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There’s no getting around it: It’s been a long, hot summer for the retail industry, one that many retailers will be happy to see end.

From the liquidation of The Sports Authority and Hancock Fabrics to the downsizing of Macy’s and Office Max (to name a few), the past few months have been full of angst as merchants struggle to find their way in a disrupted marketplace.

The good news is that many merchants are rising to the task. They are making the hard calls, however painful, and investments necessary to compete in today’s omnichannel world. As our annual State of the Industry Report, by WD Partners, makes clear: It’s time for retailers to let go of the past.

“Brands must take a giant step back, and let go of the old,” the report says. “The old ways of attracting and gaining consumer loyalty don’t work anymore.”

On the positive side, there are plenty of new options for retailers to consider, plenty of opportunities to innovate — especially in the physical space. Urban Outfitters, which has rejuvenated its in-store experience, and a few other innovative brands are highlighted in the report.

In fact, the industry is bursting with new ideas, across all spectrums. Check out our story on Combatant Gentlemen, an online menswear start-up that’s just crossed over into brick-and-mortar. And see how a 42-year-old brand, Hello Kitty, is pulling in crowds with a whimsical café.

There’s also plenty of innovation coming from established brands that, for the first time, are taking their message directly to consumers. Of the most recent entries, one of the most interesting comes from “smart”sound-systems maker Sonos, with an interactive store (in Manhattan) that celebrates music and the listening experience. Six, house-shaped state-of-the art listening rooms sit in a row on the ground floor of the 4,200-sq.-ft. store. Each room has its own visual aesthetic to showcase how the minimalist appearance of Sonos products can blend into — and sound in — a home interior. And in a welcome touch, the store offers “Simple Set Up,” an in-home service that includes local delivery and set-up (and how to use products) for in-store purchases.

There are also plenty of new concepts popping up, such as Blink Inc., a tech-savvy update of the traditional photo studio experience. Customers can book 10-minute (or longer) in-store shoots and view, buy and download their images online. Blink recently entered into a deal with Macerich to expand in select malls.

Finally, there are plenty of tricks left in some of the nation’s most recognizable brands. J.C. Penney continues its remarkable turnaround, and is remaking its stores with expanded appliance departments, and in-store partnerships with Ashley Furniture and Empire Today flooring.

It’s not the reinvention former CEO Ron Johnson had in mind, but it’s one that resonates with the most important group: Penney’s shoppers.

Marianne Wilson

[email protected]

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