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Hot brand opening pop-ups in hotels

BY Marianne Wilson

One of the most buzzed-about retail brands is setting up shop — temporarily — in some hip hotels.

Canadian apparel retailer Kit and Ace is opening a a series of pop-ups in collaboration with luxury hotels in major cities across the globe. The pop-up, called “The Carry-on,” will make its debut in April, at the Hotel Zetta in San Francisco (for full listing, see end of article). It will offer a selection of easy-pack, carry-on essentials from Kit and Ace.

The initiative will also have an online component. Digital visitors can access travel-friendly resources, including itineraries of places to visit in each city curated by local influencers, and wardrobe essentials.

“We wanted to create a multi-platform experience that offered the same content online and offline where people could shop travel essentials and explore cities around the world at the same time,” said JJ Wilson, co-founder and head of Brand at Kit and Ace, which was founded in July 2014 by Shannon and JJ Wilson, the wife and son of Lululemon founder Chip Wilson.

The Vancouver, British Columbia-based company is best known for performance wear made from its proprietary “technical cashmere” fabric that can be tossed into a washer and dryer. It will introduce a “technical silk” fabric this spring.

Currently, Kit and Ace operates nearly 60 across North America, Australia, the United Kingdom and Japan, and also has an online presence.

The Carry-on pop-up will take place in succession next month in the following locations:

San Francisco – Hotel Zetta (April 1-3)
Los Angeles – Palihouse West Hollywood (April 8-13)
Melbourne – Art Series, The Olsen (April 11-17)
London – Mondrian London (April 13-20
Sydney – The Old Clare Hotel (April 20-26)
New York – Refinery Hotel (April 28-May 30)

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eBay enhances product, search capabilities

BY CSA STAFF

eBay Inc. is attempting to streamline how it serves content to consumers.

eBay has found that online shoppers follow some common patterns in proceeding from wanting a particular item to purchasing it. These patterns are driving the retailer’s new product and search-related enhancements.

“When looking at shopping behaviors, we often find that providing too many options can be overwhelming for some people,” said Jason Fletchall, product manager for shopping experience, eBay. “In our research, we’ve found that there are five-stages in the shopping journey: want, discover, compare, decide and buy. At eBay, we’ve started enhancing our product and search results pages that will meet our customer needs at each step in the shopping process. Our goal is to help shoppers quickly make sense of the options available to them, and help them easily compare options so they can decide with confidence.”

During the discovery and comparison phases, eBay analysis indicates consumers want to be inspired. But at this time, they often look at trends, read product reviews, and compare products side-by-side for functionality and pricing.

In response, eBay is leveraging machine-assisted and deep learning features to help surface items targeted to a customer’s individual needs. This will allow shoppers navigating the retailer’s site to naturally land on product category pages without having to enter a keyword.

For shoppers who already know exactly what they want, eBay has also enhanced its product-related pages to provide top picks based on similar searches, as well as reviews and trending 90-day price information. The retailer is also offering an “other options” feature that lets customers select items based on aspects such as new or used, free return shipping, and expedited delivery.

"Our goal is to make it easier and more convenient to understand the unparalleled breadth of eBay's inventory, as well as quickly cut through this inventory to find the best deal for you,” said Jonas Klink, director, product management and shopping experience. “Doing this well involves understanding the tradeoffs between different listings for something you are shopping for."

eBay said it will announce more enhanced item discovery features and search innovation in the coming weeks.

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Destination Maternity gives turnaround update; loses CFO

BY Gina Acosta

Destination Maternity says its turnaround efforts are working to drive long-term growth despite a decrease in same-store sales during the fourth quarter.

The company said that for the fourth quarter ended Jan. 30, same-store sales decreased 3.5%. The retailer's net loss improved to $3.1 million compared to a net loss of $17 million in the prior year quarter. Net sales were $118.3 million, compared with $121.2 million for the comparable three month in 2015.

"We are cautiously optimistic that our improved operating performance for the fourth quarter is evidence that our turnaround strategies are beginning to bear fruit," said Anthony M. Romano, CEO and president. "Although we did experience a decline in comparable sales of 3.5%, which was driven by mall traffic declines due to the challenging retail environment and unseasonably warm weather, on a positive note our merchandising and marketing initiatives resulted in increased average transaction value and conversion. In addition, our increased inventory discipline enabled us to end the year with inventory down 11% on a unit basis."

The company also announced Tuesday that it will be looking for a new CFO after the resignation of Judd P. Tirnauer, who plans to depart the company on April 22 to take a senior leadership role with Wet Seal.

For the full fiscal 2015 year, same store sales decreased 1.5%. The company's net loss was $4.5 million.

The company also announced it plans to discontinue its Two Hearts line, thus ending its relationship with Sears in June. In addition, the company's leased department relationship with Gordman's ended this month. Finally, the company decided it will phase out production of its Oh Baby by Motherhood line during fiscal 2016 after being informed that Kohl's has elected to scale back and ultimately discontinue its exclusive license with the company for this line in early fiscal 2017.

"Overall, fiscal 2015 was a transitional year for Destination Maternity in which we made improvements in our reported financial results as we continue to reduce inventory and apply better processes and practices to drive sales productivity and overall profitability. Looking ahead, we remain focused on our key initiatives, including our intense focus on elevating our Motherhood and A Pea in the Pod brands by having the right product, in the right places at the right time."

Looking ahead, the company expects same store sales to increase in the low, single digits in fiscal 2016. The company also plans to close 25 to 30 stores and open seven to 10 new stores.

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