Department Store Woes: Part I

The selling period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is critical for retail – and 2016 holiday sales did not disappoint. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), spending between November and December rose 4% to $658.3 billion, beating the projected 3.6% increase. Nonstore sales (e-commerce) rose an impressive 13%. Unsurprisingly, Amazon accounted for the lion’s share of this growth at 38% of total online revenue (next in line was Best Buy with a 4% share).

And yet, retail news has been pretty bleak lately – filled with grumblings from some prominent players. In the past couple weeks, major retailers have reported holiday performance figures that drastically swerved from the overall retail trend, causing significant drops in share prices: Nordstrom -9%, Macy’s -14%, and Kohls -19%. Macy’s reported a 2.1% decline in holiday sales, coupled with the announcement of 68 store closures and the elimination of 10,000 jobs. Sears experienced a more precipitous sales drop of 12-13%. They’ll be closing 150 unprofitable stores this year. JC Penney also reported a decrease in holiday same store sales (-0.8%). Nordstrom, which has historically been the strongest of the bunch, has repeatedly missed sales targets and even reported that traffic levels in stores are at their worst levels since 1972.

So, while overall retail sales grew, it appears that not a single department store shared these results. Continue reading

Fashion Police

Only organic natural fibers.

Or what about just natural fibers?

Scratch that. But no polyester. Oh wait…

Okay I guess recycled polyester is alright.

Only brands that list their factories.

Only brands that list the countries where their factories are.

Only brands that address factory conditions in their code of conduct.

Only brands that have a code of conduct?

Over the past year I’ve tried to abide by a number of guidelines when it comes to purchasing clothing. I curbed the total number of pieces I added to my wardrobe and I thought long and hard about each addition. Before each purchase, however, there was research. Lots and lots of research. If I wanted to fill a hole in my wardrobe, I went through a list of questions:

Which brands/retailers do I trust? Believe in? Support their mission? Bottom line: can I shop here with a clear conscience?

Which of those companies offers the type of garment I’m looking for (work-appropriate, basics, swimwear, etc.)?

At my price point?

Are they using responsible materials?

In my style? Size?

As you can imagine, the list becomes pretty short after asking the first question – trying to apply the last few filters often leaves me with a very limited set of options. If, as is often the case, I am left without any contenders, I move back through the list, deciding where I can budge. Slowly but surely, my list of non-negotiables becomes very negotiable, the lines I drew in the sand so blurry I start to second-guess their value. I inevitably find myself asking “What’s the point?” and wishing I could blindly trust that no brand or retailer would still be in business if they were doing something truly horrid. Right? Continue reading

Brand Profile: M. Gemi

There’s something about New York City during the holidays.

It’s almost criminal to duck into the subway on your commute when the streets are lined with tree stands and Christmas lights. Then, of course, there are the window displays.

Extravagant only begins to describe it. These windows demand your attention, never failing to draw crowds of onlookers. I recently walked home via Madison Avenue so I could see the best of the best, a willing victim of the big players in luxury fashion. I was practically begging New York to show off for me. Yet, instead of the awe I was anticipating, I realized something quite startling: these names I’ve grown up hearing about – studying, researching, even pining after – meant nothing to me. I didn’t feel anything when I walked by the shops. What happened? Continue reading