January 2020

Every month Embodee summarizes and analyzes key developments and trends in the apparel and footwear industries, including the latest news about online product customization and personalization technology. Our goal: help you stay informed, save time, and sell more! Sign up to stay in the know. Unsubscribe anytime. 

Many happy returns: the downside of booming e-commerce
                    (Photo courtesy of UPS)

As U.S. online purchases continue to climb, especially during the holidays, so do returns. UPS was expected to handle 1.9 million returns on Jan. 2, now known as "National Returns Day." That’s an increase of 26% from a year ago. An NRF survey estimated that shoppers annually return 10% of shipped packages, costing retailers $369 billion in lost sales. Apparel is the biggest culprit — in some categories the return rate is 50%. However, ease of returns is a big motivator for shoppers when they decide to buy and whether to buy again from a particular retailer. Reuters has more details, including how startups are tackling the returns problem.

Mobile web browsing ruled holiday shopping
How people shop online during the holiday season always produces statistics galore, usually focusing on dollars spent. Instead, this accounting hones in on the connected devices consumers used to shop from Nov. 15-Dec. 24 — and how. Most striking: the gains of mobile devices versus desktop computers. For example, 68% of retail website traffic came via phones, while shopping on desktops fell 6%, according to Contentsquare. The findings also prove the allure of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Online cart values averaged $166.43 those days, 10% higher than the average throughout the holiday shopping season.

Web of fraud: the complex smuggling of fake sneakers
Have you bought counterfeit sneakers? Would you even know if your money has contributed to this $450 billion illicit market? We don’t have the answers, but GQ magazine takes us deep  into the criminal and conspiratorial world of fake sneaker smuggling, courtesy of a federal complaint unsealed last month. Among the basic facts: 22, 40-foot shipping containers sent from China by sea to U.S. ports from 2012 to 2016, fake manifests, burner phones, a “web of fraud, and a network of complicit retailers and interlocutors…” The screenplay-worthy saga illustrates the complexity and depth of a vexing and very costly problem. Read the full story.

Where are the world’s best fashion schools?

            Savannah College of Art and Design campus (Photo courtesy of SCAD Photography)

Immersed in fashion, we look forward every year to Fashionista’s list of top fashion schools in the world. This marks the first time the 25 schools weren't ranked numerically since the list debuted in 2010. Instead they’re listed alphabetically. Why? Fashionista says each school has strengths and weaknesses, but all are top-notch. “We prefer to think of this as a more of a helpful guide for students than a sweeping declaration that one of these schools is unequivocally better than another.” The U.S. is home to 14 and Europe 10. The other is in Israel. Here's the list, including links to details about each school.

Booming secondhand clothes market headed higher
Direct-to-consumer startups and their Gen Z and millennial shoppers have fueled the soaring sales of previously worn apparel and footwear. Now, some traditional retailers want in on the action, leading to a forecast that the $24 billion market will soar to $51 billion by 2023. Foot Locker and Neiman Marcus are among prominent brands tapping into the trend via investments in some of the sector’s pioneering online-only retailers. Another sign of rapid growth: from 2017 to 2018, the number of women buying secondhand soared from 44 million to 56 million. Fast Company has more.

Japan emerges as growth market for sneaker brands
Long a cultural inspiration for streetwear designers, Japan looks increasingly attractive to sneaker brands as fertile ground for growth. Nike and Adidas, already benefiting from the country’s love of sneakers — both for style and running, have expressed interest in expanding their presence. Annual apparel sales of $66 billion have been flat for several years, while sneaker sales grew from $1.3 billion to $1.6 billion from 2014 to 2016. Sneakers accounted for the largest share of footwear sales at 30%. Learn more at Glossy.
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