the Insiders


Showing posts by David Moin- Senior Editor, Retail (including Real Estate)
Being a corporate board member can be a great gig. It's prestigious and is a chance to exert your influence, put your experience to work and help a company grow. And considering how infrequently boards typically meet, maybe quarterly, it's good compensation. Outside directors can get annual retainers, fees per meeting or stock grants, plus travel expenses.

These days, Ann Taylor is up for partying. And the brand staged a good one at the Ace Hotel recently for a preview of the fall collection, with models lounging on the sofas, displaying just the right amount of elegance and aloofness appropriate for a cool cocktail hour. "We can
get you in and out real fast," an executive told a reporter.

If it hadn't been for the Bert Stern party the same night to celebrate his Club Monaco campaign, I would have loved to stay longer to take in the crowd, which was filled with fashion journalists and photographers and punctuated by an appearance by "Mad Men" star Christina Hendricks and a performance by singer-songwriter V.V. Brown.

When I first learned that J. Crew would be listed on, which specializes in designer and contemporary fashions and distributes to 170 countries, I wondered how much business could J. Crew actually generate off the London-based Web site, considering it's packed with more than 300 labels and posted a volume close to $150 million a year ago.

Executives from both parties couldn't project J. Crew's potential volume, but they gave assurances the U.S. retailer would be very visible and marketed aggressively on the site. They said the plan was more about "fun and fashion."

There's a bigger picture.
Poppy Delevigne and Julia Restoin Roitfeld try out Topshop wares.
There's a huge halo hanging over Topshop's first U.S. store.

After days of celebrity packed parties, viral hype, guerrilla marketing and distributing discounts and cheese biscuits in the streets, the 40,000-square-foot SoHo emporium opened Thursday to big crowds, predominantly teenage and twentysomething girls -- an audience of intrepid shoppers and fashion bloggers keeping up on the latest trends. Whether traffic patterns hold up sufficiently over time remains to be seen.

Regarding the season’s bumper crop of rumors on cutbacks, asset sales and bankruptcies, retailers have stayed steadfast in their “no comment” response to media inquiries. When they feel beneficent, the response is, “We don’t comment on market speculation. You’ll be the first to know if there’s anything to say.”

There’s some rationale for ducking the speculation.

A near-empty mall on Black Friday.

In retail circles this holiday season, there's a running joke about sales trends -- minus 10 is the new flat.

Some businesses and categories are said to tracking negative 20 or 30 percent. But at this point, with calendar shifts supposedly delaying shopping and until the December comparable-store sales figures get reported Jan. 8, it's hard to figure the depths of retailers' despair.
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