Need to Know
03 : 11 : 17

03.11.2017 Health : Media : Retail

In today’s daily digest: The New York Times embraces the dark web, Debenhams becomes a fitness destination, UBS tackles gender pay gap and other top stories.

1. Boiler Room AI remixes human voices to create music

Pixel Records by Boiler Room and Google Pixel, Berlin Pixel Records by Boiler Room and Google Pixel, Berlin
Pixel Records by Boiler Room and Google Pixel, Berlin Pixel Records by Boiler Room and Google Pixel, Berlin
Pixel Records by Boiler Room and Google Pixel, Berlin Pixel Records by Boiler Room and Google Pixel, Berlin
Pixel Records by Boiler Room and Google Pixel, Berlin Pixel Records by Boiler Room and Google Pixel, Berlin

Berlin – Boiler Room has collaborated with Google Pixel 2 to launch Pixel Records a fictional ‘[record] label from the future, built by state-of-the-art machine intelligence’. Visitors to the label website are can submit a voice recording, which is remixed by Google Magenta, a real-time operating system developed by Google to explore whether machine learning can create ‘compelling art and music’.

The results are showcased online and were also presented at a ‘sci-fi super mall in Berlin’ on 2 November. Read our Cracking Creativity opinion for more on the capacity of artificial intelligence (AI) to think creatively.

2. The New York Times hits dark web to combat censors

The New York Times on Tor Onion The New York Times on Tor Onion

Global – To help its international readership circumvent censorship, the New York Times has launched a Tor Onion service that will aid access in countries with restrictions on freedom of speech. While the dark web is often associated with nefarious activity, research by Terbium Labs shows that less than half of dark web activity is illegal.

In an online statement, The New York Times explained that it is committed to making independent journalism available to all without the fear of monitoring and repercussions. ‘This is why we are exploring ways to improve the experience of readers who use Tor to access our website,’ the statement reads. This is in line with the rise of a new mindset among consumers that will come to define the consumer landscape in the next decade, where people increasingly seek digital and physical safe spaces.

3. Debenhams boosts fitness with in-store gyms

UK ­– Multinational retailer Debenhams has collaborated with low-cost fitness club Sweat! to add a gym offer to three of its department stores. The gyms will feature studios for spinning and aerobics, as well as free weights and Technogym equipment. Part of the retailer’s new strategy to make its stores a destination for social shopping, the gym spaces will also feature health and lifestyle products.

Some 55% of Sweat!’s customer base is female, something Debenhams is aiming to capitalise on with cross-marketing initiatives, including enrolling members into the Debenhams Beauty Club. While Debenhams is not the first retailer to introduce a fitness offering, the project reflects a shift towards a more accessible mainstream offering.

See our Destination Retail market for more on how retailers are creating experience-driven spaces.

Sweat!, UK Sweat!, UK

4. Project Equinox is a catalyst for future fitness trends

Project by Equinox, New York Project by Equinox, New York
Project by Equinox, New York Project by Equinox, New York
Project by Equinox, New York Project by Equinox, New York

New York – Equinox has launched a talent incubator to develop and refine new gym class offerings and training methods. The fitness brand has enlisted trainers across a range of disciplines to conduct experimental classes, and will help them to build their own brands.

Project Equinox has delivered new concepts such as Namaste Strong, a form of yoga that concentrates on strength and focus, and Babes and Bands, a workout that targets exercisers’ gluteal muscles using resistance bands. With each session costing £27 ($35, €30), the concept is proving popular among fitness influencers and early adopters. The incubator model, which has found success in the athleisure market, is set to transform the health and wellness sector.

5. UBS report explores the US gender pay gap

A new report by financial services company UBS examines the discrepancies between men and women’s finances, and offers a series of practical steps to help women increase their wealth.The report uses a fictional couple to highlight the issues women face throughout their working lives, and explains how the gap can be overcome ‘by making the right investment decisions’. For more on how brands can nurture their female workforce, download our free Female Futures Report 2017 here.

6. Thought-starter: Will drop culture save department stores?

As department store sales continue to fall, journalist Josh Walker explores whether product drop culture will save them.

It’s been well documented that department stores are struggling. According to a survey by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), department stores were hit hardest amid the ‘steep drop in retail sales in October 2017’, and US department store sales fell from £66bn ($87bn, €74bn) in 2005 to £45bn ($60bn, €bn) in 2015, according to the US Department of Commerce.

Barneys New York hosted a two-day retail event in partnership with Highsnobiety in October. More than 80 brands were featured and 30 exclusive capsule collections were launched, and designers took part in Q&A sessions and signings.

Thedrop@barneys marks an interesting shift in retail, where department stores are increasingly tapping into the hysteria or ‘hype’ generated by product drop culture. But while this strategy is great for getting mentions on social media and bringing new customers into your store, there’s no denying that its success is based on selling limited amounts of product. It’s restrictive, niche and not optimised for the mass market.

If department stores want to truly capitalise on the hype surrounding product drop culture they shouldn’t just use it to shift products, they should also use it as a tool to understand a new kind of buying power with the potential to pull them back from the brink.

Read the full Opinion here.

Thedrop@barneys by Highsnobiety and Barneys. Photography by BFA