Gucci & Groceries: The Malling of Supermarkets

The Wall Street Journal: As the internet reshapes the way Americans shop, landlords of mid- and low-quality mall properties are adapting to stay relevant, trying everything from restaurants to indoor skydiving. Now a few are bringing in supermarkets … The goal for landlords of covered malls is to provide one-stop destinations where consumers can pick up a broad array of items and, ideally, visit multiple times a week. These massive rectangular structures surrounded by vast parking lots are usually built to serve shoppers up to 25 miles away.”

Tom McGee of of the International Council of Shopping Centers, comments:”Consumers, particularly millennials, are placing a high priority on experiences while also valuing convenience. As a result, among other things, we are seeing more restaurants, movie theaters, health clubs and grocery stores serve as anchors.”

“But supermarkets might not do much to lift other retailers in struggling malls, analysts said. Grocery shoppers, especially seniors, often are sensitive to the distance between their car and the store, and might not want to navigate busy malls with grocery bags in tow, or supermarkets with mall purchases in hand.” Jeff Edison, a mall grocery-store operator, observes: “You’re not going to buy a Louis Vuitton bag or a dress when you’re carrying your groceries.”

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Bulgari, Baccarat & The Hoteling of Retail

The New York Times: “The convergence of hotels and merchandise started, perhaps unsurprisingly, at luxury properties. Almost two years ago, Baccarat, a French crystal manufacturer, opened a 50-story building with a hotel and apartments across the street from the Museum of Modern Art, six blocks from its Manhattan flagship store. Crystal designs are displayed in public areas. Guests can order from the display and have their purchases shipped to their homes, saving time and a trip to the retail store. Select guest room entrances exhibit art inspired by crystal pieces.”

“Bulgari, an Italian designer of jewelry, watches and leather goods, has properties in Bali, Milan and London. Hotels in Shanghai, Beijing and Dubai are expected to open by the end of the year. The hotel website links to an online store … Tommy Hilfiger, whose designs include apparel, luggage and linens sold at Macy’s, Kohl’s and online, purchased the Raleigh Hotel in Miami Beach in 2014 and is developing it in conjunction with the Dogus Group, a Turkish conglomerate.”

“West Elm, a division of Williams-Sonoma that sells modern furniture and accessories online and in nearly 90 stores nationwide, has created model hotel rooms.” Stephani Robson of Cornell “said she expected that West Elm was hoping to reach beyond existing customers.” She observes: “A brand like West Elm can signal ‘our brand is experiential’ — reinforce positioning for customers not familiar with the brand.”

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Book Capella: Library as Luxury Showroom

The Guardian: “Tapestries, leather armchairs, candelabras, sculpted woodwork and figures of the apostles: Book Capella, a newly built, gothic-inspired library in central St Petersburg, is complete with all the expected luxuries of an ancient athenaeum – and a price tag to match. To enjoy the library’s collection and atmosphere, you have to pay a ticket of just under £100 for a four-hour reading session – a markedly different experience to the free access readers can enjoy in Russia’s public libraries.”

“All the books date from between the 16th and 19th centuries and are displayed in thematic rooms with names including The Book of Wars and The Book of Travels. Its motto is a phrase from Jorge Luis Borges: ‘I have always imagined paradise as a library’.”

“However, while Book Capella proclaims its motto to be Borges’s heavenly vision, the space appears to be less library, and something more akin to a luxury showroom.” Project director Irina Khoteshova comments: “One hundred pounds per visit is certainly not a low price, but it is less expensive than tickets to the opera or ballet. People aren’t really surprised by the price itself. They are surprised that it’s the price for a visit to a library … Book Capella is not a library in the traditional sense, and it is not a museum, although elements of the museum are presented. It’s also not the bookstore, although you can buy our books here. [It] is a new way for people to communicate with rare books.”

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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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Nike Luxury: It Means Better Service

Business Insider: “For anyone who has recently bought Nike shoes or apparel, or walked into one of its latest stores, this won’t be news: Nike has slid upscale recently … The brand’s promotional efforts skew towards its newest and greatest inventions, as well as its more expensive offerings.”

“More recently, Nike has signaled a different approach to welcoming customers into its stores. Its new store in New York’s Soho neighborhood offers customers the opportunity to make one-on-one appointments with Nike staff … Customers can bring in all kinds of concerns for the staff to help with … The store also has areas where customers can test out its shoes and equipment in an ‘immersive experience.’ It represents a shift in how the company sees brick-and-mortar retail, and is being called a guide for future stores from the brand.”

“Nike clearly believes that an elevated price point also means elevated service, and it’s headed full speed in that direction. As Nike places a larger emphasis on its direct-to-consumer division, it’s also taking greater care of how it is perceived by customers, as well as how it interacts with those customers.”

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Layer 3: Luxury & The Set-Top Box

The Washington Post: “At a time when Americans are increasingly abandoning their cable companies — flocking to alternatives such as Netflix and Hulu — Layer3’s premise is that the big bundle of basic and premium channels that has sustained the industry for decades is still a viable formula.”

“It turns out that the most avid cord-cutters among us tend to be lower-income Americans … To help court those high-end customers, Layer3 is trying to improve on the reputation many cable providers have gained as stodgy, hulking corporations trying to nickel-and-dime their customers. It isn’t just rolling out red-carpet customer service … or a ‘white-glove’ customer experience, such as your ability to text the company whenever you have questions or concerns. It’s also trying to lure subscribers with the promise of next-gen technology embedded in its product.”

“Layer3’s wireless set-top box supports 4K-resolution video. It offers a curated feed that automatically learns what you like to watch, and it has integration with Facebook and Twitter, along with a few other bells and whistles … All of this is aimed at raising the bar for cable service, making it so that consumers feel they’re actually getting what they pay for — or more.”

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Sephora Becomes Its Own Best Customer

The Wall Street Journal: “As Sephora has emerged as the hottest retailer in luxury beauty, cosmetics companies are increasingly losing out—to Sephora … Sephora and its owner, French luxury conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE, have emerged as a competitor—launching a stream of new beauty brand … sold at Sephora stores alongside Estée Lauder’s Smashbox and L’Oreal’s Urban Decay.”

“In the core makeup area of a Sephora store, LVMH’s beauty brands can take up nearly half of the shelf space. Yet, Sephora’s parent manufactures only 15 beauty brands compared with more than 200 the retailer can carry at any given time … The situation puts high-end cosmetic brands in a conundrum. Many are becoming increasingly dependent on Sephora for sales growth, but are faced with shrinking shelf space at the retailer as LVMH makes room for its own new brands.”

“To sell at Sephora, which has more than 2,300 stores around the world, brands can pay more than 60% from each sale, a higher rate than at most department stores and specialty retailers … Capitalizing on other channels isn’t always easy because Sephora has required that some brands sell their hottest products at its stores only … Revlon Inc. Chief Executive Fabian Garcia, when asked if Sephora is a heavy-handed partner, paused, ‘As a matter of practice, I will never say a customer is heavy handed. But I will say they are assertive’.”

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Logomania: The Champion of Fashion

The New York Times: “Late last year, the high-fashion radical pranksters of Vetements released what would become one of the brand’s signature pieces: a misshapen hoodie with a logo on the chest that played off the traditional Champion script logo, rotating the oversize C 90 degrees to make a V … Ava Nirui, a writer, artist and part of a loose group of bootleg-influenced design provocateurs who use corporate identities as raw material, thought the price, around $700, was outrageous …And so she decided to poke fun at Vetements by seeing its borrowing, and raising it — or more to the point, interrogating it.”

“One at a time, she took actual Champion sweatshirts and incorporated the elongated-C logo into the names of other designers — Rick Owens, Chanel, Gucci, Marc Jacobs — by embroidering the names around the C in utilitarian font. She made them for herself, snapping pictures and posting them to her Instagram account with a shrug emoticon as the caption.”

“Vetements’s cheeky appropriation and Ms. Nirui’s meta-cheeky reappropriation represent two phases of what has become a mini-resurgence of interest among tastemakers, from high fashion to streetwear … This burst of renewed interest has extended to the brand’s history. The sneaker reseller Flight Club in New York currently has a floor-to-ceiling grid of dozens of 1980s and ’90s American-made Champion sweatshirts, which have been selling briskly. ‘The Champion sweatshirt is such a regal piece,’ said Josh Matthews, the director of merchandising at Flight Club and a longtime collector of the brand.

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Horsehair Mattress: Sleep Tight @ $2 / Hour

The Washington Post: “So how much would you pay to get a good night’s sleep? How about $150,000? … That’s what the ownership at Hästens, a firm founded in 1852 and based in Köping, Sweden is betting on. The company claims that its beds ‘will change your life, and alter the way you think about sleep forever’ … Each bed is custom made for over 320 hours by four ‘master artisans,’ using a slow-growing Swedish pinewood frame, a box-spring equipped with pure steel springs, layers of flax, horsetail hair, cotton and wool batting, all specially stacked … like a lasagna.”

“The horsehair is braided and unbraided by hand and ‘acts as a miniature airway to wick moisture away so there’s no sweat buildup’ … Bloomberg’s James Gaddy reviewed the bed at the company’s New York showroom and fell in love … So enamored was he that he started doing what customers usually do when they really, really want something: they rationalize.”

He comments: “If you keep it for 25 years and get eight hours of sleep every night, think of it as paying $2 every hour for the privilege of blissful, blissful sleep” … “Gaddy concludes that with a good night’s sleep, he can live longer, learn faster, function better, stay in better shape, and look younger.”

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Adidas Biofabric: A Shoe That Melts in Your Sink

Wired: “The Adidas Futurecraft Biofabric, a biodegradable running shoe, debuted at last week’s Biofabricate conference in New York … the Futurecraft Biofabric looks a lot like a modern athletic shoe. The open-knit upper has a golden sheen, and it connects to Adidas’s trademark Boost sole … the shoe is 15 percent lighter than one made from traditional polymers, and credits its weight-savings … a synthetic spider silk it calls Biosteel.”

“AMSilk creates that Biosteel textile by fermenting genetically modified bacteria.That process creates a powder substrate, which AMSilk then spins into its Biosteel yarn. All of this happens in a lab, and … uses a fraction of the electricity and fossil fuels that plastics take to produce … AMSilk also created an enzyme solution that lets shoe owners dissolve their kicks at home, in the sink, after about two years of high-impact wear … the solution comes in little packets … and can safely disintegrate a pair of Futurecraft Biofabric shoes in a matter of hours.”

“Biodegradability both defines the shoe’s appeal and presents its biggest obstacle … High performance sportswear has certainly trended slimmer and lighter … But a shoe that’s designed to disintegrate?” James Carnes of Adidas thinks it’s on trend: “Most people don’t think about buying a product that’s intended to break down. Luxury absolutely used to mean heavy and stiff and solid, and slowly it’s changed into buying other things. Like if you buy a down jacket, it’s expected to be insulated and lightweight.”

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