July is drawing to a close, and the world has once again managed to fit a lot into 31 days. We’ve had possibly the most high profile return to sports since the beginning of the pandemic, with Grand Slam tennis, the final rounds of the European Football Championship and the Copa América, and the launch of Tokyo’s troubled Olympics. Both Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos have made groundbreaking trips to space – the latter taking 82 year-old pioneer Wally Funk with him, breaking the record for the oldest person in space.
Closer to earth, there’s been plenty of exciting developments in the world of retail. We might not be rocket scientists, but we know our way around retail, so HERO is here to break these latest developments down and explore July’s biggest retail news.
Bloomie’s plays with our department store expectations
It’s been a tough few years for department stores as they compete with the booming eCommerce sector. So perhaps it isn’t surprising that iconic US chain Bloomingdale’s has announced a new concept store called Bloomie’s to be opened in Fairfax, Virginia this August.
Bloomie’s, which co-opts one of the band’s best known nicknames, will cover about ten percent of the floor space of the average Bloomingdale’s. The store will combine their usual luxury brands with emerging labels and a number of online user-friendly options, including click and collect services and a convenient returns dropbox. It will be interesting to see if the Bloomie’s experiment pays off in boosting store traffic in a troubled sector.
Westfield calls on TikTok to offer live experiences For You
The UK’s biggest mall, Westfield London, opened the country’s first TikTok pop-up on July 22nd in a bid to increase footfall post-pandemic. The TikTok For You House won’t function as a shop itself, instead offering up experiences with popular influencers.
UK shopping centres have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, and Westfield London has seen a number of vacancies open up over the past year as brands like Topshop, Dorothy Perkins and department store Debenhams went into administration, with others like TM Lewin and Cath Kidston moving operations entirely online – a move that Gap’s UK offices recently announced they’ll be echoing.
With so much space opened up in their malls, it makes sense for shopping centre operators to experiment with new ideas. TikTok For You House seems like a particularly savvy attempt to make a trip to the shopping mall more experience-led.
DTC brands expand their physical footprint
July has been a big month for direct-to-consumer brands, with two iconic names in the field announcing major collaborations with brick-and-mortar retailers. First up was Bubble, who have already made huge waves in the DTC market despite only having launched in November 2020. With the support of celebrity fans and skincare influencers, Bubble have attracted enough fans to encourage Walmart to team up with them.
Bubbles products are marketed towards the Gen Z crowd, are specifically formulated for younger skin – a stark change from the anti-aging properties many skincare products boast. The brand also aims to be science-driven, non-toxic and completely vegan – appealing to the concerns of their young user base. There’s no doubt that Walmart is hoping to draw in a very specific demographic by stocking Bubble’s wares.
Bed Bath & Beyond might have a wider audience in mind as they announce the first physical shopping location for popular mattress brand Casper. Perhaps the best known amongst the busy DTC mattress market, Casper went public last year just before the pandemic affected the market heavily. The announcement has seen the company’s stock price rise sharply though – suggesting that this collaboration will serve both businesses well. Casper has a new major outlet through which to sell their products, and Bed Bath & Beyond are able to tap into the generally younger crowd that Casper most appeals to.
Klarna acquires Hero® to bring the in-store experience to social shopping
Klarna and Hero are joining forces to support the seamless convergence of physical and online shopping experience for retailers and shoppers. With 250,000 retail partners, Klarna plans to introduce Hero to a much wider audience, allowing online shoppers to connect instantly with in-store teams to get help with queries, personal recommendations, and simply a better idea of the product they’re about to buy.
Whilst so much of the stories this month have been about companies seeking to keep up with the changing world of retail, Klarna’s acquisition stands out as being more focused on shaping what that future of that world looks like.
Low risk, high reward for LVMH and Off-White?
Another progressive July acquisition comes from the luxury retail sector, where sprawling conglomerate LVMH welcomed Off-White into the fold. Though the full story is a little more complex than that – what LVMH has purchased is not the day-to-day operations of Off-White, but the Limited Liability Company through which founder (and fashion icon) Virgil Abloh conducts his business. This means plenty of room for further collaboration – something that the company has already teased.
Particularly exciting is the way Abloh promises to use this acquisition to ‘expand opportunities for diverse individuals and foster greater equity and inclusion in the industries we serve’. As Vogue has been quick to point out, this is about more than a smart business move (though it is undoubtedly an excellent move for both parties) – it’s a chance to make huge waves in creating a truly progressive luxury brand.