1) Reformation expands its brick-and-mortar footprint with a new wholesale deal at Nordstrom.

What happened

  • Reformation, which sells eco-conscious clothing online and at its 11 stores, will sell at Nordstrom, both on the department store’s site and at 30 of its stores. The deal also emerges after Reformation’s $25 million fundraise in December 2017, which the company said it will direct at growing its brick-and-mortar square footage.

Why it matters

  • The wholesale deal offers advantages to both Reformation and Nordstrom. For the former, it will introduce Reformation to newer and wider markets outside of its coastal hubs to places like Pennsylvania, Illinois and Colorado. While other direct-to-consumer brands including Allbirds, Everlane and Warby Parker have entered Nordstrom temporarily with Pop-In@Nordstrom, Reformation’s more committed wholesale relationship is meant to build awareness for the brand in addition to growing sales.
  • For Nordstrom, the Reformation deal will help breathe new life into the department store as it competes in an increasingly competitive market—giving it access to a coveted yet accessibly priced modern brand. In addition to the Pop-In concept, Nordstrom has been working to connect to customers in new ways; it is also planning to grow Nordstrom Local, its merchandise-free store that first launched in Los Angeles in October 2017 to serve customers with in-store pickup, online purchases, tailoring, styling and a nail salon. At only 3,000 square feet, the small-format locations are meant to acquire and retain new customers in the hope that these relationships will lead to sales.

2) H&M opens an off-price store Afound, but risks diluting its full-price brand.

What happened

  • The off-price version of H&M will be available in two Swedish locations, as well as online. Instead of an outlet, the company hopes consumers will view it as a “style and deal-hunting paradise” where the selection is localized and just as fun and easy to experience online as offline. The company has not yet revealed which brands Afound will sell, but says it will offer both H&M brands and other non-affiliated brands.

Why it matters

  • Viewing Afound as a treasure trove taps into one of the main reasons why consumers love shopping off-price. However, Afound’s product offerings will influence the larger purpose behind the off-price store, especially since discounts mean lower margins. If the point is to boost H&M’s sales, Afound should serve as a gateway to H&M, helping the company acquire new full-price customers.
  • There’s also reason to believe that with the help of Afound, H&M could fortify its own brand, particularly in light of the company’s decision to slow down its store expansion in 2018 and its $4.3 billion in unsold inventory. Perhaps the notoriously messy discount sections at H&M’s full-price stores will be siphoned off to Afound, allowing H&M to clean up its in-store experience and focus on its higher-end brands like & Other Stories.

3) J.Crew plans its fall relaunch, emulating the best of Madewell and Stitch Fix.

What happened

  • J.Crew hopes to turnaround its depleted sales with a revamped experience this fall that will include new collections, a loyalty program, lower prices, and “data-driven personalization.” This year, the company has already made a number of changes, introducing new lines for intimates, swimwear and heritage pieces and bringing its lower-priced Mercantile brand in stores and online, which it will absorb into J.Crew.

Why it matters

  • These purported updates are reminiscent of J.Crew’s Madewell brand, whose sales grew 39% in Q1 2018. Members of Madewell’s loyalty program spend more on the brand than non-members, and J.Crew hopes to introduce a similar initiative based on a point system. The data-driven personalization feature is also a key facet of Stitch Fix’s business, which uses personal stylists and algorithms to send subscribers apparel and accessories based on their preferences. Merging these features could reinvigorate the J.Crew brand, moving away from one-note fashion and price points to provide a variety of options for shoppers.

4) Rent the Runway introduces maternity, providing soon-to-be moms with what they need, when they need it.

What happened

  • The subscription service is opening its doors to maternity, offering pregnant shoppers the same options as typical Rent the Runway customers: the $159 Unlimited plan, which sends up to four items a month that subscribers can exchange for new products at any time and the $89 Update plan, which offers four items a month, but no exchanges. Subscribers can also purchase products at a discount—as always, products are dry-cleaned between customers and shipping costs are accounted for in the monthly fee.
  • The maternity program comes with a number of bonuses, including maternity stylists who will work with women each trimester to match their changing needs and a $75 credit to spend on basics from the maternity brand Rosie Pope.

Why it matters

  • Maternity rental clothing is one of the brightest untapped opportunities. Because women’s bodies are in constant flux during pregnancy, utilizing a service that allows shoppers to trade in items at any time is a huge advantage. And with Rent the Runway’s inventory—more than 450 brands and thousands of SKUs—the service will offer a larger maternity selection than any other retailer.
  • When it comes to including new demographics, other companies would do well to look inward, initiating new projects based on internal needs. According to Rent the Runway’s CEO and co-founder Jennifer Hyman, almost 50 female employees went on maternity leave in 2017, so including pregnant shoppers in its services became a no-brainer—but it also ensures that the company’s maternity program will be authentic, meeting and responding to the real needs of pregnant women.