Is it possible to trim the apparel cost structure and funnel profits into philanthropy? The team behind Monolith, a New York-based social shopping website, aims to do just that. 
 
monolith
{photo: crowdventurefund.com}
 
Currently in development, the subscription-based online start-up plans to deliver designer-quality clothing to customers for $111 or less. Subscribers will have a chance to browse men’s and women’s apparel and accessories collections online and decide which pieces they want to buy, reported The Wall Street Journal.
 

Monolith will then produce the items every five weeks in factories scattered around the globe (U.S., Mexico, India and Asia). “Well-known luxury brands like Gucci, Fendi, Prada—they all use the same factories,” said Nick Ralph, 29, the company’s Chief Executive Officer and founder. “They’re making hundreds and in some cases thousands of dollars in profits on a single item. To us, it’s kind of ridiculous," he continued.

In addition to low priced designer goods from top-notch factories, the company will tap into conscientious consumerism with a “Buy One, Give One Program” — similar to the model employed by Toms Shoes. According to the Monolith website, the company will donate the same item purchased on the subscriber's behalf to children and adults in need so that they can secure better job opportunities, increase wages, and build confidence.

As a crowd-funded initiative, Monolith won’t launch until it raises $3.2m in pledges, according to Mr. Ralph. After three months of fund raising, the company has raised roughly $788,000, including pledges from past investors, family and friends.
 

The company decided to forgo the traditional venture-capital route to maintain the company’s philanthropic edge. “I’ve raised money for four companies through venture capital,” he said. “Most of the time, you end up going for the cheapest bulk and the cheapest return. The VC takes most of the equity and often shifts the company focus from creating something magical to creating a lean money-making machine in hopes of a highly profitable exit. I thought: There’s got to be a different way.”

We love Monolith's approach to Smart Commerce and Life Story Labeling. It's refreshing to see new concepts private label quality garments with cause-related initiatives instead of targeting mass production manufacturing aimed at the lowest common denominator: every-day fair-and-square pricing.

{source: Wall Street Journal}
google wallet
{photo: Starbucks.com}
 
Those obsessed with the revolving safety concerns about privacy when using credit or debit cards for online transactions can now reference hard data supporting the argument for their favorite brands to invest in mobile payment processing.
 
According to research from mobile payments firm PaymentOne, most consumers (80%) say they would spend more online if they were offered an easier and more secure way to pay and online merchants could add aggregated yearly revenue of US $109.8 billion simply by offering an alternative 'no credit card required' option. We believe that technology developments transforming smartphones into digital wallets will be a great solution for consumers who enjoy shopping on the move in 2012.
 
"Consumers' concerns around the security and privacy of online payment transactions are staring digital merchants in the face and demanding attention," concluded Brad Singer, executive vice president for PaymentOne. "In today's economy where every cent counts and every customer is vital to the success of a business, merchants need to do more to ensure that customers aren't scared away when it is time to check out."
 
At a ratio of almost four to one, customers in the PaymentOne study believe that direct carrier billed mobile payments are more secure than credit or debit cards for online purchases.
 
But will users adopt?
According to a separate study by ABI research, mobile wallet users will grow to 594 million by 2016, and carriers such as Google, Apple, Microsoft and Research in Motion will control the marketplace in the USA, Western Europe, Korea and Japan.
 
Couch commerce is so 2011. M-commerce is the future.
 
 
 
Predictions are only as good as sales at the register. Here are selected results according to independent researchers.
 
 
Thanksgiving weekend sales set records
- US consumers flooded malls and took to the Internet during Thanksgiving weekend, spending a record $52.4bn. Retail sales climbed 16%, and shoppers spent $398.62 on average, up from $365.34 a year earlier, according to the National Retail Federation and BIGresearch, reported Bloomberg. {source: Bloomberg}
- A record 226m people went shopping during the Thanksgiving weekend, compared with 212m last year, the National Retail Federation said. {source: Bloomberg}

Shoppers allocate money to "couch commerce" on Thanksgiving Day
- For the 24 hours of Thanksgiving Day, same-seller gross merchandise value for retailers selling through Mercent Retail increased 18% relative to the same 24-hour period in 2010. {source: msnbc}
 
Online black Friday statistics
- Web sales on Black Friday surged 26% to $816m and 18% to $479m on Thanksgiving Day, said research firm comScore.{source: Bloomberg}
- Black Friday sales increased 6.6% to the largest amount ever, $11.4bn, ShopperTrak said in a statement yesterday. Foot traffic rose 5.1% on Black Friday, according to the Chicago-based research firm. {source: Bloomberg}
- For the 24 hours of Black Friday, same-seller online retail gross merchandise value for merchants selling through Mercent Retail increased by 23% relative to the same period in 2010. {source: msnbc}
 
Overall holiday spend
- The National Retail Federation did not raise its estimate for holiday spending: a 2.8% increase in sales, or about half of last year’s 5.2% gain. {source: Bloomberg}
 
{image: StellaMcCartney.com}
 
Designer Stella McCartney has added new features to her website including an additional 28 European countries to her eCommerce business, special functions such as a "reserve in store" option (see our March 2011 post Retailing Trend: click and collect), and a second edition of her iPad app that contains behind-the-scenes features and making-of videos.
 
Stella McCartney's fall campaign, featuring Natalia Vodianova and shot by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott, can be previewed on her website today. It will break in the September issues of British and American Vogue, Harpers Bazaar in the US and Interview.
 
We love the addition of the designers personal gallery of images, stories and inspiration under the within the Stella's World tab which include from a short film from the “Linda McCartney, A Life in Photographs” exhibit in London. The new platform differentiates her brand within the eCommerce luxury market while delivering exclusive content that is compelling for potential customers and loyalists.
 
park and bond
Gilt Man
 
Luxury e-tailer Gilt Groupe has announced that its full-price men's retail site will be named PARK & BOND and will launch in late summer.

"Moving into the full-price retail space is the natural next step following the runaway success of Gilt Man," said John Auerbach, who currently serves as General Manager of Gilt Man, and will also be President of Park & Bond. "Men shop differently than women, and PARK & BOND is designed with their needs in mind. Men are increasingly taking charge of their own wardrobe decisions and we aim to give them the tools to continue that trend—to outfit themselves without going 'shopping'." And unlike the Gilt MAN flash-sales mode, merchandise on PARK & BOND will live according to seasonality, enabling consumers to shop any brand at any time.
 
Taking a note from Net-A-Porter's Mr. Porter & J.Crew’s Jack Knows Best, whom we profiled in the post Don't forget Men$wear, the Gilt Groupe spin off will offer advice on how men can incorporate items into their daily life with confidence and style.
 
PARK & BOND will have 80 brands at launch including Alexander McQueen, Isaia, Etro, Paul Smith, N. Hoolywood, A.P.C., Neil Barrett, Thomas Pink, Todd Snyder, Vince, Theory, Common Projects, Brooks Brothers, and Florsheim by Duckie Brown. "Today's man does not dress in one brand from head to toe. He picks his favorite pieces and assembles a look that represents him—PARK & BOND will encourage and enable customers to easily do just that," said Brooke Cundiff, who is in charge of merchandising for the new site.
 
Once an afterthought in retailing, male customers now make up a $51 billion shopping industry and 75% of men shop for their own clothing compared with just 52% in 1995, according to market research firm NPD Group.
 
It's about time retailers take notice.

Your eyes are not deceiving you... things do look a little different around here.

We know that a website is one of the best tools to communicate a company's brand and, after six years, our website was not clearly meeting our expectations (and we were too focused on our amazing clients to change platforms). Rest assured that all of the great cultural insights, consulting services and social media accessibility is still at your fingertips. In fact, we've even added new offerings to help reshape your company.

So today, thanks to the fine folks at Medium, we bid that old Flash website a fond farewell as we jump into a platform that is mobile friendly, SEO accessable, and socially integrated. Goodbye Yugo; hello BMW.

Feeling tired of buyers consistently purchasing the same labels? So is Jil Wensauser, former senior manager for Condé Nast New Markets.

Merging curation with eCommerce, Wensauser is launching WATCH-THAT-LABEL.COM to serve as a sales platform for young, up-and-coming designers around the world this spring.

"As someone with a passion for fashion and having worked in the industry for some time, I have always had my eye on new fashion labels as I travelled the globe. I have discovered so many amazing talents, which we simply have no access to in Europe. The idea for WATCH-THAT-LABEL.COM came when it became apparent that there is no outlet out there dedicated to providing a platform for emerging talent and discovering the 'rare gems'."

The first pass of emerging global designers include: Josh Goot, Felipe Oliveira Baptista, Tsumori Chisato, Kaviar Gauche, Pedro Lourenco and Emilio de la Morena. Many of the pieces will be sold exclusively at Watch-That-Label.com.

{photo: Felipe Oliveira Baptista via AutoMode Tumblr}

We love how concepts like WATCH-THAT-LABEL & Moda Operandi are developing innovative platforms to bring products to hungry shoppers and in contrast to fashion buyers inability to look beyond "best sellers", "name brands" and "safe collections". Shades of vanilla might be attractive to the masses but even the most frugal Recessionista needs some sparkle and fresh blood.

 
A new twist on our not-so-weekly news bites. The trendscaping "giving" category represents innovative campaigns to help Japan. Get clicking.

GIVING

 

{photo: Tatcha}

- All profits from the TATCHA's Kiri Gift Set of aburatorigami (Japanese blotting papers) through March 31st will go to support relief efforts in Japan. You can purchase one, or many, here.
- ShelterBox USA provides emergency supplies an extended family of up to 10 people with a tent and essential equipment to the worst hit areas of Japan. Best of all, you can track your box to know it's going to good use. Donate now.
- For each $5 donation on LivingSocial, they will match funds and donate to the American Red Cross Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami fund. Limited time so click now.

FASHION
- Pamela Love X Topshop "Spirit of America" collaboration set to hit stores this April.
- United Nude debuts pop-up installation at London's Selfridges featuring spring/summer collection.

 

- A closer look at Maison Martin Margiela bottle lamps by AnOther's Lovers.

RETAIL
- New report from Experian shows that up to 90% of store purchases are now influenced by online research according to Retail Week.
- Pop-ups will never replace permanent stores, but they can & should become complement to a retailer’s brand strategy.

FOOD
- Fast Company names the 10 Most Innovative Companies in Food. Is it just us or does your definition of "innovation" differ?

 
click and collect
After years of trying to drive customers to their e-commerce sites, retailers like Sears, Nordstrom and Wal-Mart have all instituted programs that let you order an item online and then pick it up at a brick-and-mortar location.
 

 
This strategy to get shoppers to set foot in their stores and breaches the divide between e-commerce and real world sales as competition grows from Amazon and other online retailers. The convenience, for both consumers and retailers assists in streamlining inventory because many stores had previously offered different selections online than in store. In a world where shoppers are becoming accustomed to browsing digitally, it just makes sense to sync the Web and in-store experience.

Examples include:

  • Wal-Mart announced last week that it would expand an old program with a new one called “Pick Up Today" from 2,000 items in less than a quarter of its stores to 40,000 items (by the fourth quarter), including baby items, toys, electronics, video games and appliances in an initiative expected to reach nationwide (3,600 stores) by June. When the order is ready, customers will receive a text message or e-mail alerting them when their orders are ready.
  • Wal-Mart will now let consumers refill prescriptions and order photos via its mobile website.
  • Nordstrom recently combined its inventory so that if the online stockroom is out of an item, a store that has it can ship it to the Web customer as part of their "Buy Online, Pick Up In Store" service offering.
  • Best Buy, Ace Hardware, JC Penney and Sears are among the others offering “ship to store” programs.
 

By motivating customers to visit brick-and-mortar, the retailer increases the chances that they’ll pick up another item or two on the way to the checkout - increasing retailers UPT (units per transaction). "Click and Collect" services can also decrease labor costs, in addition to shipping, if employers tap in-store employees during down sales hours.
 
Forward thinking and futuristic finds...

FASHION
- New virtual mirror application enables customers to try on potential purchases via website.
- Hipster or health hazard? Maintaining "raw" denim look by not washing jeans for 15 months is OK health-wise.
- Even luxury brands now create their own online media & content bypassing magazines.
- Virtual fitting room use shape-shifting "fashion robots" to model clothes before you buy.

+
FOOD
- Nowness reveals winner of Fantastic Food competition chosen by industry experts.
- Time to Rethink Your Message: Now the Grocery Cart Belongs to Daddy.
- Chef Ferran Adria unveils a new downmarket eatery, 41 Degrees, in Barcelona.