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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Whip It Good: The Last Train to Weirdsville

    Dangerous Minds: “Last week Dave Taylor, who runs Weirdsville Records in Mt. Clemens, Michigan, on the northern edge of Detroit, pulled a funny kind of prank when he decided to switch up the visual look of his store for an hour or two … a full wall of Whipped Cream & Other Delights and Whipped Cream & Other Delights fronting every bin! (Yes, in case you were wondering, the unseen albums in the bins are not all Alpert’s masterpiece, they’re just regular albums.)”

    Taylor explains: “Every day we get records in. There will be at least two of these in every stack! Nine out of 10 households had this record! It’s a great record and who can’t love this cover?”

    “One of the most interesting aspects of the display is that Taylor went out of his way to make sure customers understood that the copies are not for sale. Taylor says that he has about 75 copies of the album, and sheepishly admitted that he is ‘stockpiling the Herb’.”

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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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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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Broadway Bargains: There’s An App For That

The Wall Street Journal: “A veteran Broadway producer is instituting what he believes is an industry first: A best-price guarantee on show tickets. Ken Davenport, lead producer of the revival of ‘Once on This Island,’ … says the guarantee will ensure that ticket-buyers won’t have to scour the web for deals through theater sites advertising discounts. Instead, they can go to the show’s website.”

“While Mr. Davenport says the idea is to make pricing fairer and more transparent, he also allows that he stands to benefit from the guarantee. If theatergoers come to see the show as the best source for a discount, he says he doesn’t have to spend as much time and money marketing various other deals. Moreover, when theatergoers go to discount sites in search of cheaper seats, they often learn about deals for other Broadway productions, Mr. Davenport says. In turn, that could lead them to buy tickets for a different show.”

“But while Mr. Davenport’s strategy may resonate with theatergoers tired of the bargain hunting, not everyone thinks it will pay off. Larry Compeau, a Clarkson University professor who specializes in consumer psychology, says Americans have become accustomed to the hunt. He notes failed experiments by prominent retailers and manufacturers to simplify pricing and do away with discounts. “The general American consumer values the deal,” he said. Others say Mr. Davenport could be sacrificing revenue from ticket-buyers who don’t necessarily worry about deals.”

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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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Down Under: Introducing Vegemite Blend 17

The New York Times: “Vegemite, the classic condiment found on breakfast tables in every corner of Australia for nearly a century, is going posh. Bega, manufacturer of the iconic — if divisive — yeast extract spread, released a new and more expensive version of the product this week, raising questions about whether the brand had abandoned its humble roots in favor of a more affluent demographic.”

“The new variety, Vegemite Blend 17, is sold in achingly artisanal packaging that includes an unnecessary cardboard box, a gold-colored lid and a price tag more than double that of a traditional jar, coming in at 7 Australian dollars, or nearly $5.50 … Anthony Agius, a Melbourne resident who says he has eaten Vegemite for 32 years, purchased the new product out of curiosity … Mr. Agius said he could not easily distinguish the new blend from the original.”

“When asked whether the new product may be a cynical, short-lived marketing ploy to draw attention and stoke lighthearted controversy, (marketing director Ben Hill) simply encouraged Australians to ’embrace the taste.’ The company, he said, did not plan to reissue the product after its initial run of 450,000 units. But if the new blend proved popular, Mr. Hill said, Bega might keep making it.”

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Is DIY DOA for Millennials?

The Wall Street Journal: The Millennial “generation, with its over-scheduled childhoods, tech-dependent lifestyles and delayed adulthood, is radically different from previous ones. They’re so different, in fact, that companies are developing new products, overhauling marketing at companies such as Scotts, Home Depot Inc., Procter & Gamble Co. , Williams-Sonoma Inc.’s West Elm and the Sherwin-Williams Co. are hosting classes and online tutorials to teach such basic skills as how to mow the lawn, use a tape measure, mop a floor, hammer a nail and pick a paint color. and launching educational programs—all with the goal of luring the archetypal 26-year-old.”

“J.C. Penney Co. says the group is willing to hire others for projects. The retailer has pushed into home services, including furnace and air-conditioning repair, water-treatment systems and bathroom renovations, and expanded its window-covering installation … Home-furnishings retailer West Elm offers service packages, which start at $129, to provide plumbing and electrical work, painting, installing a television and hanging wall art and mirrors.”

“Home Depot executives want to establish stores as an education center so young adults can learn household maintenance for themselves. Snagging a new homeowner’s first purchases, says Ted Decker, Home Depot executive vice president of merchandising, helps drive return trips and represents potentially ‘thousands and thousands of dollars’ in lifetime sales … In June the company introduced a series of online workshops, including videos on how to use a tape measure and how to hide cords, that were so basic some executives worried they were condescending.”

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Walmart & Zero-Based Shopping Bags

The Wall Street Journal: “Wal-Mart has started using zero-based budgeting in some corporate units and has made cost cuts as mundane as printing receipts on smaller strips of paper—a change that has saved $7 million so far this year … Wal-Mart expects to save $20 million this year by using slightly smaller plastic shopping bags.”

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