two women smiling and shopping in the winter

You might think that the holiday season is the most important time of year to impress your customers and encourage sales, but you should be striving to keep your stores ahead of the game all year long. Now that the holiday shopping season is over, it’s a great time to evaluate your stores and look for new ways to improve so you can draw in new and returning customers. One of the best ways to move forward is to be aware of everything happening in the industry, so you can learn from similar retailers and move above and beyond your competition. At SPAR, we love everything to do with retail, and we keep an eye on retail news all throughout the year. Keep reading to learn more about some interesting retail news stories that have been trending lately!

Gap Cancels Plans to Separate from Old Navy

It looks like plans have changed for Gap and Old Navy – although Gap had previously announced ambitious plans to spin off Old Navy into a standalone company, this move is no longer a reality. Gap cited the reason for the cancellation of the plan as the “cost and complexity” of splitting into two separate companies. Also included in the statement was the fact that the company feels that the separation would bring limited mobility in the creation of value that should come from the move. If the plan had been carried out, Old Navy would have expanded to add up to 800 stores, which would have been an interesting and strategic move considering its recent decline in sales. Gap Inc.’s former CEO also stepped down in November of 2019, which may have complicated plans for the separation. The company has stated that the plan moving forward will be to operate Gap in “a more rigorous and transformational manner,” which it believes will help not only Gap but its other brands, which include Old Navy, Athleta, and Banana Republic.

Payless Prepares for Potential Comeback

Payless ShoeSource was one of the most notable store shutdowns of 2019, but it looks like it may be making its return in 2020. The company entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February of last year, closing around 2,000 stores throughout North America. However, Payless stores in Latin America and elsewhere around the globe remained open, selling around 25 million pairs of shoes over the past year. In a recent news release, the brand announced that it has emerged from bankruptcy and is planning a comeback, which will include relaunching its ecommerce site and restarting its brick and mortar presence in the United States. Its new executive management team is behind the potential return, and newly-instated CEO Jared Margolis said that “we will implement a new comprehensive strategic plan to strengthen our relationship with our vendors and suppliers, support our global franchise partners and deepen the trust of our customers.”

David’s Bridal Goes Digital with AI Concierge

The wedding dress industry is growing rapidly in the U.S., and in order to stand out from its competition, David’s Bridal is placing its focus on creating a digital experience for customers. After emerging from bankruptcy around a year ago, the company has been zeroing in on in-store experience, since 90% of wedding dress sales occur in person rather than online. However, the brand is looking to merge an online experience with each customer’s in-store journey through its newly-created AI-powered concierge chatbot, called Zoey. Chatbots have gained popularity in the past few years because of their convenience, and David’s Bridal partnered with Apple Business Chat and messaging platform LivePerson to build out this new service. Future brides can use Zoey to book their appointment, place an order, or connect with a stylist to answer their questions. The service is available on most platforms, and creates a simple and efficient path between the customer and someone working in the store. Messaging on mobile devices accounts for over 50% of David’s Bridal’s contact center traffic, making this new chatbot a great opportunity for even more comprehensive digital engagement with customers.

SPAR’s Take

All three of the stories in this issue certainly have a unique twist. Frankly, we never understood why Gap would spin off its wildly successful Old Navy banner. Why go through the cost and effort when there is no compelling reason to do so – unless you were packaging it up for a sale? Evidently these discussions went high and wide – as the CEO is leaving the company now that the plans have changed. In the case of Payless – we simply cannot see a clear path back to retail and profitability for this chain. What has changed in the past 12 months that would indicate there is a gap to be filled or void left from when they closed their stores? Unless and until they can answer that question then there is no real reason to return – unless they have some other plan that hasn’t been disclosed. The David’s Bridal move into AI is an interesting one. AI has simply not found the success at retail that many had hoped for – perhaps this is the answer. Only time will tell

Achieve Your 2020 Retail Goals with Help from SPAR

At SPAR, we are passionate about all corners of retail, and we want to show you firsthand how much we care about your store’s success. We proudly offer a variety of comprehensive retail merchandising services, backed by years of dedication and experience. Whether your store needs help with assembly & installation, store sets and remodels, or programmatic services, SPAR has the resources you need to help you rise above in your industry. We take pride in our seamless execution no matter what type of project we are working on. To learn more about all we have to offer to your retail store in 2020 and beyond, please contact us today! We look forward to hearing from you.