1) Comme des Garçons launches CDG, taking on a new challenge: direct-to-consumer ecommerce.

What happened

  • In the lead up to the launch of CDG in July, Comme des Garçons is launching CDG Breaking News this May as a capsule collection teaser. The CDG brand will offer a range of SKUs and various collaborations, with prices running from $50 to $800.
  • After launch, CDG will be available online at cdgcdgcdg.com and in Comme de Garçons’ Japan stores. Later, products will be available at Comme de Garçons-run Dover Street Market in Los Angeles, and then made fully available at all Comme de Garçons locations in October 2018.

Why it matters

  • CDG is the 18th label under Comme de Garçons, founded by Rei Kawakubo in 1969. Dover Street Market profits jumped 35% last year and Comme de Garçons sales rose 30% to $300 million. But for a company that built itself mastering wholesale and brick-and-mortar retail, the fact that CDG will sell direct-to-consumer—the company expects ecommerce to account for 80% of sales—is a new challenge and questions about Comme de Garçons’ authority over the ecommerce landscape resound. How will it market the brand digitally? How will CDG’s brick-and-mortar location reflect the online shopping experience? How prepared is Comme de Garçons to meet the needs of an ecommerce operation?
  • Regardless, it’s clear that CDG will not look like just another direct-to-consumer brand. Kawakubo designed cdgcdgcdg.com herself—right now, it leads to a submission form page peppered with the CDG logo where users can sign up to receive notifications about the brand as it is rolled out.

2) Walmart and eBay are launching new initiatives to personalize the shopping experience, but only eBay’s speaks to core customer needs.

What happened

  • This week, Walmart launched Jetblack, a members-only personal shopping service aimed at city-dwelling moms. The service is helmed by Jenny Fleiss, the co-founder of Rent the Runway, and is now undergoing beta testing in New York City. Participants receive recommendations and can make purchases via text message, with delivery between 24 hours and two business days as well as easy and free returns from home.
  • Meanwhile, eBay released a new personalized shopping homepage—eBay Interests—that displays products based on individual customer preferences. The recommendations will update in real time as products are sold.

Why it matters

  • Jetblack is a rebranded version of Code Eight, a Walmart subsidiary, and one of a handful of Walmart startups. For a company that seems clearly aimed at the Jet consumer, it’s curious that Walmart is launching Jetblack as a standalone site. At the same time, given Walmart’s continued repositioning as a retailer of high-end items—from a site redesign to the recent announcement that Lord & Taylor will have a landing page on Walmart.com—it’s also interesting that Jetblack won’t be included on Walmart’s site. It’s too early to tell what the end goal of these initiatives are, both for Walmart and for Jet’s future.
  • eBay’s personalization initiative makes much more sense, aligned with the company interests and its consumers’ needs. Using algorithms to provide data-driven recommendations is likely to spur more sales if customers can save time sorting through the more than one billion products offered on the platform.

3) Saks redesigns its beauty department and Barneys turns to streetwear as department stores strive to stay relevant.

What happened

  • For the first time since its opening in 1924, Saks Fifth Avenue’s beauty department will relocate from the ground to the second floor, which is 40% larger in square footage. The redesign will add spaces for spa services and events to the second floor, and move handbags and leather goods downstairs.
  • Barneys and the streetwear media brand Highsnobiety will bring thedrop@barneys to Los Angeles this June—a joint project that they first launched in New York in 2017. The Drop, which will last for two days at Barneys’ Beverly Hills store, will contain exclusive items from a number of luxury brands, a capsule collection, food, workshops, entertainment and celebrity appearances (some items will be sold online).

Why it matters

  • Though other department stores such as Barneys and Neiman Marcus have moved beauty from the ground floor to the basement at select locations—and beauty sales reportedly increased thanks to larger square footage and enhanced services—the most valuable retail space remains the ground floor, which can see two to three times more sales per square foot than upper floors.
  • Saks is right to lean into experiential products and services at its flagship store, particularly in an era when beauty retailers like Sephora and Ulta are seizing more of the market. But it may be forfeiting the impulse buys that visitors typically make upon entering department stores as they weave through the concessions and sample cosmetics. Though beauty products are much cheaper than handbags, they’ve always brought department stores high margins because the brands pay for prime access to areas of the store with the highest traffic.
  • Still, a remodel could be exactly what Saks needs to retain its spot as a go-to legacy department store. Though Barneys closed its Upper West Side store in February 2018, it captivated a large crowd with its New York Drop, particularly among younger demographics. The Drop mixes experience, entertainment and shopping, as well as infuses youth and freshness into the legacy retailer. Acknowledging the interests of younger shoppers—like streetwear—is a way for Barneys to stay top of mind and to avoid fading into the background as another aging department store.

4) Target adds new services to its expanding beauty department, building on its strengths in a competitive market.

What happened

  • Target, which continues to grow its beauty offerings, is also expanding Target Beauty Studios, the company’s digital beauty toolkit. On Target.com, users can sample cosmetics with the AR-operated YouCam Makeup app and chat with a Beauty Concierge online and via text for recommendations and advice on products.
  • In January, Target released it private-label fragrance line, Good Chemistry, and in April, the company began selling $7 beauty boxes, which offer various sets of samples each month. It will also add eight new beauty brands—more than 150 new products—catered to shoppers with mid-range and deeper skin tones.

Why it matters

  • As the beauty industry grows and becomes more competitive, Target is working to carve out a larger piece of the pie. Beauty already accounted for 23% of the company’s 2017 sales and providing new ways for customers to shop and experience cosmetics is likely to fill online and in-store shopping carts up higher. Though the Target customer may be inclined to shop her cosmetics at a drugstore or a retailer like Ulta Beauty, which has a wide range of low- and high-end brands, the main advantage Target is that she can walk in for beauty, and leave with cosmetics, her weekly groceries, a new swimsuit and more. If Target continues to expand its beauty offerings to brands that lie within its core customers’ price points and interests, it’s likely to see beauty revenue grow.
  • Target’s turn to digital media echoes Sephora and L’Oréal’s foray into AR with the help of the virtual tech company ModiFace, which Sephora employs on its Virtual Aritst App and which L’Oréal acquired in March 2018. Though this means that Target is not the only drugstore beauty destination that uses this technology, because customers cannot sample cosmetics at the store to begin with, this service, along with the beauty concierge, will help shoppers identify what products they want before finalizing their purchase. This means they are more likely to walk out satisfied with their Target experience.