Happy Thursday and welcome to a fresh issue of The Spin. Today, Ulrike Howe highlights the impending launch of Saks Off 5th in Germany and Holland, J. Crew's newfound humility and Amazon's appetite for difficult businesses.


Europe anticipates the arrival of Saks Off 5th. Canadian retailer Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) is bringing its Saks Off 5th concept to Europe, starting with Germany. The first European Saks Off 5th store (in German) will open June 8th on approximately 3,500 sqm in Düsseldorf’s well-know Carsch-Haus, followed by Frankfurt (June 22nd), Wiesbaden (June 29th), Heidelberg (July 6th) and Stuttgart (July 13th). In autumn, HBC is going to launch into the Netherlands. The first Dutch Saks Off 5th store is scheduled to open in Rotterdam, followed by Amsterdam. In addition, the retailer is also going to open a Hudson’s Bay store in Rotterdam. Exact dates for the Dutch openings are not yet available. According to Wayne Drummond, President of Saks OFF 5TH, the combination of relevant brands, attractive prices and constant change and innovation is something that’s currently lacking in the Dutch retail scene.


Jobs in apparel retail could get spared from automation. According to the Investor Responsibility Research Center (IRRC) automation is going to erase about 7.5 million retail jobs in the US over the next ten years. Some industry professionals consider this number to be highly inflated, though, especially in regards to fashion (paywall) retail. While automation will undoubtedly increase operational efficiencies, most consumer facing areas will have to be staffed with highly trained, capable employees. In the 1980s, for example, the introduction of bar codes decreased labor costs per store by about 4.5%. Still, between 1980 and 2013 employment of cashiers grew at an average rate of over 2%.



Mango Germany: Goodbye Amazon, hello Otto! Mango is changing its online strategy in Germany, the company’s third largest market. While online retailer Zalando remains the Spanish fashion retailer’s most important German online partner, a collaboration with has recently been terminated. Instead, Mango is launching a brand new cooperation (in German) with German mail-order giant Currently the companies are in the early stage of systems integration. About a week ago, Mango adapted and extended its website to Bahrain, Lebanon and Oman. In addition to the translations, Mango added unique features including the offer of store credits for returns from customers who use the payment on delivery option, thus avoiding complicated bank transfers.

J. Crew is slashing prices. Embattled fashion retailer J. Crew is trying to get back on track with a less elitist attitude - and less elitist pricing. Following sinking sales and mass lay-offs the New York-based company has just lowered the prices of 300 items to become more approachable again. New arrivals at include dresses priced from $69.50 to $148, cashmere tops for $158 to $228 and denim jackets from $98 to $248. Higher priced items have been moved into the brand’s Collection line, which was launched in 2008. Spearheaded by Jenna Lyons who recently left J. Crew, Collection contributed to the elitist image that has come to haunt the brand.

Biba is granted bankruptcy protection. German fashion brand Biba has been granted insolvency protection (in German) under its own administration. Within the next three month the Gelsenkirchen-based company is going to develop a restructuring plan to increase sales while reducing square footage and personnel costs. During the restructuring phase the company’s 200 stores and concessions as well as its online shop will remain open. Under a new collaboration with QVC, Biba has recently started pre-selling (in German) about 20 selected items from its monthly collections on the home-shopping channel and in its online shop. These items are available about one week before they hit regular Biba stores.


Wolfgang Joop launches "Looks". This Friday, German designer Wolfgang Joop is going to launch a brand new contemporary collection. Exclusive launch partner for “Looks” is German multi-label retailer Breuninger who operates eleven department stores and an online shop. See exclusive images of the collection at TextilWirtschaft. The first looks will be presented during the season finale of super model Heidi Klum’s “Germany’s Next Topmodel” on Thursday evening. Looks will present six collections per year with items retailing for €150 to €600. According to TextilWirtschaft 89% of German retailers consider contemporary womenswear “a strong growth segment”.


No rest for the wicked. Even though Amazon’s shares are trading near an all time high of $980 the online giant’s CEO Jeff Bezos continues to push forward. “There’s no rest. We can’t rest on our laurels”, Bezos said Tuesday during the company’s annual shareholder meeting in Seattle. New acquisitions are part of the growth strategy. According to Bezos, a business has to be difficult, distinctive, and innovative to spark Amazon’s interest and commitment. No word on the company’s reported interest in US warehouse retailer BJ’s Wholesale Club. BJ’s operates 213 warehouse clubs (and 130 gas stations) which could possibly co-serve as distribution facilities, since Amazon does not seem to build them fast enough to satisfy its booming online business.


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