VC Post | Plug & Play | TLQ 0.1

LOCATION IS NOT ENOUGH

A Perspective from the Retail Fashion Frontier

BY Will Decker, VP Brand & Retail & Tim Joehnk, Corporate Innovation | Plug and Play

For most fashion brands and brick & mortar retailers today, future growth will not come from new distribution channels and locations. Instead, future growth will be driven by new experiences beyond just the product and current touchpoints. To date, we have seen successful strategies as simple as hot chocolate for Christmas shoppers at Banana Republic to more experiential concepts such as Nordstrom’s new flagship Men’s-Store in New York City with in-house barbershops and lounges complementing the shopping experience. In the effort to build experiences that stand out in the future, the physical store format plays an important, but reimagined role in the new world of ME-tail.

First, we anticipate a creative use of real estate, either by driving traffic into the store using new methods or by utilizing store space for alternative purposes. Have you considered using physical space outside what you own and operate – for example, transforming empty retail space into minifulfillment centers? DarkStore is aiming to fix fulfillment by bringing fulfillment centers closer to customers. Or have you considered the opposite,using your own space to attract new potential customers – like accepting a customers’ return from a competitor’s online store in your own brick and mortar space? HappyReturns promises qualified foot traffic to retailers, saving companies on return shipping costs, and providing customers with an immediate refund on hand. The narrative on how over-built the US is for retail will start to change in the coming months as retailers and fashion brands unlock the potential of their spaces and become faster and more agile for their customers.

Secondly, we are seeing consumers become more messageconscious, choosing to buy eco-friendly products, even at a higher price if the branding aligns with their personal values. Leading retailers and brands are exploring and implementing ways they can develop the transparency of their supply chain, to convert their traditional linear economy to a circular one. If we look outside the US, like at the Fashion for Good accelerator program (full disclosure – it is powered by Plug and Play), we see efforts to reduce waste from the dyeing process with startups like Colorifix or alternative methods for leather making like LiteHide by LeatherTeq. The efforts here are monumental – but so are the opportunities. Beyond the technology being developed and tested, we see an emergence of a global mindset, as technology from a startup in Europe might need to ultimately find its way to a warehouse in China. We anticipate many more mechanisms to be put in place to allow the cradle-to-cradle fashion community to thrive and make an impact across the industry – and the world.

We don’t believe brick and mortar is dying, quite the contrary. We believe that retailers and brands should continue to use their strengths yet adopt open innovation, bringing new ideas into the market faster. Let’s find ways to realize the potential in these explorations and trends together and make the ME-tail experience of the future happen today!