What Fashion Retail Professionals Need to Know Today

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Discover the most relevant industry news and insights for fashion professionals working in retail, updated each month to enable you to excel in job interviews, promotion conversations or perform better in the workplace by increasing your market awareness and emulating market leaders.

BoF Careers distills business intelligence from across the breadth of our content — editorial briefings, newsletters, case studies, podcasts and events — to deliver key takeaways and learnings tailored to your job function, listed alongside a selection of the most exciting live jobs advertised by BoF Careers partners.

Explore global job opportunities in retail on BoF Careers today, from a store manager at Fred Perry in Portsmouth (UK), a retail manager at The Bicester Collection in Barcelona, to a retail design lead at On in New York, or an in-store clienteling manager at Gucci in Hong Kong.

Key articles and need-to-know insights for retail professionals today:

1. Promising Signs for Macy’s Turnaround

As part of a turnaround plan, Macy's will close 150 stores by 2026, reducing its total to 350 from 650 locations five years ago.
As part of a turnaround plan, Macy’s will close 150 stores by 2026, reducing its total to 350 from 650 locations five years ago. (Macy’s/Courtesy)

“People like variety, people want multiple brands, they like multiple categories [and] price points,” said Macy’s chief executive Tony Spring of his plan to “redecorate” the multibrand store. First-quarter results, released this month, marked the first official check-in on how that plan is going. A 3 percent year-on-year decline in sales, to $4.8 billion, was a milder drop off than most analysts were expecting. In Macy’s stores that have already started receiving a glow up, dubbed “the first 50,” sales rose 3.4 percent.

“They have a lot of work to do in rebuilding — you can make a store better, you can put in better product, but it takes a long time to rebuild perceptions for people,” said Neil Saunders, managing director of consultancy GlobalData’s retail division. “They’re making a start on this and it’s a long road ahead of them.” The mild reaction from investors reflects continued scepticism that Macy’s will be able to reverse a long slow decline, or defy the bleak outlook for department stores generally.

2. Why Women’s Basketball Stars Are Finally Getting Big Sneaker Deals

A'ja Wilson before a game
Nike and A’ja Wilson announced the Las Vegas Aces star’s long-awaited signature sneaker at at exhibition game last weekend. (Nike)

Earlier this month, A’ja Wilson of WNBA team Las Vegas Aces walked into an arena ahead of an exhibition game wearing a cropped hoodie with the message, “Of course I have a shoe dot com” underneath a Nike swoosh. It was a tongue-in-cheek acknowledgement of a question that basketball fans have long wondered: Why hasn’t Nike given a sneaker deal to Wilson, one of the most high-profile WNBA players and who’s widely considered the league’s standout talent?

Even though the deal was more than a year in the making, it was nevertheless long overdue. Sportswear companies have traditionally under-indexed on endorsing female basketball stars because lower viewership in the WNBA made sneaker deals less commercially viable. But women’s basketball has entered a new era in recent months, reaching new heights in viewership and cultural stature. In April, the WNBA draft recorded the highest ever audience on a single broadcast event in the league’s history, and the NCAA women’s final was the most-watched basketball game since 2019.

3. Counterfeit Goes Cool: Brands Urged to Embrace #Dupe

Man with fake Goyard bags.
In BoF’s latest Insights report about Gen Z consumer habits, 54 percent of survey respondents said they think it’s morally acceptable for other people to buy and use fake luxury goods. (Shutterstock)

High-end brands should “lean in” and embrace the #dupe subculture that feeds off recommending duplicates or cheaper alternatives to luxury products, social media experts have advised. “The rise of dupe culture speaks to a generational shift in consumption of goods and media,” said Jennifer Baker, the growth marketing leader at Grin, a creator management platform. So popular is the trend that TikTok videos with the #dupe hashtag have racked up nearly 6bn views to date.

“Instead of fighting dupes, high-end brands should use the dupe to light-heartedly engage with popular culture. They should engage with it directly — and authentically — to bring new people in and show a confidence in the power of their brand,” said Sophie Hardie, the client director at influencer marketing firm the Goat Agency. Stevie Johnson, managing director of influencer marketing agency Disrupt agreed — “Brands are going to have to start playing with this a little bit more,” he said. “If they do, they can attract new customers that might not have initially come to them without the attention raised by the dupe.”

4. Does America Need Another Fast-Fashion Brand? Uniqlo Thinks So

Fast Retailing's GU brand campaign.
Whereas Uniqlo is focussed on “high-quality, functional basic apparel,” GU aims to “capture the mass trends of the times,” Fast Retailing said. (Fast Retailing)

Fast Retailing is making a counterintuitive bet in fashion — that shoppers want less choice, not more. Uniqlo’s parent is launching its GU brand — pronounced ji-yu, which sounds like the Japanese word for freedom — in the US this year, targeting younger consumers with lower prices than its biggest brand. It’ll also offer the usual assortment of trendy staples, like wide-leg cargo pants and sheer tops, but fewer of them; the company says GU’s selection will be one-tenth is competitors.

Whereas Uniqlo is focussed on “high-quality, functional basic apparel,” GU aims to “capture the mass trends of the times,” Fast Retailing told BoF. What that looks like is $40 parachute pants — about $10 cheaper than Uniqlo’s version — and $10 sheer shirts. Items from the current summer selection mostly fall below $50 and are generally cheaper than H&M, Zara and Gap. GU’s simple selection seems to be higher quality and doesn’t lend itself to the disposable nature of overnight trends, the arena dominated by Shein and Temu.

5. Indie Brands Are Making This Fashion’s Biggest Olympics Ever

French designer Stéphane Ashpool was appointed as artistic director for Team France, and has created several ranges of apparel for the country's athletes to compete in, as well as clothing for events such as the closing ceremony.
French designer Stéphane Ashpool was appointed as artistic director for Team France, and has created several ranges of apparel for the country’s athletes to compete in, as well as clothing for events such as the closing ceremony. (Pauline Scotto Di Cesare)

At the Olympics this year, special attention will be paid to fashion. The fact that the games will take place in Paris, a city renowned for its high fashion credentials, has inspired countries to be more thoughtful about dressing their athletes, observers say. […] It has also encouraged athletic federations to delegate design responsibilities for specific sports to brands with niche expertise. For example, while Lululemon remains Team Canada’s overall kit partner, the federation decided to tap swimwear label Left On Friday to design its volleyball team apparel.

Several countries are taking a chance on an unconventional designer for the Olympics this year. Irish womenswear label and fabric producer LW Pearl created a formalwear collection for Team Ireland that includes custom embroidered jackets complete with shamrocks and the names of the county each athlete hails from, […] while Dutch streetwear brand The New Originals designed a collection for The Netherlands’ breakdancing squad. Los Angeles-based sportswear label Actively Black was tapped by the Nigerian Olympic Committee to design its teams’ uniforms and all other apparel for the tournament.

6. Hoka, Macy’s and Ralph Lauren Play the Expectations Game

Hoka was once ridiculed in the running community for its sneakers' chunky midsole and bright colourways. Last year, it grew revenues 59 percent to $1.4 billion.
Hoka was once ridiculed in the running community for the chunky midsoles and bright colourways that characterised its sneakers. Last year, it grew revenues 59 percent to $1.4 billion. (Hoka)

Newish sneaker brands continue to nibble away at Nike’s and Adidas’ market share. Remarkably, as much as brands like Hoka and have seemed to dominate the sneaker discourse in recent years, there are still plenty of people who have never heard of them, let alone run a mile in their shoes. That’s a big reason why these brands can grow sales year after year; in some markets, they’ve barely scratched the surface of potential demand. Often first contact comes through wholesale retailers, but customers who like what they see will shop on the brands’ own websites for their next pair.

Wholesale is one way to build awareness, but the Paris Olympics are certain to be a big moment for these performance-minded brands (On, for one, is preparing to go all out, sponsoring athletes and opening a store on the Champs-Élysées.) Something to watch for is how these brands plan to branch out beyond their signature sneakers. Earlier this year Hoka released the Cielo X1, a high-performance shoe intended for marathoners, which costs $100 more than its bestselling sneakers. It’s only barely scratched the surface on apparel.

7. Shein Steps Up London IPO Preparations Amid US Hurdles to Listing

Shein and Forever 21-owner SPARC Group have formed a partnership.
The plan for a US IPO is still officially on the table, but the Singapore-based company has been struggling to clear regulatory hurdles both in the US and China. (Shutterstock/Shutterstock)

Fast-fashion giant Shein is stepping up preparations for a London listing after its attempt to float itself in New York faced regulatory hurdles and pushback from US lawmakers, two people with knowledge of the matter said. Shein, which according to one of the sources was valued at $66 billion in a fundraising last year, started engaging with the London-based teams of its financial and legal advisors to explore a listing on the London Stock Exchange early this year, said the source and a separate person familiar with the matter.

For London, it could mark a turnaround after companies such as UK chip designer Arm chose to list in New York to chase deeper pools of liquidity. So far this year, there have been just four UK IPOs out of more than 30 in Europe. Shein, known for its $10 tops and $5 biker shorts, has filed with the CSRC which subjects it to Beijing’s permission for an offshore listing despite having moved its headquarters from China’s Nanjing to Singapore in 2022, highlighting the limits of its efforts to present itself as a global rather than Chinese company.

8. Fashion’s Stalled Self-Checkout Revolution

Self-checkout station at Zara.
Self-checkout station at Zara. (Inditex)

Self-checkout technology is slowly gaining traction in fashion. Fashion retailers like Zara and Uniqlo typically install sleek stations that allow shoppers to place items in a bin to be priced using radio frequency identification, sidestepping the dreaded barcode scanner. At Uniqlo’s SoHo flagship, self-checkout bins have completely replaced cashier-operated registers. The bins will eventually be installed in all of the retailer’s roughly 2,400 stores globally.

Champions of the technology say self-checkout can make stores operate more efficiently — where Uniqlo has installed them, machines have cut transaction times by half, according to Takahiro Tambara, chief information officer at Uniqlo-parent Fast Retailing. But rollout has been slow and retailers are being cautious about fully embracing the technology, which has also been associated with an increase in theft. Self-checkout equipment is also expensive to implement; the scan-less checkout systems require entire supply chains to be RFID-tagged, a process that takes upwards of six months.

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