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Editor's Comment: Smart stores embrace augmented reality

Keely Stocker

Following Drapers collaboration with Blippar ealier this month to produce our first interactive issue (which is resulting in some fabulous selfie covers from readers), House of Fraser has announced a tie-up with augmented-reality specialist Layar, which is part of the Blippar Group.

The department store is using the technology to create shoppable windows on Black Friday to allow customers to avoid queues on what is certain to be an incredibly busy shopping day, showing how technology can be used to create both excitement and efficiency for customers.

Augmented reality is not new. An early adopter of the technology in fashion was Net-a-Porter in September 2011, when the etailer made its first foray into bricks-and-mortar with a pop-up shop for Vogue’s Fashion Night Out in Mount Street in London’s Mayfair. In a precursor to HoF’s latest venture, Net-a-Porter worked with software company Autonomy to produce an augmented-reality app that allowed users to purchase directly from the store window. Taking a different approach, in 2013 US-based women’s accessories retailer Kate Spade created “shoppable windows” in the plate glass fronts of four empty units in Manhattan, from which customers could browse and order the entire collection.

John Lewis’s Man on the Moon app uses augmented reality via images on posters, shopping bags and click-and-collect boxes to bring the moon to life. Although this is not a direct sales tool, it allows John Lewis to build the brand engagement it has created across multiple channels with its Christmas campaign. The technology definitely appears to be becoming more mainstream with fashion retailers and customers are beginning to embrace it. Previously technologies such as QR codes were seen by many as a fad but augmented reality is providing retailers with both the link between channels and also a chance to encourage sales on mobile.

Consumer shopping trends were a hot topic debated by high-calibre, inspiring speakers at our Drapers Fashion Forum in London last week. An interesting revelation was how the best global retailers approach their various markets. Historically, retailers have segmented international markets, and often had siloed, market-specific teams and product ranges. Speakers such as senior vice-president of strategic alliances at Gap, Stefan Laban and vice-president of womenswear at Zalando Dalbir Bains encouraged retailers to take a global, more holistic approach. Of course, the approach should be personalised to fit its audience but a brand must remain true to its ethos and heritage to succeed on a global level.

Talking of success, I’d like to personally congratulate all of the winners of this year’s 25th Drapers Awards. Since 1991 the best of the best in fashion retailing have been spotlighted at these awards and, although they have evolved over the years, the essence of what they stand for remains the same: they celebrate excellence in fashion retailing.

Special congratulations to our Lifetime Achievement award winner, Matalan founder John Hargreaves. The value retailer he started in 1985 is now a household name and Hargreaves has come a long way from his days as a market trader in Merseyside. Inspired by a trip to the US he took the concept of discount shopping clubs to a new level in the UK and, although he has now taken a step back from the business, his passion and unique trading ability still shine through the business today. 

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