When taking on the arduous task of defining retail in 2018 in one word, we're left pondering which single term best describes 8,760 hours of round-the-clock commerce. Intense, right?
Roller coaster. The all-encompassing phrase accurately includes retail's successes and failures, with added thrills and stomach drops. Along the way, we had a few tranquil moments to analyze and share crucial developments in the industry.
Without further ado, here are StyleSage's most impactful stories of 2018.
TRUTH BY NUMBERS: J. CREW
In our Truth by Numbers series, StyleSage reviews the industry headlines and trending topics. During 2018, readers took interest in our analysis of J. Crew, after its announcement to sell an assortment of Madewell's products in J.Crew stores.
Our biggest question was this - How differentiated were the two brands and is there any cannibalization risk here? J.Crew, in theory, is a well-diversified brand, whether that is by demographic, price point, or products sold.
From partnerships with WeWork and Universal Standard to the shuttering of Mercantile and exit of new CEO James Brett, this was a very eventful year for J.Crew, especially after taking on the title for Biggest Disappointment in 2017 under the Retail Dive Awards.
Outlook for J.Crew in 2019? We forecast more rough waters ahead that in order to weather, will require strong leadership and a continued strong macroeconomic environment.
THE ANATOMY OF ENTERING A NEW MARKET: BERSHKA
Although Bershka launched in 1998, Inditex's introduction of the brand to the US market was much later. The NYC store and e-commerce site both went live during 2018, so we used the opportunity to take a look at what entering a new market looks like - from both the physical store experience as well as their pricing and product positioning.
If there's anything Inditex's diverse portfolio of brands can tell us, it's that they're tuned into what consumers want and they know how to make it happen - quickly. We anxiously await what they'll come up with in 2019.
4 PLUS SIZE MARKET INSIGHTS
If you missed out on our webinar discussing the market data around what inclusive sizing really means and the opportunities it creates for retail, you'll definitely want to check out our recap of findings here.
During 2018, "plus" sizes comprised less than 20% of assortments, even though more than two-thirds of American women are estimated to be a size 14 and higher.
Will 2019 be the year that size inclusivity shows in the numbers? We'll be the first to let you know!
THE SCIENCE BEHIND PRODUCT SIMILARITY
2018 was a year of milestones for StyleSage as well! In August, we launched our Product Similarity feature, which addresses the changes in how consumers are visually discovering new products. Our product similarity feature aids retailers in understanding what's out there that might be a competitive substitute for what they're offering. Our team of data scientists took over the blog to share information on the data science behind product similarity, as well as the benefits of utilizing it.
At StyleSage, our fashion gurus have created proprietary similarity training data, with the granularity required to detect products from the same category while ranking them based on their perceived similarity. And that's just some of the cool tech we've got up our sleeves. Watch this space for this year's new releases!
MEET THE EXPERT: RACHEL FEINGOLD
Last but not least, another StyleSage favorite during 2018 was our Meet the Expert series, where were interviewed a number of retail experts to give their insight into the state of the industry.
We began 2018 in an engaging conversation with Rachel Feingold, the VP of Home for New York City’s iconic off-price retailer, Century 21. As an omnichannel guru, her experience has spanned Merchandising, Planning, Sales, Marketing and Finance for some of retail's best-known names including Amazon, Calvin Klein, and J&J.
In all, discussions centering around assortment and growth sectors like off-price and plus, set the bar for the most impactful stories of 2018. Nevertheless, be sure to review the runnerups here.