STORE SPACES

Canadian athletic wear retailer to make U.S. store debut

BY Marianne Wilson

RYU Apparel is coming to the Big Apple.

RYU (Respect Your Universe) announced plans to open a store in in the hip Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. The 2,800-sq.-ft. store, the brand's first in the U.S., will open in the first quarter of 2018.

Originally founded in Portland, Oregon, RYU is an athletic apparel and accessories brand engineered for the fitness, training and performance of the multi-discipline athlete. Marcello Leone, whose parents founded Canadian luxury retailer Leone, took the company over in 2014. Leone moved RYU's headquarters from the United States to Vancouver, British Columbia, and revamped the brand to give it broader appeal. It currently operates four locations in Canada, with a fifth opening in October.

"We are excited to announce this important next step in the growth of RYU as a global brand," said Leone, CEO and president of RYU. "Expansion into the New York City area allows us to create connections and build community in one of the most influential athletic and fashion markets in the world."

Originally founded in Portland, Oregon, RYU or 'Respect Your Universe', is an athletic tech-style apparel brand engineered for the fitness, training and performance of the multi-discipline athlete. Marcello Leone, son of the founders of Vancouver-based multi-brand luxury retailer Leone, took the company over in 2014 and spearheaded an overhaul which saw its headquarters moved from the United States to Canada.

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STORE SPACES

Toys ‘R’ Us in ‘play’ mode

BY Marianne Wilson

The nation's largest toy retailer wants everyone to take some time out to play.

Toys "R" Us announced that, this fall, it is launching "play labs" at 42 stores where kids (and parents) can play with some of the season's hottest toys. The retailer said that adults can use the lab to test the items on kids' holiday lists to check for age appropriateness before they make a purchase.

The rollout reflects the chain's new brand positioning, "Today We Play," which has been in the works for a long time, the retailer said. But it noted that the timing of this announcement is coincidentally symbolic "as our company continues to take the right steps to put us on a successful track for a bright future."

Toys "R" filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Sept. 18 with a goal of restructuring its outstanding debt. Earlier this week, it closed on $3.1 billion of financing facilities that will support its operations during its restructuring process allow it to invest in various initiatives, including the renovation and modernization of its stores.

"Our new brand philosophy – Today We Play — leaves behind the 'transactional mentality' of our business and rallies our customers and communities behind an issue that is vital for children’s development – free, unstructured play," the company said on its corporate blog, No Assembly Required.

Toys "R" Us also plans to create experiential moments "in places where you would least expect it." Along those lines, on Oct. 6, the company will bring a giant, interactive Etch a Sketch screen to the Fulton Street Subway Station, New York City, reminding ground commuters "that EVERYONE needs some unstructured fun!”

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STORE SPACES

DSW going back to its roots for store of the future

BY Marianne Wilson

DSW has announced a new store design inspired by its warehouse roots.

The footwear giant announced the design along with several other initiatives intended to build engaging customer experiences, enable better associate product knowledge and improve operational execution.

“At DSW, we see an opportunity to acquire market share as the retail industry consolidates,” said CEO Roger Rawlins. “We have reinvigorated and positioned DSW to benefit, beginning with a new brand mission: We inspire self-expression.” To watch a video from the company on its updated brand mission, click here.

The chain is testing a new store design that reflects the aesthetic of a warehouse, complete with pallet fixtures and flexible roller conveyors, and creates a 70% increase in units through vertical product showcasing. The retailer said the new layout allows DSW to tell compelling, curated product stories across the floor, starting the moment the customer enters the space.

DSW is using its physical locations as warehouses for the shipping and receiving of digital demand and returns. More than half of its digital orders are fulfilled in-store.

The design is currently in test phase at DSW’s ‘lab” location at Polaris just north of Columbus, Ohio. The company plans to expand it to several other locations in 2018. In addition, a new location on the Las Vegas strip, set to open in spring 2018, will showcase the warehouse-inspired elements.

“The customer expects that when they walk into a warehouse, that they get the same experience they had online,” said DSW COO Michele Love. “Our goal is to give customers a seamless omnichannel experience. As an authority on fashion, we’re curating the must-haves for the season in ways that really inspire self-expression.”

On the product front, DSW is working to grow offerings and exclusive products. An extremely successful kids shoe test is leading to an aggressive add of the category to more locations, the retailer said.

In other initiatives, DSW is co-developing new proprietary store technology that will allow store associates to better connect with customers. Increased operational efficiency will free associates’ time and allow for more customer engagement. And the associate experience will be simplified by narrowing their need to juggle several electronic devices to one simple, streamlined tablet.

“This technology enables shopping on the customer’s terms,” Love said. “Our new technology will not only put customer-facing data like personalized offers, wish lists and purchase history in the palm of associates’ hands. It will empower them with valuable information to enhance the shopping experience.”

In addition, DSW is launching a new loyalty program in 2018 that will leverage the brand’s 25 million-customer loyalty database. Also under evaluation are several new services, including like shoe rental, shoe repair and a philanthropic connection, offering an appealing “non-commerce” experience to its most loyal customers.

“Today’s customer craves more than just a transaction, they want an experience. Our new program will be loyalty tailored to the customer’s level of engagement,” said Love. “It will go beyond points, and tie back to our mission of inspiring self-expression.”

DSW operates 511 stores in 43 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, along with e-commerce sites. It also owns Ebuys, an online off price footwear and accessories retailer.

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