The idea of lifestyle branding gained popularity in the 1990’s and dominated brand strategy for over two decades. Using this playbook, a brand created an aspirational lifestyle as a backdrop to sell its products. The products were marketed as souvenirs of the lifestyle. Often these lifestyles were manufactured based on trends that were perceived as cool at the time. In other words, the brands selling these lifestyles were sometimes not at all involved in the dreams they were selling. Hollister (owned by Abercrombie & Fitch) is an example of the old approach – a surf-inspired brand based on a fictional California town that was created in Columbus, Ohio.
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I only recently realized that my mother was giving me subtle clues about the woman she wanted me to be long before I became it.  Beginning in my late teen years and continuing through early adulthood, she searched the racks at off-price stores to find career separates and suits.  At Christmas there were always a few gifts under the tree that she labeled as being from Liz Claiborne or Jones New York.

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eBay has moved to the forefront of retail innovation and is making headlines partnering with mall operators and retailers.  We spoke to Steve Yankovich, Vice President of Innovation and New Ventures at eBay, to learn more about how eBay is digitizing the physical world.

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Apparel retailing has changed dramatically in the last decade.  Over-storing and e-commerce are largely to blame for the struggles faced by many retailers, but consumers have changed as well.  The number of fashion influences has increased exponentially with the rise in online content and social media.  Today’s consumer is not brand loyal and is disinterested in commodity goods.  However, consumers are more engaged with apparel shopping than in the past.  While it seems like today’s shopper has ADD, they are looking for retailers to edit assortments down to fewer, unique options delivered in an engaging retail environment.  For retailers that can offer something special, the change in consumer mindset is an opportunity.  Brands that do not adapt risk having stores that feel dated and tone-deaf.

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IMG_7130 (2)Deb Shops and Delia’s announced plans to liquidate last week and many other specialty retailers appear on the verge of bankruptcy.  While the economy, new competitors, and the disruptive impact of e-commerce are partially to blame, other avoidable mistakes are also at play.  Leadership problems, merchandising issues, and operational missteps are common.  Flawed store opening strategies compound these issues.  Long term leases are equivalent to debt and when sales and gross margins fall, hidden leverage (rent) can create liquidity problems.

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