ranging from three months to one year … The Brooklyn-based brand, which sells sneakers ranging from $50 to $200, manufactures most products in Italy and markets them directly to consumers online. It has tested three temporary stores since 2014, most recently a location in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, that was open for one year.”

“Greats is targeting locations between 700 to 1,000 square feet—about the size of a coffee shop—primarily in urban areas. One challenge for online brands is to ensure that new locations increase sales, rather than cannibalize existing business.” However: “Online apparel brands are finding that they don’t need much to set up a store. The evolution of point-of-sales technology means that transactions can now be made on phones and tablets. Some newer retailers don’t even keep much inventory.”

“Greats sells eight core styles of shoes in different colors and materials, making its business more mobile than that of a traditional retailer. At its new locations, the company plans to bring its own interior elements such as shelving, greenery and lighting.” Rachel Ulman of Greats comments: “You can do a lot within four walls. All we really need is some Wi-Fi.”

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Adidas Pops Up With DIY Design

Reuters: “Adidas has been testing a store where shoppers can design a sweater, have a body scan to determine fit and get it knitted by a state-of-the-art machine within hours, as the German company looks at ways to respond more quickly to customer demands … At a pop-up Adidas store in a mall in Berlin, customers designed their own merino wool sweaters for 200 euros ($215) each and then had them knitted in the store, finished by hand, washed and dried, all within four hours.”

“Shoppers first entered a darkened room where swirling camouflage and spider web patterns were projected onto their chests, with options to shift the light using hand gestures picked up by sensors, like in an interactive video game. Dozens of possible options were recorded and the customers picked their favorite ones on a computer screen, where they could also experiment with different color combinations. Customers chose standard sizes or stripped down to their underwear for laser body scans. Then the personalized pattern was sent to an industrial knitting machines in the store.”

“Adidas wants 50 percent of its products to be made in a faster time frame by 2020, double the rate in 2016, which it expects will increase the proportion of products sold at full price to 70 percent from less than half now.”

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4 Ways Ulta Changed Its Retail Experience

Fast Company: “Ulta’s engaging in-store experience helped boost company revenue by more than 20% last year. Here are four ways the company changed its retail formula.”

1) “Recognizing that salon guests spend almost three times as much as other customers, Dillon moved the Benefit Brow Bar, a station for eyebrow shaping, to the front of some stores so that shoppers see services when they enter. Salon sales were up 15% in the first nine months of 2016.” 2) “In a bid to lure shoppers into stores, Ulta offers samples for a wide range of products, inviting people to try on not just prestige makeup lines such as Estée Lauder and Nars, but also drugstore brands including Maybelline and CoverGirl.”

3) “Many of the electronics the store sells, such as the new Dyson Supersonic hair dryer, are plugged in to encourage play.” 4) “As they browse the store’s seemingly unlimited supply of eye shadows, lotions, and nail polishes, shoppers can use the Ulta app to scan any product’s bar code. From there, they can read customer reviews, see similar merchandise, and save items as favorites.”

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