department stores

Decoded Fashion - Weekly Stories - The School of Life
Image source: The School of Life, Harrods

Post-Christmas, a plethora of department stores have homed in not only on the annual panic to get fitter, but also a wider, and likely more enduring appetite for wellness – a booming sector. The wellness industry is set to generate global sales of $1trn by 2017, surging 36% from $735.5bn in 2013 (Euromonitor) – a finding reflected in Twitter’s top three New Year’s resolutions for 2016: fitness, healthy eating and “being a better person”.

Straddling wellness festivals, talks, product demos, food-hall takeovers and limited edition products, we review the best initiatives.

  • Try Something New – Food, Fitness & Mindfulness: British store Harrods’ storewide Happy New You festival is celebrating health, happiness and holistic wellbeing. The series of in-store activities are being hosted in collaboration with three wellness-focused businesses under the hashtag #TryJanuary.

British health coach and cookbook author Madeleine Shaw has assumed the temporary role of ‘Chef of the Season’, creating “healthy gourmet treats” exclusively available in the store’s food hall until the end of February. She’ll also be demonstrating her “clean eating cooking skills” in the store’s cookshop space on Sunday February 7, closing the event.

London-based “better living consultancy” The School of Life offered four free mindfulness classes covering career, priorities, creativity and lifestyle. An adjacent bookshop sold a range of stationery and books related to the same topics.

Meanwhile, for fitness-focused consumers, US gym chain Equinox hosted demonstrations of yoga, boxing and barre classes in a sportswear fashion space.


  • Insider Acumen: Heritage British store Liberty targeted the topic via a month of ‘Be Well’ beauty, fitness, nutrition and fashion events – most of which were echoed on its e-commerce site.

Key initiatives included a fitness training event dubbed #TrainTuesday with Nike. Consumers who bought Nike garments at Liberty could sign up for a free, high-intensity cycling workout at Psycle, Canary Wharf – an official Liberty x Nike+ Training Club takeover.

The brand also ran beauty classes with experts Kate Shapland, founder of cellulite cream brand Legology, and Arabella Preston, founder of natural face-oil company Votary. In addition, it also hosted panel discussions with industry insiders such as Lily Simpson, founder of food-box subscription service The Detox Kitchen, and wellness magazine Hip&Healthy.

Trading on the latter, Liberty collaborated with Hip&Healthy on a bespoke ‘Be Well’ box featuring nine wellbeing products, handpicked by British beauty editors. The campaign runs until February 13.


  • Editorial Focus – Tips and Tricks for Athleisure: UK brand John Lewis has launched Re:New_All. The wellness initiative revolves around a dedicated section on its e-commerce site featuring athleisure clothing and wellness product editorials, fitness plans, healthy recipes and sleeping tips. The online overview was complemented by a wellbeing-attuned product edit in its main windows.


  • Longer-Term Plans – The Body Studio: British brand Selfridges is wholeheartedly jumping onto the wellness bandwagon with plans to open an entirely new floor called The Body Studio in its London destination in April 2016. Located on the top floor in former office space, it will stock more than 100 brands, as well as a wellness café. The new development will debut with the theme ‘Everybody’, celebrating the body and inner beauty. The theme is similar to its 2014 campaign The Beauty Project, which championed diversity in the beauty sector.
  • Retail Introductions: American brand Saks Fifth Avenue has introduced Beautiful Discoveries for spring – a multi-store beauty/fitness drive. In-store, beauty consumers are being invited to test free services including facials, manicures, massages and skin analysis at selected beauty counters. Further afield, the brand hosted pop-up shops at popular upscale fitness centres including AKT, Pure Yoga and Physique 57 in New York and Beverly Hills. There, beauty experts demonstrated quick-application, post-gym make-up tips, and distributed vouchers for in-store pick-up gifts.


Guest post by Katie Baron & Stefanie Dorfer

Decoded Fashion - Weekly Stories - Selfridges Chinese New Year
Image source: Selfridges, CNY

While luxury spending in China itself is decreasing, the appetite for spending away from home has risen by 10% over the past year – 78% of Chinese shoppers continue to buy their premium purchases abroad (Bain & Company, 2016). Chinese shoppers and Chinese New Year (CNY) – which falls on February 8 this year – therefore remain a critical target area.

From personalised gifting to reworked product edits, we highlight the best retail initiatives.

Department Store Drives:

  • US department store chain Bloomingdale’s is hosting events, in-store pop-up shops carrying giftable fashion and accessories edits and art installations in selected outposts. Additionally, it is giving away red envelopes containing special offers and gift-card prizes in denominations of the Chinese lucky number eight ($8, $88, $888).

The concepts complement permanent tourist-centric strategies including a welcome guidebook in simplified Chinese, and the provision of Mandarin-speaking sales staff on request.

  • American store Lord & Taylor is trading on the premise of ‘new year, new you’ with a beefed-up beauty proposition (new products and beauty sessions). It is also offering complementary red tote bags with every purchase, fortune cookies on all floors, and a CNY fashion edit window display.
  • British brand Selfridges is hosting a small in-store parade featuring live performances from Chinese musicians. It has also created CNY lucky red gift-card envelopes and is offering fortune cookies throughout the store. Several in-store brands, including fashion labels Coach and Ted Baker and luggage retailer Globe-Trotter, are offering complementary gifts and services for shoppers spending heavily. Gifts include limited-edition notebooks, personalisable gifting envelopes, CNY-themed charms and embossing services for leather products.
  • At its Manchester location (UK), British department store Harvey Nichols is hosting a CNY shopping event with live music and late shopping hours. It has also curated a bespoke, CNY-attuned edit of new-season fashion and accessories, and will be handing out lucky-dip envelopes to everyone spending £75+ ($107+) for the chance to win exclusive prizes. Its cardholders will also receive free beauty samples and tutorials, plus personalised fashion illustrations sketched live by British illustrator Dom&Ink.

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Power of Personalisation

  • Chinese department store Lane Crawford has created a dedicated microsite called Lunar New Year 2016. Consumers can personalise e-greetings with an interactive ‘Calligraphy Creator’ that visualises virtually ‘handwritten’ messages selected from a range of graphic backgrounds designed by renowned contemporary Chinese artists. These can be sent via Facebook, Twitter or email.
  • At Selfridges, shoppers who spend more than £100 ($143) can personalise fans with traditional Chinese calligraphy for free via an expert stationed on the women’s accessories floor.
  • British luxury brand Burberry has launched a social media campaign allowing its WeChat account members to interact with its CNY collection. Users can tap, swipe and shake their phones to ‘unwrap’ gifts and personalise holiday greetings, which can then be forwarded on to their WeChat contacts.

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CNY-Themed Product Launches & Adaptations

  • Echoing Lord & Taylor’s ‘beauty boost’ approach to CNY, Lane Crawford has created a “New Year, New You Beauty Box” in collaboration with Chinese fashion designer Angel Chen. The box, which is covered in a vibrant flower print and converts into a handbag, houses deluxe beauty brands including Skin Laundry, Hourglass and Diptyque.
  • Sports giants Nike, Converse and Adidas have all released special edition trainers to celebrate CNY featuring traditional colours, such as red, or stitched, printed or embossed Chinese or Zodiac sign symbols.
  • Louis Vuitton, Salvatore Ferragamo and Prada have all introduced limited-edition leather accessories shaped like monkeys. Meanwhile, Kenzo has created a capsule collection of sweaters and T-shirts paying homage to the auspicious Chinese colours of red and gold, and emblazoned with the brand’s signature tiger.
  • Burberry’s e-initiative is supported by a rebooted collection of its signature products (cashmere scarves, trench coats and totes) reworked in ‘Parade Red’ and flashes of gold for the occasion.

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Guest post by Katie Baron & Stefanie Dorfer

Decoded Fashion - Weekly Stories - ShopStyle Revamp
Image source: ShopStyle

Black Friday hysteria has well and truly arrived, with some discounts starting even earlier than expected. We’ve taken a look at how retailers are handling one of the biggest shopping events of the year, from tech-enhanced in-store experiences to websites that will help shoppers scope out the best deals.

ShopStyle creates new website

As Black Friday and Cyber Monday gain traction year after year, ShopStyle has devised a means of filtering through all the promotions so shoppers can find the best daily deals. The shopping comparison website has designed a site dedicated to holiday promotions. Updated daily by ShopStyle editors, the site collaborates with 1,400 fashion retailers aiming to present the “best of the best” deals to its users.

Pinterest users will probably spend more

On the brand’s business blog last week, Pinterest employee Liz Xiao revealed that two million people had already saved Black Friday and Cyber Monday-related pins, and there’s no doubt that that number has increased now that Black Friday week is in full swing. Xiao also added that, according to a November 2015 Civic Science survey: “Not only will Pinners shop more on Black Friday, they’ll also spend more than non-Pinners.” Pinterest users are generally willing to spend three times more on clothing and accessories than those who do not use the social-media-cum-scrapbook site.

In-store revamps ready for the customer onslaught

Over at Macy’s, an update to the department store’s Perry Ellis concession aims to change the way men shop for their clothes. The store has installed floating mirrors – fitted with proximity sensors that will, on cue, display interactive branded content – as well as LED hardware that will further promote Perry Ellis’s values. Phone-charging stations have also been installed for customer convenience – ideal for savvy shoppers who use mobile technology to improve their shopping experience. Meanwhile, Bloomingdale’s first-ever outlet store opened last weekend in New York, no doubt deliberately timed to tap one of the year’s biggest shopping periods. While the Bloomingdale’s Outlet has yet to release any information regarding its Black Friday offers, its discounts already offer a generous 25-75% off.

The discount backlash

In a similar vein to complaints about manic shopping on Boxing Day, Black Friday has received criticism due to the fact that it falls over the Thanksgiving weekend – the day after Thanksgiving itself – which, some argue, is a time for rest, relaxation and spending time with loved ones. While Macy’s will, for the third time, open its doors for Black Friday at dinner time this Thanksgiving (Thursday, November 26), other retailers are refusing to succumb to the pressure. For the first time, all of H&M’s US stores will be closed on Thanksgiving Day to “allow [their] store teams to enjoy this time with their family and friends”. British retailer Jigsaw, meanwhile, has released a Black Friday Manifesto online, explaining that it will not be partaking in Black Friday, declaring: “Our products are reduced by nothing because they stand for something.”

Cyber Monday deals look promising

Those who don’t like the idea of venturing outside over the Thanksgiving weekend can still capitalise on retailers’ generosity by shopping online on Cyber Monday (November 30), or even before then. Amazon – whose Prime Day deals in June were more successful than last year’s Black Friday events – is a testament to the success of online shopping, and the company appears to be ahead of the pack, offering highly discounted deals every day between November 23 and 30. Other retailers are also luring online shoppers in with some lucrative deals, including Whistles, which is boasting 30% off all items throughout Cyber Monday.

Jason Goldberger, president of, has commented in a recent blog post that, despite it not being the biggest online shopping day of the year, Cyber Monday sales “continue to climb”. He continued: “To today’s always-connected shoppers, who get served deals constantly via email, social and broadcast channels, events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday stand out even more because they know retailers are giving it their all – and that this one really counts.”

Reported by Grace Howard

Decoded Fashion - Weekly Stories - Liberty London Department Store

Image source: LDN Fashion

People only buy expensive things once they’ve done their research online, right? Well according to new findings from research and advisory firm the Luxury Institute, wealthy shoppers still want their shopping experience to be firmly ensconced in the physical world.

As reported by Bloomberg Business, a survey of 1,600 men and women who earn at least $150,000 a year found that the majority prefer to go to shops first, browse items up-close and in person, and receive expert advice from the salesperson. The report goes against the ‘Compare the Market’ myth pervading attitudes in luxury retail – something that has led to retail brands placing less importance on the customer service shoppers receive in-store.

One place where the customer is (still) always right, however, is the traditional department store. Here’s our rundown of the department stores whose forays into new retail technologies are designed to straddle the offline and online worlds with ease – and are championing the kind of multichannel models that will keep affluent shoppers in their ideal comfort zone

Liberty, London

Department stores don’t get much more traditional than the Tudor-style enclaves of Liberty. The store was set up in 1875 with just three dedicated staff and a focus on Eastern furnishings. But fast forward to 2015, and the company has been laying the foundations for an omni-channel strategy that it says is both “functional and fun”. Always careful not to alienate its core customer – who appreciates the in-store experience and the brand’s pared-back marketing compared to its competitors – Liberty has nevertheless launched new technologies in line with how people are really shopping.

A traditional loyalty scheme has gone mobile via the Tapestry app, which adds Instagram into the equation of the usual points and perks – you can browse your favourite brands, and save an item when you see something you like into your “Tapestry.” Then, you can see where it’s located in-store. Moreover, when you want to redeem your points, in-store sales associates will scan phones as well as the usual cards. The scheme allows Liberty’s core customer base to choose whether to sync their existing loyalty card with the app, while attracting new customers through its fun take on utility and bespoke perks.

El Corte Inglés, Spain & Portugal

Founded in 1940, Spanish retail powerhouse El Corte Inglés is Europe’s biggest department store group. It is also one of the most traditional, selling luxury designer clothing alongside electronics, furniture, books, cars, real estate and food. Rather than targeting the entire business, the company is using new retail technologies to optimise particular aspects. This month, for example, it announced it will be launching a mobile shopping platform in its Portuguese market with technology company Grability, following the launch in its home market of Spain last December. Focusing on grocery shopping, the app offers El Corte Inglés customers an intuitive mobile shopping experience that, according to the company, has resulted in marked enthusiasm for the new platform and boosted sales.

Nordstrom, USA

As Lauren Sherman wrote in her report on the Great American Department Store for Fashionista in April, “the role of department stores is changing, and only those willing to recognise the need to transform will survive”. In an era of struggle, some stores are faring better at moving on from mid-20th century models than others.

Nordstrom, based in Seattle, is spending big on technology, warehouses and acquiring businesses like e-commerce site Trunk Club. At the same time, however, it is putting its reputation for great customer service to good use in the age of e-commerce. It takes risks with brands rather than veering towards the conservative, and ex-Opening Ceremony hire Olivia Kim creates monthly shop-in-shops, dubbed Pop-in @ Nordstrom. Schemes like this show how Nordstrom is capitalising on a younger customer’s desire for newness offline, as well as online.

Reported by Claire Healy