ECOMMERCE

Furniture retailer to bolster shopping experience with virtual reality

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Ashley Furniture is jumping into virtual and augmented reality to help shoppers visualize how furnishings can fit into a space more accurately.

The retailer is launching a company-wide virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) initiative that is designed to enable consumers to create interior layouts and experience living spaces in 3D. Ashley Furniture will create and scale its product catalogue for AR and VR, and publish new 3D product experiences, with a platform from augmented reality and virtual reality provider Marxent.

“Augmented and virtual reality are essential to our growth and vision for the future,” said Todd Wanek, Ashley Furniture’s president and CEO. “Our data shows that a combination of 3D visualization, seeing, touching and feeling actual products, combined with the consultation of our knowledgeable salespeople, will lead to a stand-apart customer experience that is location-flexible.”

The retailer’s first step will be to launch an AR shopping app, which will help shoppers see how home furnishings fit into an existing space. In-store virtual reality tech bars will combine a guided iPad-based space configuration experience with VR headset visualization, allowing shoppers to design and visualize their bedrooms, dining rooms or living rooms.

Ashley Furniture will announce which stores will be the first to launch the virtualization experience in 2017.

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FINANCE

American Eagle lowers forecast

BY Marianne Wilson

It’s a rough time for many teen apparel retailers and the holiday season may not bring much relief.

American Eagle Outfitters Inc. on Wednesday issued a weaker than expected forecast for the fourth quarter as its CEO cited a “tough” retail environment. Its warnings issues similar statements from the likes of Abercrombie & Fitch and Gap.

But the news was not all bad for American Eagle. The retailer’s net profit for the third quarter rose to $75.76 million, or 41 cents per share, from $74.11 million, or 38 cents per share, a year earlier.

Net revenue rose 2.34% to $940.6 million, just missing analysts’ estimates. Same-store sales increased 2%, less than expected.

“I’m pleased that we continued to deliver strong results in a tough retail climate, with the third quarter reaching record sales and marking the 9th consecutive quarter of profit improvement,” said CEO Jay Schottenstein.

Looking ahead, the company said fourth quarter earnings should be in the range of 37 to 39 cents per share excluding potential asset impairment and restructuring charges. Analysts had been looking for 45 cents per share.

Commenting on the results, Neil Saunders, CEO of Conlumino, said that while American Eagle’s growth in the third quarter weakened to its slowest pace in over a year, its performance still represented a solid set of results for the chain.

“While the sales trajectory has become shallower, the margin position continues to improve,” he said. “Overall, we remain positive about AEO. Out of all the teen retailers it is best positioned to drive growth. However, in a turbulent market it is unrealistic to expect that the course it has set will all be plain sailing. In the current environment, there are likely to be some downs along with the ups.”

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FINANCE

U.K. fast-fashion e-tailer interested in acquiring Nasty Gal

BY Marianne Wilson

Boohoo, a fast-fashion online retailer based in Manchester, England, is reportedly bidding for bankrupt U.S. retailer Nasty Gal.

Boohoo has filed a petition to incorporate Nasty Gal as part of its business in the United Kingdom, registering the business Nasty Gal Ltd with Companies House, fashionunited.com reported.

Nasty Gal filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in November, and has reportedly been looking for a buyer to salvage its ailing business.

Other brands reported to be interested in the Los Angeles-based Nasty Gal include Authentic Brands, Asos and Sequential Brands, the report said.

Click here to read more.

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