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Alibaba’s dedicated site for luxury brands, Tmall Luxury Pavilion, has launched a new mobile app with a ‘Maison’ store format. The format enables brands to customise the design and content of their storefront to be more in keeping with their brand image. It also gives the brands early access to new technology developed by Alibaba.

Maison is not available to every brand on the Tmall Luxury Pavilion though, just those who are invited and count amongst the world’s most prestige and time-tested.

Tmall Luxury Pavilion launched in 2017 and covers more than 80 brands including Valentino, Burberry, Versace, Ermenegildo Zegna, Stella McCartney, Tod’s, Moschino, Giuseppe Zanotti, MCM, La Mer, Maserati, Kering Group-owned Qeelin, LVMH-owned Guerlain, Givenchy, Tag Heuer and Zenith.

Meanwhile, and Intel have launched a joint lab that will explore the use of Internet of Things (IoT) in smart retail solutions. The Digitized Retail Joint Lab will develop next-generation vending machines, media and advertising solutions, and technologies to be used in the stores of the future. and Intel already work together so this extension of their partnership “will combine our collective strengths to develop cutting-edge solutions to bring the precision of online shopping to offline players,” says Zhi Weng, VP of and head of JD Big Data Platform. “We look forward to expanding our cooperation with Intel to deliver a best-in-class, personalised shopping experience wherever consumers shop.”

In the US, Bloomingdale’s has launched a concept store, within a store, highlighting how digital can be used to enhance the customer experience in store. The Carousel @ Bloomingdale’s has its own entrance and the look and feel of a standalone boutique even though it is part of the retailer’s flagship store in Manhattan.

It incorporates large video walls and a curated space which will change every two months. It also features a constant rotation of animation and events to amplify the customer experience.

“As the retail landscape changes, we continually seek innovative ways to engage our customer,” says Bloomingdale’s Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Frank Berman. “The Carousel allows Bloomingdale’s to regularly offer up new product, new brands and an original immersive experience, all tied to a timely and engaging theme. The rotating shop will provide continual inspiration and guide shopping discovery while bringing a new and different experience with each visit.”

Meanwhile, Walmart’s Sam’s Club Now and convenience stores 7-Eleven are the latest retailers to announce that they are introducing Scan & Go technology. Sam’s Club is using 700 cameras to keep track of customers and inventory levels.

7-Eleven is using its existing app to trial scan and go technology at 14 stores. “When a customer is near one of these special stores, the Scan & Pay feature will automatically appear within the company’s rewards app, enabling customers to scan barcodes of items and pay directly through their phones, either with a card, Apple Pay or Google Pay. Upon leaving, the customers scan a QR code in the store to confirm they paid,” says Hubert Da Costa, Senior Vice President & GM, EMEA at Cybera.

Department store Macy’s has reported its second consecutive year of “positive holiday comparable sales, driven largely by the traction of our strategic initiatives: Backstage, Vendor Direct, Store Pickup, Loyalty and Growth50.”

Online saw double-digit growth and “continued strength” was reported for its Growth50 network of Macy’s stores through which innovation and experimentation is scaled. Macy’s Chairman and CEO Jeff Gennette said: “The holiday season began strong – particularly during Black Friday and the following Cyber Week, but weakened in the mid-December period and did not return to expected patterns until the week of Christmas.”

Categories performing well included fine jewellery, women’s shoes, fragrance, dresses, outerwear, active and home. However, women’s sportswear, seasonal sleepwear, fashion jewellery, fashion watches and cosmetics all underperformed.

Gennette added: “Looking back at 2018, we met our goal of returning the company to growth. Our revised guidance is above the expectations we set at the start of the fiscal year, and we expect to deliver our fifth consecutive quarter of positive comparable sales”.

Black Friday continues to be an online phenomena across Europe too. In Italy, Germany, and France, sales of consumer tech goods saw a sharp rise compared to the Black Friday week of the previous year, according to GFK. Sales in Italy increased significantly by 42% compared to last year, the increases in Germany and France were 15% and 13% respectively. Slightly lower growth was seen in Spain which saw sales increase by around 7%.

The highest sales were generated from TV sets, smartphones and notebooks with a good proportion (39%) of the Black Friday sales for consumer tech goods coming from online retailers. Online retailers made about 167% more sales compared to a normal week. Retail trade in physical stores accounted for around 61% of Black Friday sales. Compared to a normal week, however, the increase in sales in retail trade was only around 94%, says GFK.


A number of Europe’s biggest names have announced new projects that show where they think the physical store is headed.

On 14 February, Germany’s bonprix will open a new pilot store in Hamburg called fashion connect which it claims offers “an entirely unique, digitally driven shopping experience.”

The anchor of the store is the bonprix app, which has been specially enhanced for use in the store. Customers check in when they arrive and can then scan products with their smartphone’s camera, specifying their desired size. These products are then picked by staff and placed in a fitting room for the customer to try on. If they need a different size they can order it from the room with the app.

The customer then simply has to leave the fitting room with their desired clothes and their virtual “shopping bag” will be automatically updated via RFID technology. They can then pay via PayPal on the app or pay at the check-out via card or cash.

The outlet aims to bring together the advantages of online and offline retail, avoiding inconveniences such as long queues. Sven Seidel, Head of Multichannel Retail at bonprix’s parent company Otto Group, says that the shopping experience and face-to-face advice are still the USPs of traditional retail.

“However, to remain profitable in the future it’s essential we harness the opportunities that digitalisation offers so we can integrate more digital, consumer-oriented services into offline retail. The Otto Group is currently testing a range of concepts. The experimental strategy bonprix is pursuing with “fashion connect” is one of our most innovative,” he says.

New features, such as personalised product suggestions, are set to be added to the bonprix store at a later date.

French retailer E.Leclerc has launched its first ever click and collect point for online shopping. The “E.Leclerc Relais” on Paris’s avenue de Clichy will offer an alternative fulfilment option for customers of the home delivery service, launched in March last year.

After ordering online from the company’s catalogue of 13,000 products, customers can choose a time slot between 10am and 10pm from Monday to Saturday and then retrieve their order for free.

The retailer plans to open 12 more of the stores in 2019.

Meanwhile, Polish convenience store chain Żabka, which operates over 5,400 sales points in the country, is investigating scan and go technology utilising AI and sensors.

Working with store automation company AiFi, the retailer will build a self-contained application that can be utilised in new and existing stores. The company says that the sensors will register and analyse different types of data in real time before an AI algorithm analyses the data in order to automatically charge customers.

The analytics will also be able to notify staff of the need to stock shelves and identify the products which are selling best.

Tomasz Blicharski, VP for Finance and Development at Żabka, says, “The solutions we create are designed to adapt us to customer expectations by offering them the most advanced, convenient and fastest shopping experience on the market. AiFi technology will enable us to offer customers faster service and optimise the management of traditional stores by franchisees, facilitating their daily operations.

“We can’t wait to let our customers and franchisees share the experience of a new dimension in daily shopping.”

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