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In With the New


Our cover story this month is about one of my favorite topics: hot retail concepts. It’s a subject that, to my mind, never goes out of style because it speaks as much to the essence of retail in today’s omnichannel age as it did in the purely physical one.

New concepts remain the lifeblood of retailing, and it’s always exciting to recognize and call attention to them. And I’m happy to report that the industry seems to be particularly rich in new formats these days. Some of these ideas are coming from overseas — get ready for deep-discounting with a stylish Danish twist — and others are home-grown: Austin’s TreeHouse is a start-up crafting its own unique niche. And then there are the growing ranks of pure-play retailers expanding in the physical space.

Industry veteran Ken Nisch, chairman, JGA, Southfield, Michigan, notes that much of the current upswing in new activity is being driven by changes in shopping malls, particularly the best-performing ones, which are looking for a whole category of retailers to act as “sub-anchors” in place of, or supplementing, traditional ones. “There is the need for a lot more specialty retailers, including regional retailers that typically would not be in a shopping mall,” he said.

Nisch cited artisan jeweler James Avery as a good example of a retailer that doesn’t have an ambition for a national footprint, but does have the ambition to create a strong regional footprint, which “means they are going to be in the best centers within the dozen or so states and markets in which they intend to operate,” he explained. Many of these retailers, of course, are filling a void left by companies that, for a variety of different reasons, have closed up shop — or dramatically scaled back operations. While I don’t mean to sound cold-hearted, the good news is that there are plenty of new names ready to take their place. The brands in our cover story are just the tip of the iceberg. Here are a few other up-and-coming retail concepts I’ll be watching — and writing about:

  • Arc’teryx: Named for the first reptile to develop feathers for flight, the British Columbia-based Arc’teryx brand specializes in pricey, high-performance outdoor wear and gear. It opened its first U.S. store in Seattle in 2013, complete with a harness testing station that lets customers hang from the ceiling, followed by locations in Washington, D.C.; Minneapolis; and Portland, Oregon. More are on tap.

  • Ivivva: This fast-growing spin-off of Lululemon Athletica features active and dancewear for girls ages 4 to 14. It offers sports bras, leggings, yoga pants, leotards, jackets and hoodies, and, similar to its big sister, free in-store dance and athletic classes. With 22 locations, the company plans to open 20 new ones this year.

  • Kit and Ace: Co-founded by Shannon Wilson, wife of Lululemon Athletica founder Chip Wilson, and son JJ Wilson, the luxury casual apparel brand currently has five stores in Canada and two in the U.S., with plans to expand to 30 locations by yearend. The hook here is that the clothing is made of a proprietary cashmere blend that is pre-shrunk, durable and washable. Stores have a neighborhood feel, with lighting and decor from local designers, and a wall displays a rotating selection of local artists who are also supported on Kit and Ace’s e-commerce site.

Marianne Wilson

[email protected]

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