Omega hops on e-commerce bandwagon

While most Swiss watchmakers have been reluctant to go into e-commerce, Omega may have just started the domino effect. The company has officially started selling their watches online, thereby disrupting the way expensive watches are bought.

Watch aficionados have been buying and selling online for quite some time, but it was through the grey market rather than an authorized dealer. Now, customers can officially buy from Omega's e-commerce site, which also signifies an adjustment in the way people shop. While those more knowledgeable about luxury watches were more comfortable buying online, as they were experienced in what they were getting, newbies would go into physical stores to get hands-on education.

Omega disrupts the luxury watch industry with e-commerce platform

With the millennial generation of watch consumers used to having everything so internet available at their fingertips, that educational process has changed. Now they can learn about luxury watches online and find out what makes a good introductory piece.

E-commerce also has benefits for Omega, as now they get to keep most of their profits. With the authorized dealer model, the dealer got a certain portion of the sales, but with e-commerce, Omega will retain most of its profit.

Swiss watches have been hoping for a rebound since their exports fell 10 percent last year. According to the Financial Times sales were hit by sluggish global economic growth and a decline in Chinese tourists to Europe, but the U.K. was a strong spot due to a weak British Pound.

Reducing the role of the middle man will certainly help these companies sales. The new watch customer just won't be the same.

photo:via Omegawatches.com
Po-Zu launches crowdfunding campaign for new line and expansion push

London - London-based ethical footwear brand Po-Zu has launched an equity crowdfunding campaign on Crowdcube, with the aim of raising 350,000 pounds to fund a new ethical footwear line and its global expansion push.

The crowdfunding campaign, which runs from Monday, November 20 to Wednesday, December 20, comes after Po-Zu successful co-branded range launch with Disney's Star Wars franchise. Potential investors are able to invest as little as 10 pounds to become a shareholder in Po-Zu.

"We’re excited to be offering this opportunity for people to become shareholders in Po-Zu and be part of our exciting and fast-growing business. Alongside our current collaborations, we are developing major initiatives which can provide scalable growth whilst keeping our company values intact," said Sven Segal, founder and CEO. "We are on a mission to maximise the proportion of ethically made shoes in the world, so we hope people will join us in making shoemaking fairer with respect to the farmers, factory workers and the environment."

Po-Zu launches crowdfunding campaign for new line and expansion push

The funds raised will help further fund the international expansion of Po-Zu, set up its US distribution channel and help them further develop a new footwear line made in Sri Lanka using fair trade rubber and organic cotton. So far the crowdfunding campaign has raised 23 percent of its goal, or 81,400 pounds from 21 investors.

Alongside receiving shares in Po-Zu, investors who invest 250 pounds will be given one of the first pairs of the brand's new ethical range, in addition to a 25-pound gift voucher. Those who invest 1,000 pounds are free to select whichever pair of shoes they like from the website in addition to receiving a pair of Po-Zu shows from its new line made in Sri-Lanka and two 25 pounds gift vouchers.

"It’s great to make Po-Zu shoes more commercially available to fans of our design aesthetic and to the increasing numbers of ethical fashion shoppers. This fundraising campaign will help us develop key initiatives to make Po-Zu THE go-to ethical footwear brand," added Safia Minney, Managing Director, Po-Zu.

Photos: Po-Zu

UPDATE: Valentino reportedly eyeing IPO in 2018

London - Luxury fashion house Valentino is reportedly mulling over an IPO in the second half of 2018, following the appointment of Sebastian Suhl as managing director of global markets.

Set to begin his new role at Valentino in January, Suhl impending arrival at the luxury fashion house has led to fresh speculation that Chief Executive Officer Stefano Sassi is preparing the company for an IPO during the second half of 2018, according to WWD.

Earlier this year the CEO stressed that an IPO was "not on the table" for Valentino for 2017, but added that they would see "what happens in 2018." At the time Sassi stressed that the company has decided to hold off on plans for a public listing due to market conditions, but added that if things changed, they would review the listing.

"I would not be surprised to see the IPO in the second half of 2018 although we don’t have visibility on the timing and, as usual, the IPO would depend on market conditions, whether a certain window is favorable or not," said Daniele Alibrandi, European equity research for luxury goods at Intermonte SIM to WWD. "In the first half of 2018, luxury companies will annualize really very good half-year figures for 2017, but there are no specific reasons why the overall trend should worsen — a trend that in these months is in line with the positive third quarter of 2017."

Photo: courtesy of Yoox Net-a-Porter Group/Valentino

Bangladesh Accord update: significant progress but still major life-threatening safety concerns

The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh (Accord) has issued its quarterly progress report, finding that the overall remediation progress for the more than 1,600 factories covered by it stands at 80 percent. There is even 100 percent remediation from initial inspections at 120 factories and 90 percent or more at 665 factories. In addition, the Safety Committee training curriculum has been completed at 159 factories and 208 health and safety complaints have been resolved.

Thinking back to numerous garment factory fires and the collapse of the Rana Plaza building that triggered the massive remediation effort, it is reassuring to know that 94.8 percent of factories have removed lockable and/or collapsible gates, meaning workers have more chances of escaping the factory in an emergency. Prior to the initiative, factories often just had one escape route and door, which triggered panic among the workers and led to many being trapped.

Bangladesh Accord update: significant progress but still major life-threatening safety concerns

Another big problem was fire warning systems and sprinklers not being in place. As of 1st October, 2017, the full installation of such systems including final verification of testing and commissioning has been completed at a little less than one third (31.3 percent) of all factories. However, most of them have submitted fire alarm and fire detection design drawings to the Accord and are in the process of ordering and installing the systems.

After four years of work in Bangladesh, the Accord finds: "While marking this significant progress, major life-threatening safety concerns remain outstanding in too many factories and need to be fixed urgently. These include: inadequately protected fire exits, inadequate fire alarm and fire protection systems and outstanding structural retrofitting work."

This shows that it is necessary that the Accord be extended beyond its initial five-year duration, which will run out in May 2018, also in view of the Alliance for Worker Safety in Bangladesh not being extended beyond 2018 but being transitioned to various local stakeholders. An extension for another three years of the Accord has already been announced and 49 brands and retailers have already signed the new Accord, covering almost 1,200 of the current Accord factories. However, more still need to join.

Currently, the Accord "monitors completion of remediation at the 1600+ factories with more than 100 engineers on staff who conduct up to 500 follow-up inspections each month. Each factory covered by the Accord is inspected approximately once every three to four months. The Accord secretariat further conducts targeted remediation review meetings with individual signatory companies to identify high priority factories where remediation must be accelerated."

Thanks to refinements made to Accord’s data system, the remediation progress at all factories covered can now be analysed more in-depth by looking at the progress rate of the most common fire, electrical and structural items that need to be remediated. These and other details, including the progress made over the years, can be found in the latest quarterly report via the Accord's website, bangladeshaccord.org.

Refresh your memory

Read more on the most recent developments concerning the Bangladesh Accord. Navigate through the timeline by clicking the arrows.

Photos: Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh
Theo Paphitis: Boux Avenue has “come of age”

INTERVIEW Lingerie brand Boux Avenue has come a long way since launching five years ago, with chief executive Theo Paphitis declaring that the high street brand has “come of age,” and ahead of its busiest time of year Christmas, FashionUnited caught up with him at the brand’s festive campaign launch party to discuss the retailer’s success and ambitions, especially internationally.

“The brand is growing internationally at a fantastic rate in comparison to the UK,” explains Paphitis. “We’ve already got about 18 stores overseas and we just opened our first store in the Czech Republic, and this year we also launched our international website.”

Theo Paphitis: Boux Avenue has “come of age”

The upgrade to its IT systems earlier this year was a big investment for Boux Avenue, making its e-commerce platform more mobile-friendly, as well as adding an international website.

“When we launched in 2011, we always felt that Boux Avenue was a website with stores. Not stores with a website,” Paphitis told FashionUnited. “It was important that our store representation was in all the major shopping centres in the UK and I think we are just getting there now, and that was always the aim.”

While Boux Avenue may not be planning to open many stores in the UK, Paphitis did add that they have signed up for at least one more UK store, which will open early next year, taking the store count to 30.

Theo Paphitis: Boux Avenue has “come of age”

“I can’t say exactly where, except that it is in the Midlands, towards the North, where we didn’t already have representation,” Paphitis added. “We originally said we’d target between 25-30 stores in our business plan, and we are there now.”

“When we launched in 2011, we always felt that Boux Avenue was a website with stores. Not stores with a website,”

Theo Paphitis, chief executive of Boux Avenue

Boux Avenue targeting international growth

This follows the recent opening in Oxford and the brands first dedicated warehouse and distribution facility in Crewe that spans 90,000 square foot and has 150 staff members. Prior to the opening, Boux Avenue shared a warehouse with Paphitis’ stationery brand Ryman’s that is located next door.

The move into what Paphitis calls its “own place” was due to the lingerie brand’s growth from overseas, which the retailer states is a “focus” to continue to move the brand forward.

Theo Paphitis: Boux Avenue has “come of age”

Paphitis said: “International, for us, has shown huge growth, delivering all around the world, not just in Europe, but the USA, Australia, New Zealand. You name it, we are doing business there, and hence why we had to build a new warehouse.”

Wholesale is another growth area, the brand has signed deals with Zalando to increase its presence in Germany as well as with US retailer Nordstrom for autumn 2017, after having what Paphitis called “great success” with Very, Lipsy, Littlewoods, Asos and Amazon.

“Wholesale wasn’t actually part of our original business plan, but we’ve had some great success and it is a massive growth area for us,” notes Paphitis.

Theo Paphitis: Boux Avenue has “come of age”

Boux Avenue unveils Molly King as face of Christmas campaign

Christmas sales are always important for lingerie brands and Boux Avenue is hoping for another successful festive season, for 2016 the brand reported 16.6 percent rise in sales during the holiday period, up from 8.9 percent in 2015.

Theo Paphitis: Boux Avenue has “come of age”

“The Christmas quarter for Boux Avenue is always huge, it’s huge for gifting and our lingerie is perfect for that,” said Paphitis. “Lingerie throughout the year is a nice purchase, a very personal purchase, however at Christmas more men are buying lingerie as gifts, however, UK lingerie buying habits are very different to Europe.”

Paphitis continues: “In Europe, a man would buy his girlfriend or wife lingerie as a gift instead of flowers or chocolates, in the UK, men only seem to buy lingerie at Valentines, which has grown over the years, and maybe at Christmas time, but they don’t do it throughout the rest of the year. It’s very much part of the changing habits of the men in the UK over Christmas that has boosted sales in lingerie.”

Theo Paphitis: Boux Avenue has “come of age”

This year the brand is hoping to continue its success at Christmas time with the unveiling of singer and Strictly Come Dancing Star Molly King as its new celebrity face to front its festive campaign, in an advert described by Paphitis as being “fantasical, very fairytale, with the odd unicorn”.

“Molly has been a longtime fan of the brand, so we are super pleased that we were able to make this work,” explains Paphitis. “We did speak to her shortly after we launched but it was unsuccessful, so we are chuffed that she is our face for Christmas.”

Paphitis added: “For us, Mollie simply fits the bill and is a fantastic ambassador for Boux Avenue, being aspirational but relatable.”

Theo Paphitis: Boux Avenue has “come of age”

When asked if Boux Avenue would every consider going down the celebrity collaboration route with Molly, Paphitis said: “We’ve never really thought about doing a celebrity collaboration, let’s just say that where Molly is concerned all options are open.”

Images: courtesy of Boux Avenue

Lately, HBC seems to be a bit strapped for cash. To reduce their debt, HBC has looked to its retail portfolio to reduce their debt. However, the department store chain's shareholders want HBC to return the cash to them and not invest the proceeds in traditional retail operations.

Hudson's Bay is familiar with real estate operations, but now controversy is afoot as tensions rise with activist shareholder Land & Buildings, a Connecticut-based hedge fund, which holds 5 percent stake in the company. The aforementioned company values HBC's real estate at 28 dollars a share.

"The perception, and in some cases, the reality, is that (Amazon.com Inc) is speeding bricks and mortar retailers into submission," said Jonathan Norwood of Mackenzie Investments, HBC's eighth-biggest shareholder, to Business of Fashion.

"If they sell the real estate, we want to see the money used to reduce debt and returned to shareholders," added Norwood, who co-leads Mackenzie's value-focused Cundill team. "We don't want it going to revitalize or grow the retail operations."

HBC is currently exploring the sale of its Vancouver flagship estimated at 628.4 million dollars. The company recently sold their iconic Lord & Taylor Manhattan flagship earlier this year.

There has also been discussion of HBC selling their German stores to Signa holdings.

While HBC is going on a selling spree with their real estate, they aren't expected to sell all of their stores.

Bangladesh: Alliance announces fourth year results

The Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, which currently covers 785 factories and close to 1.4 million workers, has realeased its fourth annual report today, announcing substantial factory safety improvements and the expansion of its worker training and empowerment initiatives within the past year. According to the Alliance, the data confirm that it is on track to complete nearly all Corrective Action Plans (CAPs), except for newly added and expanding factories, and to transition safety monitoring operations to trusted local partners in 2018.

“Overhauling safety in hundreds of factories is a massive undertaking, and we are incredibly proud of what the Alliance has accomplished together with our partners in just four short years,” says the Alliance's executive director Jim Moriarty. “Until we achieve our mandate, fortifying safety in Alliance factories and equipping workers with empowerment tools will remain our laser focus.”

In terms of progress, the Alliance highlights the following achievements: 85 percent of all required factory repairs have been completed, including 80 percent of high-priority repairs, while 234 Alliance-affiliated factories have completed all material items in their CAPs and 162 non-compliant factories have been suspended from Alliance factory list.

Bangladesh: Alliance announces fourth year results

When it comes to worker safety and workers having a say in their own matters, democratically elected Worker Safety Committees have been established in 171 factories and more than 1.3 million workers across 941 Alliance- and non-Alliance factories have access to Amader Kotha, the Alliance’s confidential worker helpline.

In terms of fire safety, more than 1.4 million workers have been trained in basic fire safety and 1.3 million have participated in refresher courses. Nearly 27,000 security guards have been trained in fire safety leadership and nearly 20,000 have received refresher training. In addition, the Alliance has designed a safety training workshop for senior factory managers and partnered with the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) on a graduate-level short course for Bangladesh engineers, both designed to build in-country capacity on safety.

More information can be found in the fourth annual report, which is available via the Alliance's website, bangladeshworkersafety.org. It details the remediation progress, suspended factories, worker empowerment through fire safety training, the helpline with case stories and other safety training. “Our factories are demonstrably safer today than when the Alliance began—and the hard work that factory owners have undertaken since 2013 is now paying off, as hundreds of factories are reaching CAP closure,” comments Moriarty.

Unlike the Accord on Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety, the Alliance will not be extended post 2018 but transitioned to key stakeholders like the Alliance factories, the BGMEA, ILO, Accord counterparts, the Government of Bangladesh and others. “This achievement represents a starting line for these factories, for whom maintaining rigorous safety standards must remain an ongoing priority—and we are committed to transitioning our program in a way that paves the way for sustainable progress beyond 2018,” sums up the executive director.

Photos: Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety

It's no secret that Amazon is on a quest for global retail domination. Their next target in their quest is Australia. While Amazon did not give a specific date, they are hoping to roll out in the country by this year's holiday season.

Rocco Braeuniger, Amazon's country manager for Australia, told 600 prospective merchants at an open day they are very, very close to rolling out Amazon.com Inc. for Australia. Earlier this year, Amazon announced their plans to expand to Australia, and according to Braeuniger thousands of sellers already plan on being part of their latest endeavor.

Australian customers are already able to purchase off of Amazon from other Amazon sites that offer international shipping, but having a local Amazon warehouse would severely reduce international shipping costs.

Amazon plans on running its marketplace service where vendors use Amazon's platform but handle their own sales, but they also plan on having their own retail unit.

Australia has become a major target for retail growth. Many tech companies are looking there to expand their businesses. The mega corporation certainly isn't slacking with their plans for rolling out business. In August, they acquired a distribution center in Melbourne. According to Forbes, Amazon's sales in Australia currently amount to 1 billion dollars. While Australia isn't expected to be a major stream for revenue growth, they will be an integral part of Amazon's continued global retail expansion.

JD.com raises 19.14 billion US dollars during its Singles' Day sale

London - Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com gave Alibaba a run for its money during Singles' Day, otherwise known as 11.11, the online shopping sales day. JD.com reported sales of 127.1 billion yuan, 19.14 billion US dollars for the shopping event, a 50 percent increase compared to last year.

However, unlike its rival Alibaba, which reported sales of 168.3 billion yuan (25,35 billion US dollars) JD.com total sales cover 11 days of transactions, rather than one day. JD.com first kicked off its sales event on November 1, ten days ahead of the official Singles' Day in order to ensure its logistics was able to process all deliveries on time, 'reduce delivery bottle necks and give users a chance to spend more time online to make purchasing decisions', according to JD.com.

This year marks the first time JD.com has shared its sales figures for 11.11, as the firm is keen to compete with Chinese titan Alibaba. Its total sales for 11.11 were more than 17.6 billion US dollars JD.com reported for its own discounting period, 6/18 in honour of its own founding, although the discounting period is also said to have lasted for 18 days rather than just 24 hours like Alibaba's Singles' Day. So even though JD.com remains China's second largest e-commerce platform, it is keen to show Alibaba is it ready to take it on at its own discounting game.

Photo: JD.com

Fashion rental offers top labels for price of pizza

Fancy hitting the town in the latest Dior dress with an outrageously expensive Louis Vuitton bag on your arm -- but haven't the cash to afford even the clasp?

The fantasy is no longer a pipedream for thousands of women in Paris, the world's fashion capital, where hiring luxury clothes and handbags is beginning to catch on. A new service has started which allows fashionistas to rent Dior, Gucci, Saint Laurent and other luxury brand handbags for as little as 10 euros ($11) a day. A 4,500-euro classic Chanel black shoulder bag can be hired for 25 euros a day, although customers have also to cough up 20 euros in insurance and pay for a courier to deliver the bag to their door.

Yann Le Floc'h, founder of the Instant Luxe website, which already sells secondhand designer clothes and bags to its one million members, said the site was responding to a new "pattern of consumption" where women see no shame in renting their wardrobe. In his view, many women would rather use than own a luxury bag, which is why his company has begun renting out about "20 classic handbags styles for a minimum of four nights," he told AFP. "Uber has changed transport, Airbnb accommodation and habits are changing in the luxury goods market too," Le Floc'h said. "We are changing our consumption habits from ownership to use. And people are not renting just for special occasions but to treat themselves," he added. While France has long had a thriving market in secondhand designer clothes and bags, fans of luxury labels have been much more reluctant about renting until quite recently, even as "the market has exploded in the US", she said.

Fashion rental offers top labels for price of pizza

'Cinderella syndrome'

Fashion expert Julie El Ghouzzi, who heads France's Luxury Goods and Creation Centre, calls the new rental trend the "Cinderella syndrome". "There is a real change in society. We have less need to possess things and greater need for appearances. This Cinderella effect means that even if we become a pumpkin at midnight we can still be the most beautiful princess at the ball, and have all the pleasure of luxury without having to own it." El Ghouzzi described this as the "quintessence of consumption -- we consume the object which then disappears."

Emmanuelle Brizay, co-founder of the Panoply City fashion rental site, said a whole new market was opening up. "More than 90 percent of our clients have never rented clothes before. We are in a period of education, not to say evangelisation." Since January the site has rented out 4,000 items from the latest women's collections from Marc Jacobs, Kenzo, Courreges and Sonia Rykiel. For 60 euros a month customers can hire a different piece every week, while a 350-euros-a-month subscription gives them access to 10 outfits.

Clothes 'clouds'

"Renting changes the relationship with clothes," said Brizay. "One continues to buy them but you also can have more fun. Instead of buying an umpteenth black coat for the winter, with the same money you can change the colour every week." Even though the rental market for top-end luxury brands is still in its infancy, Brizay said the signs were very encouraging. The attitude of the brands themselves has changed, she said. "At the beginning we had to convince them and now some of them are coming to us to make sure they feature in the selection."

The big question is how long can rental pieces, even high quality ones, be hired as "new". "The idea is certainly not to wear them out," Brizay said, while at Instant Luxe used bags can be sold on on the site as secondhand. The millennials of "Generation Y (those born during the 1980s and 1990s) are completely ready for the fashion rental market," according to El Ghouzzi. "They already have all their lives stored in clouds, so not 'possessing' something by having it in their hands all the time is not a problem for them." (AFP)

Photo: Screenshot of Instant Luxe and Panoply City websites