High-end retailers are more likely to retouch images for e-commerce

If you’ve ever ordered something online and it arrived looking completely different, you are not alone. And, this is especially true if you’ve ordered from a high-end retailer like Net-A-Porter.

“In addition to Photoshopping their models, retailers Photoshop their clothes, too,” according to Galore. “At least Net-A-Porter does.”

On March 8, “Net-A-Porter accidentally uploaded a photo of a puffy coat with retouching notes on their website,” Galore continues.

[source: Cosmo]
According to the notes, the puffy coat was too puffy; “Please slim” was written with four arrows pointing towards different problem areas on the garment.

“A few hours later, Net-A-Porter realized [its] mistake and switched out the picture, but by then it was too late.”

Net-A-Porter replaced the marked-up image with a similar one; this time, however, the notes were removed and there was no apparent retouching, according to Cosmo.

“We post images that accurately represent the garments so that customers receive the product they expect,” Net-A-Porter told Cosmo in response to the incident. “This image was uploaded to our product page in error and the notes refer exclusively to the garments.”

[source: Cosmo]
It makes you wonder, if a luxury retailer like Net-A-Porter can get away with photoshopping garments that cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, what are fast fashion retailers getting away with?

But, according to Marine Michel, a former a professional retoucher for a German luxury retailer similar to Net-A-Porter, high-end retailers use photoshop much more often than their low-end counterparts.

“[Low-end retailers] do it way less…I notice these things now when I go on [the] online shops,” Michel tells Galore.

“In the UK we have Boohoo, which is quite cheap, and it doesn’t look that retouched…Maybe a little bit of skin retouching, but [it is] very finely done. The same [is true] for H&M; it’s not that bad. But when you go to luxury retailers, then you realize how much they do it.”

So, what exactly do these high-end e-commerce sites retouch?

According to Michel, it is everything from stains to stitches to zippers.

“[Retouchers make] the clothes look a little better quality and [they make] the fabric look nicer…Sometimes you have this fabric cloth where you can immediately see through it from shitty online shops,” Michel continues.

“When the girl is wearing a dress and she has her legs slightly apart and you can see through the dress, you know [it] is a bad polyester fabric. Well, we would color it in so it would look like nice heavy material.”

“I mean the dress might cost 500 bucks, but it’s still shit quality, that doesn’t change anything. But we gotta sell it, so we gotta make it look good.”

Boohoo does not attempt to hide that this 100 percent viscose dress, embroidered with 100 percent polyester, is see-through, $28 [source: Boohoo]
Certainly, there is some level of unethical behavior at play here, but are these practices legal? I spoke with Sophia Bagienski-Mangual, sales manager of a small clothing company and Fashion Institute of Technology alumna, to uncover the truth.

“Photographers definitely touch the photos up big time,” Bagienski-Mangual says. Special, more flattering lighting also plays a large role in the images e-commerce websites use, she says, however, her company no longer advertises.

“When we did shoot some of our styles, we pinched them from the back to make them fit the models better. As far as better fabrics, it would depend on the item itself. If it were a polyester blend, we would [photograph] silk or another high-end fabric.”

As long as the retailers do not claim to sell garments made of silk or other luxury fabrics, they are in the clear. That is, the items’ descriptions on e-commerce sites must clearly state what exactly the customers receive when they order a garment, even if the images themselves do not match the fabric compositions listed.

“We knock-off styles all the time from high end lines; we just pick less expensive fabrics,” Bagienski-Mangual adds.

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Retail giant Target to expand fashion departments, technology in 2017

Over the next three years Target Corp. will spend $7 billion to renovate more than 600 stores, according to WWD.

“[The stores] will look and function differently. They’ll be reconfigured with more space for fashion storytelling and table settings in home. They’ll be digitally connected,” the retail giant’s chairman and chief executive officer Brian Cornell tells WWD.

“Order pickup and bridal registry in 2018 will touch 250 stores — 600 by 2019, and that’s just the beginning.”

Target shoppers on Black Friday, 2016 [source: Target Corporate]
The renovations come on the heels of a “weak quarter,” according to KSTP.

During the past quarter, which includes the holiday season, Target’s profit fell 43 percent “with strong online sales failing to offset weakening business at its stores,” according to KSTP.

“Target’s stock tumbled more than 12 percent and rattled Wall Street, as shares in Walmart, Macy’s and other retailers fell as well.”

Cornell also tells WWD 2016 “was not our best year,” and explains that, not only will the corporation spend $7 billion on a capital investment program to combat fallen profits, it will also “sacrifice $1 billion in annual operating profit this year to grow sales faster and capture market share against better-performing rivals such as Walmart Stores Inc., as well as off-pricers such as TJ Maxx.”

Children wearing Cat & Jack, a successful new brand by Target [source: Target Corporate]
The investments in part will go towards the launch of 12 brands within the next two years, according to WWD, that will represent more than $10 billion of Target’s sales. This is thanks to the success of Cat & Jack, a new children’s brand, that is expected to produce $1 billion in sales in 2017.

“The majority will be in Target’s home and fashion categories, which represent $26 billion in combined sales,” according to WWD.

When deciding which brands to launch, Cornell explains to WWD that the corporation really listened to consumer wants and needs.

“In some cases, it will be a new branch or a relaunch of an existing brand,” Cornell tells WWD.

“The consumer told us that some of our brands have gotten a little tired and a little bit old. We’ll go from a series of labels to a collection of brands. We now have a portfolio with a lot of labels but very few brands.”

On Monday, March 6, Target’s stock closed at $56.11, falling over 16 percent from the week before. Despite this downward trend, Cornell asks shareholders to “make an investment to build a strong company for the future,” according to WWD.

“Our goal today is to demonstrate that the investments we’re making are the right decisions for the long term.”

Inside Target’s small format store at Packard’s Corner near Boston University [source: Arrowstreet]

Though Target’s net earnings for the fourth quarter, which ended January 28, “plummeted 42.7 percent to $817 million from $1.4 billion a year earlier” and “sales for the three months declined 4.3 percent to $20.69 billion,” leaving the company with “an earnings drop of 18.6 percent for the full year, to $2.74 billion, on a sales decline of 5.4 percent, to $20.6 billion,” according to WWD, it found great success in their 32 small format stores.

Cornell tells WWD that “units sales per square foot are higher than average,” and because of this, “Target is ramping up the rollout with 30 new units this year with a goal of 100 set for 2020.”

Outside a small format Target store [source: Arrowstreet]

While all 1,800 of Target’s stores “are within 10 miles of 85 percent of customers,” according to WWD, Cornell insists that the small format stores “expand the corporation’s footprint in in key urban areas and college campuses” in part because they are “customized for each community,” as opposed to the typical, full-line stores.

“In the last six months we’ve opened stores in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn. You can expect to see more and more,” Cornell tells WWD.

“It’s time to accelerate this new format.”

When it comes to full-line stores, however, it is quality over quantity. Instead of opening in new locations, the corporation hopes to renovate “old and tired” stores that have not been updated in 10 years, according to WWD.

“Our supply chain has been a major focus,” Cornell tells WWD.

“We’re slow and we have too much inventory. We’re changing how we move product…We’ll operate with less inventory, less working capital and better shelf availability.”

Cathy Smith, Target Corp.’s executive vice president and chief financial officer, tells WWD the corporation “expects a low- to mid-single-digit decline in comparable sales and earnings per share of 80 cents to $1.” Smith also predicts earnings per share (EPS) of $3.80 to $4.20 in 2017.

“We’re positioned to deliver superior Return On Invested Capital over time,” Smith tells WWD. “Let me be clear, this will be a multiyear, multiphase program.”

Notoriously aloof CÉLINE joins Instagram, announces plans to launch e-commerce

After 70 years of being one of the most aloof high fashion brands, Paris-based CÉLINE created an official Instagram account (@celine) and announced plans to launch an e-commerce branch on its official website, according to The Fashion Law.

[source: The Fashion Law]
“Despite being one of the most influential (and highly copied) fashion brands on the market, under the direction of Phoebe Philo, Céline has maintained a low profile in terms of its retail footprint and distribution chain,” writes The Fashion Law.

“Moreover, it has traditionally eschewed most digital channels, making it one of the new brands lacking a social media presence and a website without e-commerce capabilities–until recently, that is. The brand launched an official Instagram account this week.”

These big changes come on the heels of another big change at CÉLINE; namely, the appointment of the company’s new CEO Séverine Merle, who will take office April 1. CÉLINE is one of the final LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton-owned house to launch an online store, following other big names such as Louis Vuitton, Fendi and Sephora, who have made significant sales via e-commerce.

CÉLINE ad campaign Spring 2017 [source: celine.com]
“Even if luxury purchases are not made online, the presence of an e-commerce strategy is essential, as more than 60 percent of luxury goods purchases, online or in-store, depend on what customers see on the web,” according to The Fashion Law.

As of February 28, CÉLINE amassed 56,700 Instagram followers and posted nine images in a few short days. Images include seven up-close shots of its Spring and Summer 2017 collections, as well as an apparent shot of a horse’s leg and one of an earthy lamppost captioned “Lamppost.”

“With the desirability created by Philo beginning in 2008, Céline’s sales are up and so, to meet demand, it has slowly moved to expand its retail network,” The Fashion Law writes.

“In September 2014, the brand opened its second brick-and-mortar store in New York – in Soho – the other New York location being uptown on Madison Avenue. This second New York store brought the total number of Céline stores in the U.S. to five (other locations include Bal Harbor, Las Vegas, and Beverly Hills).”

Pierre-Yves Roussel, Chairman and CEO of LVMH Fashion Group, insists CÉLINE’s e-commerce launch is crucial for showing “the breadth and depth of the collection,” according to British Vogue.

“We want to be very product-focused. It’s always been the motto of creative director Phoebe Philo since the very beginning,” Roussel continues.

Interestingly enough, Roussel is currently “filling the breach at CÉLINE since [former CEO Marco Gobbetti’s] departure” until Merle’s arrival at the company in April.

Gobbetti left the French fashion house last July after eight years. He is now poised to become Burberry’s next CEO, according to Business of Fashion; he will take the title from Christopher Bailey, who will in turn become the London-based luxury brand’s chief creative officer and president.

“Merle joins [CÉLINE] from another of LVMH’s labels, menswear brand Berluti, where she is currently executive vice president,” according to WWD.

Merle poses alongside Louis Vuitton luggage [source: Madame Figaro]
The Paris-based businesswoman also held previous positions at Kenzo and Louis Vuitton, according to her LinkedIn profile, two other LVMH brands.

Her prior experience makes her a promising authority to oversee the company’s first e-commerce endeavor.

Chris Morton, chief executive of Lyst.com, a multi-brand online luxury retailer in which LVMH chairman Bernard Arnault’s family investment company has a small stake, told The Fashion Law the following:

“A luxury brand that avoids the Internet is effectively refusing to engage with its customers where they are increasingly spending time and money. It is not listening to what its customers want, which is dangerous in any consumer-facing industry.”

Simply put, it would be in CÉLINE’s best interest to not ignore its customers in favor of maintaining its traditionally cool, distant ways. The brand’s customers are now online, so the brand itself should be more accessible via new media platforms, as well.