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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Tiffany’s & The ‘Tin Can’ Gambit

The New York Times: “Since joining Tiffany & Co. in January as chief artistic officer, Reed Krakoff has undertaken to freshen the image of the 180-year-old jewelry company. His first major footprint is on the fourth-floor home and accessories floor of Tiffany’s Fifth Avenue flagship, where the sacred and the profane are now commingling cheerfully … Which is how the world came to know the Tiffany Tin Can (actually sterling silver and vermeil, $1,000) … (‘When panhandling before the big riot, don’t be caught without this stunning $1,000 tin can from Tiffany’s.’)”

“Mr. Krakoff’s injection of levity is not an unwelcome twist on the usual gilded or silvered theme … Old luxury: Founder’s portrait. New luxury: Founder’s portrait in Sheetrock screws and plywood … Tiffany’s entry-level dog bowls read, merely, ‘dog.’ — bone china, $125 for a small version and $175 for a large — but on display is a sterling silver option that Joan Rivers had engraved for her dog, Spike, for those inspired to go bigger ($1,800 for a small version, $2,500 for a large) … Not recommended for cat play: Tiffany’s sterling silver ball of yarn, $9,000.”

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Ogilvy on Letterman: It’s All in the Eye Patch

Fast Company: “‘What was going through your mind to think that a man missing an eye would be a good way to sell dress shirts?’ That’s what David Letterman once asked David Ogilvy when the legendary ad exec was on Late Night in the early 1980s to promote his book Ogilvy on Advertising. He was referring to a 1951 ad campaign for Hathaway shirts that was the ’50s equivalent of a viral success.”

Ogilvy’s reply: “I’d seen some research which showed that if you can inject into the ad an element of story appeal, you do well, people read the ad. They look at that and say, ‘Who is this man with an eye patch? That takes about a tenth of a second, and their curiosity’s piqued, so then they go under the picture and read the copy, and that’s how you sell the shirts.”

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The Huarache: When Weird is Beautiful

Quartz: “The Nike Huarache almost never existed. The shoe, made of a sock-like bootie encased in a supportive exoskeleton, was definitely unusual when Nike began showing around the prototypes in the early 1990s. Practically nobody placed orders, and Nike seemed to have little choice but to kill the idea. Lucky for Nike, one product manager didn’t listen … the Huarache has become Nike’s top-seller globally.”

“The shoe dispensed with a number of conventional ideas in sneaker design. It had no heel counter—the firm backing of the shoe that wraps around your heel to support it—opting instead for the distinctive, harness-like strap, similar to a sandal. (A ‘huarache’ is a kind of Mexican sandal.) It also used neoprene, which had never before been done in a running shoe … when no one placed orders after seeing the prototypes, Nike decided not to make the shoe for release.”

Tinker Hatfield, who designed the shoe picks up on the rest of the story in his new book, called Sneakers: “But one of our product managers actually thought it was awesome, and without proper authorization, he signed an order to build five thousand pairs even though there were no orders. He stuck his neck way out there. He saw what I saw. And he took those five thousand pairs to the New York Marathon, not a place you typically went to sell shoes, and he sold them all in like three days at the exhibition hall right there near Times Square. Word got out. They went like hotcakes. In a month, we went from zero orders to orders for half a million pairs.”

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Burberry & The Death of Aesthetic Alchemy

The New York Times: “Christopher Bailey’s decision to step away from Burberry, a brand with which he was almost synonymous, underscores a new belief in the fashion world that it is no longer expected, or even desirable, for a designer to remain at a house for a long period of time. And it further redefines that role as less of an aesthetic alchemist and more of an employee with a transferable skill set.”

Luca Solca, an analyst, writes: “We believe this is a necessary move to make Burberry exciting again. Creative directors — like all artists (painters, composers, singers) — tend to produce variations on a theme. Most brands that have gone through a revival had to first find new creative resources.”

“Like Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel, Mr. Bailey’s skill lay in taking the major ingredients of a heritage brand — in Burberry’s case, the checks, the trench coat and its roots in the British countryside — and continually moving them toward the abstract and into a cooler, more contemporary aesthetic. He was among the first designers to embrace the digital age.” However: “Aesthetic inspiration seemed to have been traded for strategic change: under Mr. Bailey, Burberry was among the first brands to merge multiple lines at different price points into a single offering, combine the men’s and women’s shows into one, and move to a see now-buy now system in which clothes became available as soon as they were shown.”

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Gucci Cracks The Millennial Code

The Wall Street Journal: “Classic brands often blame millennials for sales downturns, but the younger generation is giving Gucci a sensational boost. This could assure the luxury goods maker years of growth, or leave it grumbling like everyone else about that fickle group … Gucci’s success comes from a new look under creative director Alessandro Michele … It draws eclectically on a wide range of colors, patterns and periods, often in the same garment. It could hardly be further removed from the classic, business-friendly vibe favored by previous top designer Frida Giannini.”

“Millennial luxury consumers value experimentation and self-expression more than their seniors … Mr. Michele seems to have hit on a brand identity that reflects this spirit. Gucci has done a good job getting the word out: The brand is very active on the digital media millennials grew up with. Last year Gucci moved to top place in research company L2’s Digital IQ index, replacing longtime leader Burberry.”

“Resonating with the consumers of the future is something many brands aspire to. There is just one snag: As big consumer groups have discovered, experimental consumers make more fickle consumers.”

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Balenciagas & The $700 Socks

Quartz: “Typically just a minimal, stretchy knit upper and a sole, sock sneakers originated with big athletic brands. But luxury labels have since eagerly taken up the thread, pushing the form to deliberately emphasize the resemblance to socks. In the normal course of fashion’s trend cycle, mass-market brands have begun copying them and producing their own versions too. They now exist in seemingly endless iterations across a variety of price points, and embody some of the big currents moving fashion today.”

“Right now the style is exemplified by Balenciaga’s Speed Trainers. The shoe is basically an elastic ankle sock, mounted to a sole. They cost $595 to $695, depending on the version, and are currently sold out in popular sizes on a number of sites … They’re popular enough that fast-fashion chain Zara has introduced a pair that looks unmistakably like Balenciaga’s, except they cost just $70.”

“Sock sneakers are basically yoga pants for your feet. Unlike the pieced-together panels of leather and other materials that form other styles of sneaker, they conform to your foot without confining it … Just as importantly, the look is just right for the present moment, when all things athletic continue to have a major influence on the look of clothing.”

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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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Rent the Runway Moves Downscale

The Wall Street Journal: Rent the Runway “is introducing a new subscription priced at $89 a month, 35% less than the $139 monthly subscription plan the company launched last year. The new, lower-priced plan limits customers to four items a month and excludes some high-end designers. Jennifer Hyman, chief executive and co-founder of Rent the Runway, said the new plan is aimed at price-sensitive shoppers, not the affluent professionals who make up most of the company’s existing subscribers.”

“Under the new model, customers can rent up to four pieces a month, including dresses, coats or handbags, from labels such as Tory Burch, Vince and Diane von Furstenberg. The items arrive dry-cleaned and in a garment bag with a prepaid postage label; the customer must return them by the end of a month to obtain four more items … With the new price tier, Rent the Runway is hoping to compete with fast-fashion and discount retailers like T.J. Maxx , Zara and H&M , which have bucked many of the problems dragging down traditional clothing chains by luring shoppers with low prices and constantly changing merchandise.”

However: “‘Getting people to change their behavior is difficult,’ said David Bell, a marketing professor at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. Most consumers don’t do the math to determine whether renting or buying is a better deal, he said; others may be turned off by the thought of putting on a previously worn dress.”

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