Welcome back to The Spin! China’s eCommerce giants are starting to rely less on cheap labor and more on expensive automation. Over in the US, Primark has just surpassed Amazon as the market’s fastest growing retailer, while US malls are about to lose another quintessential tenant to bankruptcy. Enjoy the read - and your weekend! Cheers, Ulrike


Surpassing Amazon. Primark tops Stores Magazine's annual list of fastest-growing retail companies in the US with 103 percent sales growth in 2017. The Dublin-based fast fashion chain displaced sports retailer Bass Pro Shops (94%) from the top spot, while Amazon (45%) was pushed to number 4 by Ferguson’s (47%). Notable fashion retailers include Tapestry (formerly Coach, 33%), Five Below (28%) and TechStyle (13%).


Escape from the mall. US retailer Brookstone has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and plans to sell the company. As part of its restructuring, the novelties and electronics retailer plans to close all 101 mall-based stores to focus on eCommerce and its 35 airport stores. Fashion-centric US retailers currently at risk for bankruptcy include Bebe, JC Penney, J. Crew and Neiman Marcus.


Next generation. Following a drop in Manhattan’s retail rents, leasing activity is picking up again, fueled (paywall) by newcomers and start-ups like consignment retailer TheRealReal, handbag reseller Rebag, and mattress specialist Casper, which are now able to find affordable spaces near luxury designer stores.

S for surveillance. Over the coming years, the proliferation of smart clothing will allow brands to create fully-formed profiles of their customers, raising data privacy and security concerns. Examples include Nike’s connected sneakers, Eison Triple Thread’s link with Spotify, Hilfiger’s Tommy Xplore collection and Avery Dennison’s cooperation with Evrything to equip 10 million items with digital identities designed to follow customers’ movements.


Great expectations. To accelerate delivery times, China's eCommerce giants Alibaba (video) and JD (video) are increasing (paywall) their investments in expensive, high-tech warehouse automation. In mature eCommerce markets like the US and the UK, warehouse selection and lease negotiations already include the question of who pays for full automation.


A tale of two labels. Hugo Boss’ focus on two brands, Boss and Hugo, is showing results with Q2 sales growing (paywall; in German) 3 percent to €636 million although profits are down due to higher investments and lower margins. Starting with Spring 2018, the two brand strategy (company report) is positioning Boss as business and casual wear for sophisticated shoppers and Hugo as a fashion conscious collection for younger consumers.

Going global. Fabletics by Kate Hudson plans (paywall) to double its revenues over the next three years. Part of the digitally native label’s strategy is the global expansion of its store network from 25 to 100 stores. This fall, the TechStyle-owned company will launch a new concept with digital capabilities to link in-store customers to their online membership profiles and offer personalized product recommendations and services.


Aspiration is for suckers. The long-running ugly trend allows for a freedom in self-expression never known before. Feeling good - not looking good - is the idea behind the outfits of role models like Kristen Stewart pairing waist high Calvins below low-waist denim shorts, and Justin Bieber, who’s been seen sporting hotel slippers around New York.


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