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


Nature one of most effective ways of combatting climate change

The largest glacier in the Swiss Alps, the Aletschgletscher, is melting rapidly and could disappear altogether by 2100. Geir BraathenThe world’s climate is changing rapidly and these changes are evident on a daily basis. Global temperatures are rising, rainfall patterns are changing and the weather in many parts of the world is more erratic and unpredictable than ever before. The effects are widespread; natural habitats are changing, biodiversity is being lost, farming cycles are being disrupted and water stress is becoming more common than not. Natural hazards such as floods, droughts, hurricanes and heatwaves are becoming more extreme and frequent costing countries billions of dollars and destroying homes, infrastructure and livelihoods. The climate crisis is threatening people’s well-being, food security and worsening poverty.In June this year, the UN Secretary-General said the world needs to create conditions for “harmony between humankind and nature.”What is meant by a nature-based solution?Nature-based solutions are actions that protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural or modified ecosystems, that also address societal challenges, thereby simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits. So, whether its food security, climate change, water security, human health, disaster risk or economic development, nature can help us find a way. And climate change is a very important part of the solution puzzle. There are many ways to address climate change, but one of the most effective and immediate ways is using what is on our door step… nature.  For example, nature-based solutions can focus on reducing emissions from deforestation and agricultural practices and enhancing the ability of natural ecosystems to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Remember, it is carbon dioxide that contributes to the greenhouse gases that lead to global warming.The UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit provides an opportune moment to catapult nature-based solutions to the forefront of climate action. What range of solutions are available?Most nature-based solutions for climate change come from strengthening or restoring existing natural ecosystems. For example, forests don’t just absorb carbon, they also defend us from its most devastating impacts. Carefully planted tree species can act as firebreaks, keeping trees next to farmland can protect crops from the erosive forces of intense rain, and forests can alleviate inland floods due to the sponge-like way they absorb water. World leaders will be gathering at the United Nations in New York next week at a Climate Action Summit convened by the UN Secretary-General António Guterres and Ms. Andersen will be there to promote the idea of nature-based solutions to combatting climate change.UNEP is supporting one of the nine summit action tracks designated by the Secretary-General under the leadership of the Governments of China and New Zealand.  UN News asked Ms. Andersen how nature can help to reverse climate change.How is climate change affecting the natural world? Mangroves provide effective and cheap natural barriers against coastal floods and shoreline erosion. Changing our land practices alone could deliver 30 per cent of the emissions reductions that we need to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate action by 2030.Restoring peatlands and other natural ecosystems are also effective nature-based solutions. Find out more here about the benefits of peatlands:  How effective are they and at what financial cost?Nature is available now and we should use it; there are no quick technological fixes that have the same scale of impact that nature-based solutions offer. In fact, these solutions could deliver more than a third of the emissions reductions needed globally by 2030. Crucially, what is urgently required is an increase in investment to unlock the potential of nature. Right now, these solutions receive less than three per cent of available climate funding, even though they are extremely cost effective. And, they offer a very high return on investment potentially adding trillions of dollars to the global economy. For example, the building of the Great Green Wall an ambitious project to reverse desertification in the Sahel region of Africa could create 10 million jobs there by 2030 and have other benefits including slowing migration.These solutions have to be integrated into climate adaptation and mitigation efforts. Globally, governments must align their efforts and commit to investing in these solutions as part of their national policies. How important are nature-based solutions in the overall fight against climate change?The bottom line is that we cannot limit warming to 1.5°C (or 2°C for that matter) without natural climate solutions. Nature-based solutions have the potential to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by 12 gigatons each year. This is roughly equal to emissions from all the world’s coal fired plants. At the same time, it is important to keep in mind, firstly, that increasing ambition requires us to commit simultaneously to an energy transition and greater investments in nature.  And secondly, if we don’t act on nature now, then nature’s ability to protect humanity will diminish even more. So, nature is on the table as a solution to climate action, but only just and we have to seize the moment. The good news is nature is forgiving and it’s time we gave it the chance it deserves. Are there enough projects underway right now globally to make a difference? The Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, Inger Andersen, addresses a meeting in Nairobi, Kenya. UNEP/Cyril VillemainWe are in a period of global emergency, but also in a period of unprecedented momentum. Young people are holding us to account, and every week a government somewhere in the world, commits to climate action. Nature-based solutions are immediately available, cost-effective and can be scaled up depending on need. And every country in the world can act. And we have many examples of success. When the Great Green Wall is completed in 2030, restored land will absorb carbon dioxide equal to keeping all of California’s cars parked for 3½ years. In Niger, farmer-led reforestation has improved tree cover, reducing women’s time in collecting firewood from three hours to 30 minutes. And Medellin in Colombia reduced temperatures by more than 2°C through turning their concrete jungles into urban forests.So, we need to scale up initiatives like this, build on political momentum and deliver at the scale and pace needed to propel us beyond the ambitions of the Paris Agreement because when we give nature a chance, we have a better shot at achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. 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