Issue No. 134: A failure in men’s tech fashion

Last Word: Why Kit and Ace is Failing

Just this morning, news of Kit and Ace’s failures hit Columbus, Ohio. The Vancouver brand’s one and only storefront closed down just meters away from where one of the tech fashion industry’s pioneers – Mizzen+Main stood in it’s early days.

So, what did Kit and Ace do wrong:

I walked into my first Lululemon showroom in 2008 with my wife and Olympic bobsledding gold medalist – Steve Mesler. Considered an elite ambassador, he introduced many in the upscale area of Houston, Texas to the brand. Between 2008 and 2012, Lululemon benefitted from a surge in sport from elite fitness practitioners (though the brand was focused on yoga lovers). The ambassador circuit, both elite and otherwise, was a very powerful conduit for influence marketing. The explosion of CrossFit as a consumer culture amplified the Vancouver brand throughout North America.

In 2012, Reebok (who realized what CrossFit was doing for Lululemon) signed an exclusive licensing deal with the functional fitness company and almost overnight, Lululemon’s market cap began to stumble, ultimately peaking in 2013. And of course, Reebok began it’s change in fortunes.

This is the Cliff Notes version of things, sure. But as the Kit and Ace brand rolled out, many of the same tactics were employed.

        1. Smaller showrooms, reminiscent of $LULU’s U.S. takeover in 2008.
        2. Hiring “artsy, well-connected, cool kids” who have connections with urban promoters. In Lululemon’s model, these were fitness instructors.
        3. Expensive clothing, no discounts.
        4. In-store community events.

The product based retailer erred in judgement was five fold.

        1. Chip Wilson has never once acknowledged that the growth of his first company received a 70’s skateboard era, Vans-like boost by an unexpected consumer segment. If I recall correctly, he discouraged further adoption.
        2. The shirts were ‘tech cashmere’ but the 50/50 blends were inferior to existing startups who manufacture technical button downs.
        3. There was a need to wear Lululemon in their early days, the clothing was superior for those who move and sweat. There was no need for Kit and Ace’s approach to technical wear.
        4. The rollout was much too fast. And apparel wars are never won by speed; they are won by superiority and longevity.
        5. The gray / white / black tops were so distinctive that matching them with non-K&A apparel was very difficult for early adopters.

By 2PM Reader: LeanLuxe:

As we’ve already covered here at Lean Luxe, even the most ambitious modern luxury firms, Warby Parker and Everlane, to take two examples, are fully focused on building out their North American retail presence first. But even Neil Blumenthal et al understand that too many stores too quickly poses a huge risk. Warby Parker has 37 stores in the US and Toronto to Kit and Ace’s 60 worldwide. (Plus, many of Warby Parker’s are shops within preexisting boutiques, rather than stand alone Warby Parker stores.) Everlane, fanatically focused on online sales, just opened its first location this summer, having been firmly opposed to opening any permanent bricks-and-mortars up to that point. Both Everlane and Warby Parker will celebrate their seventh anniversaries in 2017. Nearly a decade old, they’ve taken a gradual, methodical approach to physical retail. So it’s odd that at just two years old, Kit and Ace has felt the need to do the opposite, especially given the proven power of online sales.

See more of the issue here.

Issue No. 131: An uncool move by Nike?

Last Word: It’s not cool if you call it “cool.”

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BRAND: Let’s face it, Nike’s latest experiment the HyperAdapt shoe (self-lacing shoes) is a emitting early signs of perceived failure. The design of the shoe would be panned if technology wasn’t the draw and on certain blogs, that is the case. In one four minute ad (featured on WIRED) we hear the following words: “changes the game” (1), “amazing” (1), “the future” (1), “cool” (2). It marks the first time in a long while where Nike has had to talk about the shoe to sell it. The brand’s modus operandi has always been to sell culture or the bigger picture, the shoe itself was often secondary. This is the Apple Watch of shoes but on the brighter side – they’ll sale quite a bit of them, regardless.

See more of the issue here.

Issue No. 37: The World’s Most Valuable Brands

LAST WORD: AN APOLITICAL LOOK AT DEMOGRAPHIC DATA

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As the general election heats up, so will digital marketing spend. Every four years, brands tune into political campaign seasonal data to reengage brand loyalists or to harvest new brand ambassadors. With the data available to brands and media outlets, we will see a summer ’16 spike in targeting based upon our location, political affiliation, and our estimated median household income.

Here is a look at home the median household income stacks up by candidate and how terms like: working class, middle class, and upwardly mobile are being redefined by political affiliations.

via FiveThirtyEight

But the definition of “working class” and similar terms is fuzzy, and narratives like these risk obscuring an important and perhaps counterintuitive fact about Trump’s voters: As compared with most Americans, Trump’s voters are better off. The median household income of a Trump voter so far in the primaries is about $72,000, based on estimates derived from exit polls and Census Bureau data. That’s lower than the $91,000 median for Kasich voters. But it’s well above the national median household income of about $56,000. It’s also higher than the median income for Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders supporters, which is around $61,000 for both.

Several party apolitical inferences can be considered here. I’d love to hear your thoughts by tweeting them to @2pmlinks.

See more of the issue here.