Woe for stores as shoppers look elsewhere for inspiration

In this Monday, March 20, 2017, photo, customer J.P. Grant, right, confers with Reynaldo Sanchez, a guide at Bonobos, as Grant shops for clothing at the brand’s Guideshop, in New York’s Financial District. “This was the first place I thought of,” said Grant. “Convenience…definitely. I order the product in-store and they send to your residence or wherever you are.” (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews) Woe for stores as shoppers look elsewhere for inspiration by Anne D’Innocenzio, The Associated Press Posted Mar 23, 2017 2:56 pm MDT Last Updated Mar 23, 2017 at 3:40 pm MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email NEW YORK, N.Y. – Erica Dao used to shop at malls once a month, looking in stores and seeing what the mannequins displayed. Now, she mainly looks for inspiration on social media.“I discover brands through Instagram,” said Dao, 33, of St. Paul, Minnesota.Elizabeth Troy says she was the “queen of sales,” going through discounted items at J. Crew and Banana Republic stores at malls near where she lives in Richmond, Virginia. But her go-to source has become the online subscription service Stitch Fix, which lets her try on clothes at home and decide what to keep.“I almost never go out to buy now,” says Troy, 50.Those kind of shifts illustrate the way people are changing how they buy clothing. Shoppers aren’t just showrooming at stores and then buying the same items online if they can find better prices — it’s a more significant separation from the mall.That is spelling big problems for mall chains like The Limited, which has shut all 250 of its stores, and Wet Seal, which filed for bankruptcy. Department stores like Macy’s and J.C. Penney — anchors for the malls — are also closing stores. Sears Holdings Corp. has said there’s “substantial doubt” about its future, but believes its plan to turn around its business should reduce that risk. The number of “distressed” retailers — those with cash problems and poor credit profiles that are facing strong competition — is at the highest rate since 2009, says Moody’s Investor Service.“Retail is increasingly becoming boring,” said James Reinhart, CEO of the used-clothing marketplace thredUP. He says much of the merchandise at stores is homogenous, while online “each day there’s a whole new assortment.”Department stores make regular announcements about the next way they’re going to win customers back, like offering more athletic-inspired clothes or adding tech areas. But they’re fighting a market in which people are already buying fewer clothes, spending online or at discounters when they do, and demanding more personal and convenient ways to buy.Brands like Stitch Fix and Bonobos offer curated selections based on people’s preferences, while companies like thredUP capitalize on shoppers’ increasing willingness to buy secondhand items from mall brands like J. Crew, Anthropologie and Athleta at big discounts. Deloitte estimates that the nation’s top 25 retailers have lost $200 billion to the smaller entrants to the market over the last five years.“These internet-rooted businesses are connecting so well with consumers,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at market research firm NPD Group Inc. “They’re offering personalization. They offer great value, quality service and a unique look. This is something that the apparel industry has been ignoring, but consumers are gravitating toward them. And they’re becoming a big threat.”While U.S. clothing sales increased 3 per cent overall to $218.7 billion last year, department stores and national mall-based chains saw a drop of 4 per cent, says NPD. Discounters enjoyed a 1 per cent increase, and off-price stores like T.J. Maxx and Ross saw sales rise 5 per cent.Clothes are also a smaller part of people’s personal spending. In January 1990, Americans spent 5.2 per cent of their overall expenditures on clothes and shoes. That compares with 3 per cent in January 2017, according to an analysis by Michael P. Niemira, principal at The Retail Economist research firm. If demand held steady, Niemira says, there’d be an extra $255 billion spent.Even so, retail space rose to 7.76 billion square feet in 2016 in 54 U.S. metropolitan areas — about six times per capita that of countries like Britain, the International Council of Shopping Centers said. Richard Hayne, CEO of Urban Outfitters, likens the retail industry to a housing bubble.“We are seeing the results: doors shuttering and rents retreating,” Hayne said after the company reported disappointing fourth-quarter results. He expects the trend to continue, and says online shopping is only partially offsetting lower store sales.“Digital communities and social media are replacing storefronts and traditional advertising as a preferred means by which brands and customers are connecting,” Hayne said, noting Urban Outfitters’ 7 million Instagram followers.The online startups have their own ways of reaching shoppers.Jason Hairston started his hunting clothing and gear brand KUIU by blogging, and says he generated $500,000 on the first day in business based on interest through the blog. He says by skipping the store step, his Dixon, California-based company can offer higher-quality products at the same price.It was on social media that Dao discovered the online brand Everlane and liked its simple but modern looks. It’s also how she found shoes by Freda Salvador that she spent $300 on — three times what she usually pays.“I am trying to find someone that appeals to me,” she said. “It’s not, ‘Oh, everybody is doing this.’ It reflects my values. It reflects my personal style.”That connection is something shoppers may feel is missing from the brands they’re turning away from. Bill Taubman, chief operating officer at mall operator Taubman Centers, expects more store closures. But as much as shoppers gravitate toward online brands, he has doubts about their sustainability.“Customers forget about them very quickly,” he said. “That’s why the internet guys are thinking of opening stores.”Indeed, online brands like Bonobos, jeweler Blue Nile and eyewear seller Warby Parker have been setting up showrooms. Even KUIU plans a 30-city tour with an 18-foot trailer that expands to a showroom as a test for traditional store locations.The hybrid model is gaining ground, but online retailers are also figuring out whether to go with traditional stores or showrooms where shoppers try on clothes and then have their purchased delivered. “We quickly discovered in the testing days of the Guideshop concept that guys don’t need that instant gratification of walking out of the store with something right away,” said Antonio Nieves, chief financial officer at Bonobos. read more


ESCAP 70 years of UN efforts to advance socioeconomic development in Asia

PreviousNextUN News: Can you tell us about the current socio-economic development snapshot of the region and how this has changed over the past 70 years?Shamshad Akhtar:  Asia-Pacific is a very vibrant and dynamic region. It has come a long way since ESCAP was created in 1947 to assist countries emerging from the devastation of World War II. I have to say that the region has witnessed economic and social achievements beyond expectations – it is the region that led the drive for poverty reduction and is today known for being the driver of the global economic recovery. Asia-Pacific is the region that today accounts for 40 per cent of global trade.UN News: That said, Asia and the Pacific also has its fair share of challenges. Can you elaborate?Shamshad Akhtar:  Of course the region has challenges. Because the region is growing very fast, pollution is a major concern. Greenhouse gas emissions from Asia-Pacific account for over half of the total greenhouse gas emissions around the world [and this is] just based on the performance of few countries.There are about 400 million people still poor in the region. This number rises to 900 million if measured using the multi-dimensional poverty index. So reducing poverty is a major issueSecondly, the region has been at the frontier of export-led development. Now it is time for it to move towards domestic-driven growth. Given its potential and the value-added relationships that it has developed, Asia-Pacific has the potential to further stimulate the regional demand.Another challenge is poverty. There are about 400 million people still poor in the region. This number rises to 900 million if measured using the multi-dimensional poverty index, so reducing poverty is a major issue.Furthermore, some larger economies in the region are undergoing rebalancing from excessive structural surpluses to stimulating more domestic demand-led growth.Also, there is the question on how to absorb the growing workforce because there will be significant demographic changes that the region will face – both in terms of further growth in population as well as in terms of the rise in the aging population. A train snakes its way through Seoul, Republic of Korea. Photo: Kibae Park Sala Santithan, the complex that housed the headquarters of the then ECAFE, in Bangkok, Thailand, prior to the construction of its current offices. Photo: ESCAP archives A shopkeeper at a local grain market in Tachileik, Myanmar. Photo: Kibae Park U Nyun, Executive Secretary of the then ECAFE, delivering an address at the twenty-first session, held in Wellington, New Zealand, in 1965. Photo: ESCAP archives UN News: In light of these challenges, as well as for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, what has ESCAP been doing to assist its members?Shamshad Akhtar:  For the 2030 Agenda, ESCAP’s intergovernmental focus and work programme has been transformed to support the development of a cohesive, coherent and coordinated institutional framework, which is called the Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development.Also, our member States have worked with us to develop a regional road-map for implementation of the 2030 Agenda and they have also given mandates to have a regional follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda. We are updating our analysis of regional cooperation and integration to help strengthen the sustainable development agenda. This will in turn, help the region get connected in a much more sustainable mannerWe will carry on this work while continuing to support the implementation of sustainable development through our second core mandate – Regional Cooperation and Integration in Asia and the Pacific. We are also updating our analysis of regional cooperation and integration to help strengthen the sustainable development agenda. This will in turn, help the region get connected in a much more sustainable manner. At the same time, the 2030 Agenda includes a number of transboundary goals so we hope to leverage regional cooperation and integration to fast-track implementation of these particular goals. We are also supporting the means of implementation of the 2030 Agenda: We have a track for financing for development in Asia-Pacific where we are raising awareness on the significance of, as well as on the means of, boosting domestic resource mobilization, in particular the tax-to-GDP ratio as well as formulating tax policies that are supportive of the sustainable development agenda.We also continue to work on infrastructure financing and capacity building, and also looking at climate change, financial inclusion, science, technology and innovation, and a range of other issues.UN News: You mentioned the fact that the Asia-Pacific region is very diverse. How are you able to cover the entire region while operating out of Bangkok? Shamshad Akhtar: The ESCAP region covers a lot of countries. It has 53 member countries and nine associate members. Given the diversity of the region, we have subregional offices across the region: one in Suva, Fiji, for the Pacific; in Incheon, Republic of Korea, for North and North-East Asia; in Delhi, India, for South and South-West Asia; and in Almaty, Kazakhstan for North and Central Asia.These offices both maintain relationships with the countries as well as coordinate and conduct core work programmes in their respective subregions. The work programme of the subregional offices and the functional divisions [at ESCAP headquarters in Bangkok] are aligned, making sure that leadership comes from the principal office in Bangkok and support from the subregional offices.UN News: The Commission will be holding its seventy-third session during the week of 14 May. What are the major issues on the agenda?Shamshad Akhtar: The session will be revolving around issues concerning sustainable development as well as the regional cooperation and integration agenda.  We will also be discussing a thematic report on energy efficiency. Having expanded our work programme to include energy, this will help us promote sustainable energy for all, while enhancing energy connectivity in the region and diversifying energy sources to include renewable sources.We will also be discussing the overall economic and social situation in the region in addition to our core mandate of sustainable development and how they mutually support each other. Representatives from the then ECAFE member States attend the sixth session of the Commission (1950). Photo: ESCAP archives A worker at an integrated resource recovery centre aerates organic waste to speed up the composting process. Matale, Sri Lanka. Photo: ESCAP Delegates attend the seventy-second session of the Commission in May 2016. Photo: ESCAP Video: Ms. Akhtar highlighting progress made by the Asia-Pacific region and the challenges before it. As Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Shamshad Akhtar leads an entity with a geographical scope that stretches from Turkey in the west to the Pacific island nation of Kiribati in the east, and from Russia in the north to New Zealand in the south, and covers a region that is home to 4.1 billion people, or two-thirds of the world’s population.Founded in 1947, as the then Economic Commission for Asia and the Far-East, to assist the region’s countries with economic reconstruction in the devastating aftermath of the Second World War, the Commission’s geographical scope and mandate were expanded in the 1970s to reflect changes on the ground.When ESCAP convenes its 73rd session next week at its headquarters in Bangkok, top government officials will discuss further strengthening the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).In addition, member States will deliberate on regional cooperation for sustainable energy, an issue vital in a region where millions suffer from severe energy insecurity and lack of access. Also on the agenda are exchanges on infrastructure development in least developed, landlocked developing and Pacific island developing countries, applications of space technology for environment and resilience against water-related disasters.UN News spoke to Ms. Akhtar, a Pakistani national and seasoned economist, about development efforts in the region, including ongoing challenges, as well as the work of ESCAP and what is expected during the upcoming session. ESCAP headquarters in Bangkok, Thailand. The UN Conference Centre is in the foreground and the ESCAP secretariat building is in the back. Photo: ESCAP A park in Bangkok, Thailand, where accessibility and assistive features such as detectable guides and warnings have been installed. Photo: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe A student at the Tailulu College in Nukua’lofa, Tonga, where broadband internet connectivity has been installed, transforming the way students access information. Photo: Tom Perry/World Bank PreviousNextUN News: What are the major outcomes expected this year?Shamshad Akhtar: Deliberations at the Commission will provide us with greater understanding on what support the region and the countries need from ESCAP. The Commission will guide us on what we can do for the member States to further support them in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and other mandates that have been assigned to us. But the ultimate test will be how we can match the demand with the supply.UN News: Would you like to add anything else?The regional commissions are a very important arm of the UN. However, because they are not based in New York, they often are not so visibleShamshad Akhtar: One thing I would like to mention is that regional commissions are a very important arm of the United Nations. However, because they are not based in New York, they often are not so visible.The technical work done at the subregional level or at the country level is actually being done by the regional commissions. We play a very important role in connecting the global with the national through the bridge of the regional commissions. We are going to be supporting a lot of knowledge-sharing and all kinds of technical work at the regional level, not for the sake of doing it, but to ensure that these are all consolidated with the discussions at the global level. read more


Golf Brothers Josh and Justin Wick competing together as Buckeyes

Ohio State golfer Josh Wick finishes on a shot from the fairway. Credit: Courtesy of OSU AthleticsJosh and Justin Wick, brothers separated by two years on the Ohio State men’s golf team, enjoyed sports from a young age. But they never expected to become Division I athletes.When Ohio State came calling it might have been a surprise to Josh, but his mom knew it was coming.Then-Ohio State head coach Donnie Darr, now an assistant coach with the Oklahoma State golf team, asked to meet with the Wick brothers’ parents about extending Josh, the elder brother, an offer.“The coach actually asked to meet with my husband and I outside of Josh just to make sure that if he extended Josh an offer would it be an issue with Justin,” Sarah Wick, the brothers’ mother said.Justin was also highly regarded by the Buckeyes at the time, and Darr didn’t want Josh’s offer to cause Justin to press too hard and try to impress them.However, he didn’t need to impress them with words. His talent spoke for itselfJustin described his high-school golf career as “full of ups and downs,” but, despite the rough patches, he was able to win the Central District Division I Player of the Year Award, which ultimately led to his offer from Ohio State two years after Josh received his offer.Josh said he actually knew Justin was going to receive an offer a couple of hours before him and it was “awesome” to get the news.Josh asked Darr at the time to offer Justin a scholarship because he wanted to attend college with his younger brother and knew he had several other opportunities.Justin, a decorated golfer and lacrosse player, had many offers to play both sports in college.“I played a large part in trying to persuade the coach to an extent to get him on the team and offer him a scholarship,” Josh said. “I really wanted him to be here and he had several other opportunities in other places, but I think he always wanted to play here.”Ohio State golfer Justin Wick attempts a putt from the green. Credit: Courtesy of OSU AthleticsJosh and Justin’s mother, who is also a dietitian for Ohio State athletics, recalled her two sons playing any sport they could when they were young.“They started golf at five or six, they played rec lacrosse, they did basketball, and football, so I mean … young,” Sarah said. “They always did sports.”The boys grew up in Upper Arlington, a Columbus suburb. As most brothers are, they were competitive with each other from a young age. Sarah reminisced about the two playing football against each other at the house.“They played this little football game where they pretended the driveway was the touchdown and for some reason they got into a fight and sometimes it was verbal and sometimes they would actually just kind of wrestle around and I would literally just let them do it,” Sarah said. “They would fight it out and everything would be fine.”Although the boys don’t wrestle to settle arguments anymore, they remain extremely competitive. Ohio State head coach Jay Moseley, who was hired in 2015, said the boys love to compete on a daily basis.“They are super, super competitive,” Moseley said. “They push each other really, really hard and they do not like to lose at all to each other.”Josh had pride in Ohio State growing up so close to the university and knew if the school came calling, he would commit.“People would say that I am as crazy an Ohio State fan as they come and always wanted to go there,” Josh said. “Within my recruiting process, I definitely looked at other schools, but I always knew that once Ohio State came calling, that’s where I was going to go.”Justin also said Ohio State was his favorite school and it was a “dream come true” to have the opportunity to play at the university he admired as a little kid.For Josh, golf wasn’t really his first love, it was lacrosse. But as he began to play competitive golf in middle school, his love for the game took off.As his game progressed into Josh’s high school years, he was pretty sure he would be able to become a Division I golfer, but Justin faced a few more challenges in high school.“When I was a junior in high school, when you want to play well and show off for the colleges, I was not playing well at all,” Justin said. “There was a point in time where I thought that I wasn’t going to have a chance to play golf.”But now, he’s doing it at the top collegiate level, not far from home —  with his brother by his side. read more