Wheels of Retail
It's ironic when you think about it. Just as national chain retailers are embracing the model of limited-edition collections to gin up consumer interest and drive traffic, leading flash sale sites have been pushing some of their curated merchandise offerings beyond the typical three-day window to create more sustainable return business.
This November, Kohl's will become the latest big box to embrace the one-hit model pioneered by H&M when it launches a misses apparel line by designer Narciso Rodriguez. Thereafter, it promises a rolling series of such collections under the name DesigNation.
Macys' popped up with a short-run shop of Brazilian merchandise two months ago. No word if similar ventures are planned in the future, but I wouldn't be surprised.
Then there's Target, which has been at the limited edition game for a while now, most spectacularly with the Liberty of London program in 2010 and last fall's Missoni collection. The results were sufficiently impressive that Target enshrined the practice this spring by establishing The Shops at Target, which will be reprised again this fall with a new set of brands.
Meanwhile, the new kids on the block are pursuing various strategies to make themselves something more than flash sites without becoming mere brick-less ecommerce retailers.
In announcing $30 million in new funding last week, ideeli said it will use the money to transform the business "beyond the flash sales model into the next generation of ecommerce."
In April, the Foundary launched Specialty Shops, whose sales last from two weeks to 45 days, and One Kings Lane's recently introduced Vintage & Market Finds segment offers five-day sales.
Now, aping the other guy has a long-standing history in the retail business. Discount stores become grocers. Supermarkets expand their general merchandise. Pharmacies become convenience stores. General merchandise stores add pharmacies.
The next twist is on its way from two department stores: the recently ascendant Macy's and the currently derided JCPenney.
Macy's $400 million makeover of its flagship Herald Square store in New York seeks to recreate the grand shopping emporiums of yesterday with a contemporary twist. Food - in the form of 22 restaurants and food stations - is a big part of driving traffic and turning the place from a store into an entertainment destination.
JCPenney next year is set to unveil a prototype - which should take some time to permeate across the country - that promises a "town square" offering as-yet unspecified services that will almost certainly involve food and likely some spa-style hotspots.
In retail, the wheel is ever turning. And there's nothing ironic about that.