Tag Archives: retail

Harvey Pics

Wallace and Gromit model for Harvey Nichols.

wallace and gromit for harvey nicholsMuch as we love Nick Park’s national treasures, surely they are much more suited to flogging tea bags than glad rags? Mother‘s Hibby and Harvey campaign from the late 90s was far more on-brand. With their delightfully catty captions — “Nice Helmut” — the knitted dolls spoke directly to the fashionistas who shop at Harvey Nicks as well as modelling the clothes. It’s hard to see Wallace and his dog having the same high fashion resonance.

Hibby and Harvey for Harvey Nichols (knitted puppets Nice Helmut ad)

And yet. Marks and Spencer has just launched an ad campaign featuring that beloved working class stereotype Del Boy in an attempt to move away from its current upmarket image. Food retailers in the UK are increasingly under pressure from the ‘Aldi effect’ with credit-crunched shoppers switching to budget outlets. M&S claims that Del Boy has “universal appeal with the British public”. Maybe Harvey Nics is attempting a similar shift by adopting the distinctly mainstream Wallace and Gromit. But what does a luxury brand have without its exclusivity? Luxe brands from M&S upwards may well be about to find out…

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Prince Covermount Deal Irks Retailers

Legendary musician cuts out the middleman for release of his next album

A couple of years ago, we pointed out that newspaper covermounts were shaping up as a huge threat to the music (and video) industry hegemonies (our word of the week, kiddies). Look and learn, children: today we read that Prince has done a deal to give away his new album with a future issue of the Mail on Sunday.

Coming as this does the same week that beleaguered retailer HMV announced a 73 percent drop in profits, the industry has responded in the only way it knows how, when faced with a challenge from the ‘talent': with kicking, biting and scratching. The chairman of the Entertainment Retailers Association, Paul Quirk, is quoted in The Guardian:

It would be an insult to all those record stores who have supported Prince throughout his career [...] It would be yet another example of the damaging covermount culture which is destroying any perception of value around recorded music.

[...] The Artist Formerly Known as Prince should know that with behaviour like this he will soon be the Artist Formerly Available in Record Stores. And I say that to all the other artists who may be tempted to dally with the Mail on Sunday.

Ooo, get her. Like, after his long fight with the labels, here at the start of the 21st century, the Purple God really cares whether his music is on shelves, as long as his fans can buy it (and of course turn up to his gigs at The O2 later this year).

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Homogeny on the High Street

Photographs by Valerie Weill and Philippe Chancel celebrate the quirky independent shops fighting homogeny on the high street.

crisps.jpgThe British are no longer a nation of shop keepers – a survey by the New Economic Foundation published in June found that in 2004 more than 2,100 independent corner shops in Britain closed down. Writer and broadcaster Robert Elms has started a campaign on BBC London radio to find the capital’s best independent shops – he says:

Chains are what makes us all the same. You really only notice quaint, cool, odd little shops when they’re gone and they will all go if we don’t use them.

The Independent reports that in 1960, small independent retailers had 60 percent of the share in the food retail market. By 2000, it had reduced to 6 percent. And there’s the fact that £1 out of every £8 UK shoppers spend goes to Tesco…

Weill and Chancel’s London in Store showcases the higgledy piggledy and the downright chaotic of the independent shops, away from the harsh strip lighting and sterility of the chains. Record shops, butchers, wig shops, high end boutiques, army surplus stores, taxidermists and of course the humble corner newsagents. London in Store is published next month by Thames & Hudson. This article is based on a feature in The Independent Magazine, 24th September 2005.

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The eBay Economy

Online auctions sites such as eBay are boosting the average UK household income by about £3,000.

The Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR) says that buying and selling online is blossoming, with more than 50,000 people in the UK taking part. More than £4bn of trading is likely to be carried out on eBay alone this year – the equivalent of 1.3% of total UK retail sales. According to Mark Pragnell of CEBR,

“Auction sites are increasing competition, widening consumers’ choice and helping keep down inflation.”

The full story is available on the BBC site.

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The End of the Line for Cheap Chic?

Chloe sues high street chain Kookai over cheap copy of its £1000plus handbag.

The Guardian reports that Chloe are planning to sue high street chain Kookai over their copies of the brand’s £1000plus handbags. This could signal the end of ‘cheap chic’ where chains such as Topshop and Matalan have made a killing ripping off the catwalk. Chloe, which is owned by the Richemont Group, alleges that Kookai’s Stitch Pocket Bag is far too similiar to its Silverado bag. The high street imitation costs £35, less than a 30th of the Chloe £1,086 bag.

The move signals that the designer houses are calling to a halt the ‘cheap chic’ imitations which have been a staple of the high street for some years now. Top Shop, Matalan and George at Asda are just some of the brands which specialise in churning out so-called ‘fast fashion’ – cheap copies of catwalk looks. Ralph Toledano, president and managing director of Chloe, said:

We realised that the only way was to be tough. We spend huge sums on research and development. It had to be a real war. I have no sympathy for them.

Kookai have refused to comment on the case.

In January last year, the head of the body governing French fashion, Didier Grumbach, suggested holding fashion shows in secret to end the plundering. He said then that the situation was becoming

…really embarrassing. Not only do they deliver faster but it is 10 times cheaper and eventually nobody knows who invented the product any more because the copycat delivers ahead of the innovator.

However, the fashion industry rarely attributes its own sources of inspiration – more than often not the street itself. Numerous vintage shops report of designers rifling through their stock looking for next season’s ‘big thing’. Marc by Marc Jacobs, currently one of the most desirable labels out there, often features looks inspired by the 1960s and 1970s. So where does it end?

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Tattooed Fruit

Fond of those little stickers on your fruit? Wave goodbye. The New York Times reports on how the food industry is plotting to replace the fiddlesome stickers with lasered tattoos.

The technology will enable produce distributors to tattoo fruit and veg with their names, identifying numbers, country of origin and other information to help speed distribution. It also forms part of the produce industry’s efforts to track and identify all the food that goes into American shopping baskets.

Since 9/11, the industry has been encouraged to develop ‘track and trace’ technology to allow protection of the food supply at various stages of distribution. Next year, federal regulations will require all imported produce to be labeled with the country of origin. Wal-Mart already requires all pallets delivered to its headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., to be fitted with radio frequency identification tags, so that they can be tracked by satellite.

In 2002, Durand-Wayland, a fruit grower and distributor based in Georgia, bought the patent for a process that etches the price look-up number and any other information the retailer or customer might want to know directly onto the fruit of the skin. Greg Drouillard, who originally patented laser coding for produce and who now works for Durand-Wayland, said the process permanently tattoos each piece of fruit, removing only the outer pigment to reveal a contrasting layer underneath and make the tattoo readable, even scanable.

According to Fred Durand III, president of Durand-Wayland, “With the right scanning technology, the produce could even be bar-coded with lots of information: where it comes from, who grew it, who picked it, even how many calories it has per serving … You could have a green pepper that was completely covered with coding. Or you could sell advertising space.”

If you find the idea of your vegetables looking like something out of The Matrix alarming, consider this: consumers in Japan are already using their mobile phones to scan barcodes giving them all the information they need about the food they buy, including its origins and the pesticides used. See previous post, ‘Check the Label’.

Courtesy of Gawker.

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The Anti Gap

American Apparel – change the world with a T-shirt

american apparel.bmpThis is old news, but i think that Don Chavey is a bit of a marketing genius and the kind that we need.

Looking for all the world like a 1970s porn star, Mr Chavey is the founder of American Apparel. Based on downtown LA, the label sells cotton basics with a strong ethical message. It advertises its products with a high profile pseudo porno (there’s that word again) campaign featuring Chavey and some of his employees.

Key to the American Apparel ethic is the fact that all of the clothes are made in LA, ‘sweatshop free’. Sounds like a nice idea but not mass market. Think again. American Apparel has over four thousand employees and has stores in 11 national and 9 international retail locations. Stores are currently opening in 12 cities including Paris, Boston, Chicago, Miami, and San Diego

The company’s mission statement is as follows:

American Apparel is a vertically integrated manufacturer, distributor and retailer of T-shirts and related products. All of our garments are cut and sewn at our 800,000-square-foot facility in downtown Los Angeles.

We are trying to rediscover the essence of classic products like the basic T-shirt, once an icon of Western culture and freedom. Our goal is to make garments that people love to wear without having to rely on cheap labor.

Every aspect of the production of our garments, from the knitting of the fabric to the photography of the product, is done in-house. By consolidating this entire process, we are able to pursue efficiencies that other companies cannot because of their overreliance on outsourcing.

Our downtown Los Angeles factory, now considered the largest sewn-products facility in the United States, is a design lab where creative ideas, efficient manufacturing techniques, and concepts for designing and selling T-shirts are developed and put to the test. The challenge for companies like American Apparel is to establish new ways of doing business that are efficient and profitable without exploiting workers.

While apparel is a universal necessity that transcends almost all cultural and socioeconomic boundaries, most garments are made in exploitative settings. We hope to break this paradigm.


UPDATE: We don’t like American Apparel anymore.

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Guerrilla Stores

Guerrilla stores and the new anti-chic

dover street market.jpgJapanese label Comme des Garcons has pioneered the idea of ‘guerrilla stores’ – temporary retail outlets that occupy a vacant space and rely on word on mouth for advertising. Comme is also behind Dover Street market (pictured) the anti-big brand shopping experience dubbed the ‘most talked about store in London’ and which sells a number of designers in seemingly shambolic surroundings.

According to Vittorio Radice:

Think about it – the jump from being a ‘mono-brand’ store where it’s like going to church .. where no one says a word and you have this over-sophisticated music, just this jump of calling it ‘market’, it’s like bulls crashing around loose, boom! and you could, with time, execute it really like a market. That’s wonderful.

[Tank magazine]

Comme des Garcons’ founder Rei Kawakubo says she wanted to create:

a kind of market where creators from various fields come together and encounter each other in an ongoing atmosphere of beautiful chaos.

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