Ralph Lauren’s Barber

Ralph Lauren’s barber, Clemente Dimonda, used to work on Jamaica Ave., in Queens.

Dimonda said. “One day, this man grab me by the jacket, and he say, ‘Look at me!’ I say, ‘I look at you!’ He say, ‘You’re too qualified for this area. You got to go to New York. You make a lot of money.’ Mr. Dimonda raised his finger and poked the air to finish: “I never forget.”

That was 50 years ago. Mr. Dimonda still wields scissors at age 85. He gives a “gentleman cut, no crazy look, high class, clean,” and uses old-fashioned supplies like witch hazel & cotton necklaces to catch loose hair.

After years located on 5th Avenue & 46th St., Mr. Dimonda now works from a shop designed by Mr. Lauren and tucked into the Polo headquarters at 650 Madison Ave. The operation looks like “the sort of a barbershop you’d expect to see on an ocean liner in the ’30s.”

Tommy Hilfiger “used to come here for an excuse,” Dimonda suggested that Mr. Hilfiger was less interested in a haircut than a look around the Polo offices. “He used to come at night. One night I show him out, ‘Tommy, let’s go.’ He say, ‘No, go ahead, I follow you.’ I say, ‘No. You follow me.’ Since then, no more Tommy.” Mr. Hilfiger did not return a request for comment.

– Steven Kurutz for The New York Times.

Authenticity is Overrated

Miquela Sousa, who recently graced billboards from London to Japan as part of an UGG ad campaign, ticks off all the boxes for a fashion model of the moment: She is exotic, attractive and huge on Instagram.

She is also entirely fake news, a computer-generated character who—despite her Instagram posts—can’t feel the pain of a hangover or appreciate how hard it is to walk in stilettos.

Miquela was created by LA startup, Brud, which is betting that it can turn her, and other CGI social-media personalities, into a cast of characters that is one part Marvel Entertainment and one part Kardashian.

Like comic-book characters or even Barbie, they can evolve with the times without aging. And, unlike real-life characters, their drama can be managed. Brud launched Miquela on Instagram in 2016. With carefully composed images, she appeared lifelike and didn’t identify herself as CGI until recently, as part of a staged drama that played out over a series of posts. On Instagram, she (it?) professed to be angry at Brud for lying to her about her true origin. Yoree Koh & Georgia WellsThe Wall Street Journalh

Immersive Retail Experience, Fully Caffeinated

The Starbucks Reserve Roastery opened its doors today in New York City. A further example of mortar & brick retail expansion.

The 23,000 sq. ft. flagship showcases coffee’s journey from bean to cup and joins locations in Seattle, Shanghai & Milan, with future openings coming to Tokyo & Chicago.

The store is a fully working coffee roastery, where small-batch and rare single-origin coffees and blends are created. “We designed the Roastery as the pinnacle experience around all-things-coffee, there is nothing else like it in the world…

It serves as a Starbucks brand amplifier and a platform for future innovation,” said Kevin Johnson, Starbuck’s new ceo.

The Roastery will debut the Arriviamo (aperitivo) Bar, where mixologists will serve cocktails and “spiritfrees” featuring coffee and tea, Drinks will include the Nocino Notte, made with cold brew coffee, barrel-aged gin and black truffle salt, and the Triomphe, made with Teavana Darjeeling Tea, gin, dry Riesling, aquavit, passionfruit sparkling water & orange saffron bitters.

Customers will also discover the Milanese bakery Princi with on-site baking of fresh breads, Pizzas, cornetti, focaccias, desserts and more.

Where Do Young People Hang Out?

Fortnite

If young customers are no longer hanging out at shopping malls, where are they hanging out?

Owen Williams of char.gd may have it figured out. Fortnite replaces the mall, Starbucks or just loitering in the city, it’s become the coveted ‘third place’ for millions of people around the world.

“Fortnite is a different kind of video game, because it’s not about the game, it’s a place. A place where we hang out together, regardless of whether we’re playing.”

“Fortnite, for anyone not a teen-ager or a parent or educator of teens, is the third-person shooter game that has taken over the hearts and minds—and the time, both discretionary and otherwise—of adolescent and collegiate America. Released last September, it is right now by many measures the most popular video game in the world. At times, there have been more than three million people playing it at once.” – The New Yorker

Fortnite is influencing American culture, shopping, and fashion. Its effects on streetwear are clearly visible on the runway. Oh, and the goal of the game is simple. 100 people parachute onto an island together and search for weapons. The winner will be the sole survivor, everyone else must die.

UNTUCKit Valued at $600 Million

UNTUCKit, the company known for its untucked shirts, is looking to raise money at a valuation greater than $600 million.

As reported by Lauren Thomas for CNBC, the “digital first” company, launched in 2011, now has roughly $150 million in sales, 50 stores and is profitable.

Untuckit has hired investment bank Morgan Stanley to raise money to fuel growth

UNTUCKit now offers women’s dresses, T-shirts, jackets and shirts, in addition to boys’ shirts and bottoms.

Congratulations to co-founders Aaron Sanandres and Chris Riccobono.

Notably, several companies including J.Crew, Proper Cloth and Gap Inc. also produce shirts in an “untucked” fit.

Five Below is Way Above

Five Below, Inc., which sells everything from basketballs to yoga mats for $5 or less, might be the most successful retail chain you’ve never heard of.

Five Below’s store count has quadrupled to 750 since its 2012 IPO, with its first NYC location opening Friday. Sales have tripled to $1.3 billion and profits are up. Preteens and teens are Five Below’s core customers. They are encouraged to bounce balls, test-drive RC cars and participate in slime-making—anything that will help them spend their allowance money.

Five Below has items for grown-ups, including cucumber face-masks, storage bins and vintage candy. The company focuses on the treasure-hunt for unique items, not essentials.

As with Costco Wholesale, Walmart, Dollar General and The TJX Companies, Inc. the culture at Five Below keeps costs, and prices, low. The company ships basketballs deflated, without boxes, lowering freight costs, and then inflating once they arrive at the store.

Most products are created from scratch & at these prices ecommerce sales are negligible; shipping costs more than the entire purchase. Similar items are considerably more expensive at Amazon.

Suzanne Kapner, The Wall Street Journal

Amazon HQ USA

SEATTLE — After a search for a new location lasting more than a year, a massive dome was seen descending from the sky and enclosing the whole nation as Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced to a horrified American populace that it was now living inside his company’s second headquarters.

The impenetrable steel dome, which reportedly stretches from coast to coast and from the Mexican to the Canadian border, will house a state-of-the-art campus that serves as the online retailer’s long-awaited new base of operations.

Amazon executives said that while they were impressed with the many proposals they received from cities across the country, they ultimately decided the location best suited to their ever-growing needs was the entirety of the continental United States.

“For the sake of convenience, your Prime membership fees will be automatically deducted each pay period, and all wages will be paid in the form of Amazon gift cards. What’s more, every employee in good standing will receive one free Audible download per month!”

– The Onion

In reality… sort of: After conducting a yearlong search for a second home, Amazon has switched gears and is now finalizing plans to have a total of 50,000 employees in two locations.

The company is nearing a deal to move to the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens, AND the Crystal City area of Arlington, Va., a Washington suburb.

Amazon already has more employees in those two areas than anywhere else outside of Seattle, its home base, and the Bay Area.

$1 billion in 85 seconds

$1 billion in the first 85 seconds. Not a bad start to the world’s biggest shopping day. China’s largest company,

Alibaba Group, used televised entertainment featuring Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group and Mariah Carey to drive awareness. It is reported that Xiaomi Technology, Apple and Dyson products were the top three brands in early sales.

The e-commerce giant is on course to rake in over $25.5 billion in online retail sales today during Singles Day 2018, already ahead of last year, with a few hours to go. That’s more sales than the U.S. Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined. And, it’s greater than Macy’s or Kohl’s annual sales volume.

Celebrating “bachelors” and others not in committed relationships, Singles Day occurs annually on November 11th (11/11) or “double eleven,” because the four numerals “1” represent single people.

Singles Day has already generated 1.5 billion transactions, at a peak rate of 350,000 orders per second. Over 90 percent of sales came from mobile devices.

This year’s event may provide insight into consumer sentiment as a slowing Chinese economy and tariff trade war threaten to dampen the world’s second largest economy. Alibaba reduced its revenue forecast by 6% earlier this month. 

What Can Today’s Retailers Learn from the Captain of the Titanic? Plenty.

Like the captain of the Titanic, leadership of failed and failing retailers has been publicly, and occasionally brutally, criticized. In some instances, this criticism is clearly deserved, in other cases not.

It may not be as bad as it seems.

Despite the painful passing and decline of retail industry stalwarts including Linens ‘n Things, RadioShack, The Bon-Ton Stores, Toys R Us, Sears and Kmart, retail chains including Macy’s, Kohl’s, Walmart, Target and other major retailers are showing financial improvement. Macy’s stock price is up 40+ percent year-to-date, Kohl’s is up 30+ percent, and Target is up 25+ percent. The rumors of the death of brick-and-mortar retail have been greatly exaggerated. And, Sears, Kmart and JC Penney are still open for business.

Recently, I participated in the Annual Retail Forum at Columbia Business School where a keynote speaker addressed a question from the audience: “

How would the speaker approach the precarious position of a challenged major retailer? What steps would you recommend?”

The response was,

“Shut it down…they don’t deserve to stay in business.”

This, “throw in the towel,” response brings to mind a key question we should ask ourselves. What would we do if we found ourselves as CEO of a retailer at risk of complete cataclysmic failure? One obvious metaphor is that of being captain of the Titanic. You may not remember, but the Titanic had a bonafide captain: his name was Edward John Smith.

Continue reading “What Can Today’s Retailers Learn from the Captain of the Titanic? Plenty.”