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STORE SPACES

First Look: bebe, New York City

BY Marianne Wilson

Nearly a year after it closed down its retail operation and shuttered its stores, bebe has re-emerged with a new “lifestyle” concept store.

Located near the Empire State Building in Midtown Manhattan, the store has a modern, elegant look, with a glittering bebe sign made of 38,000 Swarovski crystals.

Other store features include:

• A beauty bar (in partnership with on-demand beauty service beGlammed) where shoppers can have their hair and make-up done on site;

• A personalization bar offering customization on merchandise using Swarovski crystals, patches and embroidery;

• A lounge where Bebe will host interactive discussions and engaging educational events with top influencers and fashion industry insiders.

• In-store iPads for ordering from bebe’s website.

“We are excited about the grand opening of the bebe store and introducing consumers to a new lifestyle concept,” stated Ralph Gindi, COO of Bluestar Alliance, which forged a partnership with bebe stores in 2016 to create new licensees and product extensions for the brand. “bebe is about leading trends in the industry and we have incorporated this concept into the new store by offering the latest fashions, in-store embroidering and beauty services where consumers can leave the store looking fabulous. It’s a fresh perspective to engage our loyal and new consumers of the brand.”

Bebe closed all its retail stores last spring but did not file for bankruptcy. It transferred its intellectual property rights, including licensing revenue and its website, to BB Brand Holdings LLC, an operating subsidiary that is 50% owned by Bluestar Alliance, a brand management company. In June, Global Brands Group Holding Limited announced it was partnering with bebe to relaunch an e-commerce platform and its international brick-and-mortar stores.

For more slideshows, click here.

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Caution on LED rebates

BY Marianne Wilson

The Design Lights Consortium implemented a new version of its LED specifications (DLC 4.2) last year. For most LED products, it required improved efficacy (increased lumens per watt). Products that did not meet the specification were removed from the DLC list (as of April 1, 2017).

DLC is very important when rebates come into play, according to BriteSwitch, which help businesses take advantage of rebates and incentive programs, as 70% to 85% of the rebate programs in the U.S. (depending on the product category) require LED products to be DLC approved to qualify for rebates. There is a new level of complexity as each program has different policies regarding the transition to DLC 4.2, advised the company. Numerous rebate programs have said, however, that only DLC 4.2 approved products can be used to qualify for rebates. In these areas, it is crucial to verify the product being used is on the most current DLC 4.2 list.

“It is very important to know your specific rebate program, what they allow, and the qualifications of the product you are using,” BriteSwitch said in a posting on its website. “You have to do your homework which will usually require reading the fine print and calling the rebate implementer. Also, we have noticed many rebate programs recently revising their policy without any notice due to customer feedback so you must stay up to date.”

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Plus-size ‘inclusive’ fashion start-up gets new funding; showrooms coming

BY Marianne Wilson

Universal Standard, the plus-size “inclusive” women’s apparel brand known for its sleek, stylish fashions and unusual return policy, is looking to expand — in several different directions.

The company, which launched in 2015, announced it has closed a $7 million round of Series A funding. The funding round was led by Imaginary Ventures with additional participation from actress Gwyneth Paltrow; Blake Mycoskie, founder of Toms shoes; and Sweetgreen co-founders Jonathan Neman and Nicolas Jammet.

Universal Standard plans to use the new capital to extend its size range from the current sizes 10 to 28 to sizes 6 to 32, and to add new executives. The company also plans to expand its showroom format nationwide. It currently has two showrooms, in New York and Los Angeles and open by appointment only, where customers can shop the full collection and consult one-on-one with in-house stylists.

In addition, Universal Standard wants to expand into new categories. The brand recently launched its first activewear collection, a five-piece line that sells from $45 to $85.

One of Universal Standard’s most notable — and unusual — features is its size-exchange policy, which it calls “Universal Fit Liberty.” Here is how the company describes it:

“Whether you’re a size 6, 16, or 26, weight fluctuates. It can go up and down creating not only an emotional rollercoaster, but a financial burden. If a piece from our core collection no longer fits due to size fluctuation, we’ll replace it with your new size, within a year of purchase, for free.”

The gently worn, returned clothing is cleaned and then donated to Dress For Success, a non-profit group that helps homeless and low-income women gain the skills needed to find living-wage jobs.

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