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Around the Web: Futuristic Production, the Influencer Bandwagon, Reducing Brick-and-Mortar Footprints

This week’s industry headlines discussed futuristic apparel manufacturing, how influencers are a valuable investment for apparel brands and why retailers are trimming their mall leases.

Footwear design and manufacturing is undergoing a high-tech makeover. According to Quartz, major sneaker brands, including Adidas and Nike, are investing in innovations, including 3-D image sketching and automation, to minimize time and costs associated with shoe production. Consumers may also benefit from these technologies, which will enable them to customize shoes and access models more conveniently.

(Related on SJ: Change is Here for Retail, So What’s Next?)

Kate Spade & Company is pioneering a better supply chain model that places workers first. A Georgetown University study, which was featured in The Huffington Post, found that Kate Spade’s handcrafted label, called On Purpuse, goes beyond just providing Rwandan artisans with fair wages. The study found that more than pay, Kate Spade’s model enabled artisans to work in a positive environment, learn more technical skills and benefit from better health.

(Related on SJ: The Present State of Supply Chains and What You’ll be Facing in the Future)

The push for automation has led the industry to contemplate what will happen to human garment workers. Motherboard explored how automation could potentially reduce the negative aspects of factory labor—unfair wages and unsafe environments, by enabling humans and technology to mutually benefit in the same space. Although this solution could take off, challenges remain, including onboarding factories to switch to robots and relying on consumers to make better purchasing decisions.

(Related on SJ: Report: Millions of US Retail Jobs at Risk Due to Automation-Or Are They?)

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Production costs are becoming a larger part of the consumer conversation. The New York Times analyzed how retailers, including Honest By and Noah, are engaging in price transparency to demonstrate how much goes into making a product, including materials, manufacturing, wages and transportation costs. With price transparency, consumers can understand what’s in the things they buy and consider building more sustainable wardrobes.

(Related on SJ: C&A Unveils First Cradle to Cradle Certified TM Gold Apparel)

Influencer partnerships remain key for the industry’s leading apparel retailers. Glossy reported how Kohl’s and Lauren Conrad, a television personality and designer, have established a strong brand for the retailer’s millennial shoppers. On June 7, Conrad and Kohl’s debuted a modern maternity collection, which is expected to help the retailer tap into today’s Gen Y demographic and ramp up its women’s clothing offerings.

(Related on SJ: RED App Rides Social Wave, Condé Nast Partners with Farfetch)

Free shipping has a dark side for retailers. The Wharton School noted that retailers will have to make up for costs associated with free shipping, since consumers today are more demanding and unwilling to pay for deliveries. Experts suggested that although retailers may find it challenging to scale back on free shipping, they could focus on building a more personalized experience to maintain consumer loyalty.

(Related on SJ: Inditex Sees Sales and Profits Rise, Spends More on Logistics)

While America’s mall demise continues, many retailers are reducing their brick-and-mortar footprint. The Chicago Tribune explained how a spike in bankruptcies has prompted retailers to evaluate their spaces and reduce their property leases. Although it’s projected that roughly 9,000 stores will shutter this year, major retailers, including Lululemon Athletica and Macy’s, are acting now to close stores and cut costs.

(Related on SJ: Report: Nordstrom Family Looking for Buyout Partner)

Apparel companies are coming together to protect the planet. Following President Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord, several brands, including Levi’s and Nike, pledged to We Are Still In, a petition to demonstrate that U.S. businesses are still committed to environmental practices. GQ discussed how 1,370 businesses signed the agreement and what clothing brands are doing to combat climate change.

(Related on SJ: A Second Life: The Companies Helping Brands Engage in Textile Recycling)