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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The Smart Commuter Jacket

The Washington Post: “Google and Levi’s showed off this week a new joint project: a $350 smart jean jacket. While this jacket literally puts tech on your sleeve, it does it in a subtle way that doesn’t require putting another screen on your body. In doing so, it offers a glimpse of what smart fabrics can do and of the evolution of the wearables market — one in which consumers won’t have to wear a clunky accessory that screams high tech.

“The smart Commuter jacket, which was introduced over the weekend at SXSW in Austin, is aimed at those who bike to work. It has technology woven into its fibers, and allows users to take phone calls, get directions and check the time, by tapping and swiping their sleeves. That delivers information to them through their headphones so that they can keep their eyes on the road without having to fiddle with a screen. The jacket the should hit stores this fall. Its smart fibers are washable; they’re powered by a sort of smart cufflink that you’ll have to remove when you wash the jacket. The cufflink has a two-day battery life.”

“While the idea of a smart jean jacket may not appeal to everyone (especially on a hot summer day), the existence of such a jacket is telling about where the market may be going … what makes the Commuter jacket different from other wearables — and even other smart clothing — is that it’s not necessarily marketing the tech as its main feature, but rather using it to solve problems that everyday people have. Many smartwatches and even other smart clothing can feel like solutions in search of a problem to solve. The Commuter jacket … stands out as a type of wearable for a more everyday consumer who may not be that interested in the tech, but likes the practical features that come with a stylish jacket.”

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Haitians Fashion Boots from Bottles

Fast Company: “A new backpack started life as 7.5 plastic bottles trashed on streets in Haiti. The backpack—part of a new line of boots, bags, and t-shirts made by Timberland—looks like it’s made from canvas. But the material is 50% recycled plastic, sourced from a place that both has excess trash and a desperate need for jobs.”

“The process to turn a bottle into fabric is fairly simple: the plastic is mechanically broken down into flakes, put through something that looks like a Play-Doh extruder, and then rolled and manipulated into bales that can be spun into fabric. Plastic bottles are made from oil; so is polyester. When a bottle is recycled into fabric, the end result looks the same as if it had come from fossil fuels (it can also be recycled into other products, such as printer cartridges).”

“The company began working in Haiti in part because it’s the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. It spent two years studying existing recycling systems and setting up a program that would fill in the gaps, rather than competing with local business. The team now wants to repeat the process in other countries.”

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Edible Regimen: Food as Beauty Products

The Wall Street Journal: “A blurring of the lines between food and beauty products has some shoppers raiding their kitchen cabinets to replace everything from blush and lip plumper to deodorant and conditioner. The trend has people rubbing mayonnaise in their hair, lemon juice in their armpits and pork fat on their face. Erica Strauss said she buys a pig every year from a local farmer in Seattle. In addition to cooking chops and roast, the 37-year-old chef renders the fat into lard for use on her hands and face … Other animal grease can also be used to substitute for hand cream, though she doesn’t recommend bacon.” She explains: “It’s way too smelly. Every dog in the neighborhood will come up and lick you.”

“The idea of using edibles in a beauty regimen dates back centuries. Cleopatra is believed to have bathed in milk. Mary, Queen of Scots, is said to have washed herself in white wine. The Romans and Greeks doused their bodies in olive oil. In a memorable scene from the 1993 movie Mrs. Doubtfire, actor Robin Williams dunks his face into meringue cake to mask his identity as a man.”

“Beauty companies, too, are blurring the lines between kitchen and bath. They tout food ingredients on the labels of everything from shampoo to nail polish. Some are putting makeup in containers that resemble condiment jars or making creams that look like hors d’oeuvres … Organic beauty companies insist that using food isn’t as easy as rubbing apple juice on your face … Faz Abdul Gaffa has learned the hard way. She tried rubbing turmeric on her face after hearing about its skin-brightening qualities. She ended up with yellow stained palms for several days.” And her face? “I looked jaundiced,” she said.

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Footwear: How Saks Attracts Men

The New York Times: “Next week, Saks will open its first free-standing store specially for men, in Brookfield Place, the retail, office and dining complex in Lower Manhattan … The 16,000-square-foot Saks Fifth Avenue Men’s Store will include leather and shoe repair services, made-to-measure suits and a tech bar selling the latest gadgets … In the spring, an in-house Sharps barbershop and Fika coffee shop will be added. And a monthly rotating pop-up shop will feature, in the opening weeks, 200 styles of sneakers, 40 of which are Saks exclusives.”

Saks President Marc Metrick explains: “Footwear is a gateway drug.”

“Saks is luring the stylish new man with a palette of whites, taupes and silvers and chevron-patterned porcelain flooring. Gone is the brown-wood, Morton’s steakhouse look of the uptown men’s department. The vibe is not unlike the Saks women’s store at the opposite end of the complex.”

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