Need to Know
31 : 10 : 18

Luxury garments land at the office, Uniqlo offers a glimpse into its automated warehouse and the opportunity for ethical ready meals.

Rent the Runway enters the co-working space

Rent the Runway drop-off service at WeWork, US Rent the Runway drop-off service at WeWork, US
Rent the Runway drop-off service at WeWork, US Rent the Runway drop-off service at WeWork, US
Rent the Runway drop-off service at WeWork, US Rent the Runway drop-off service at WeWork, US
Rent the Runway drop-off service at WeWork, US Rent the Runway drop-off service at WeWork, US

US – The luxury fashion rental service is installing drop-off boxes at WeWork offices for customers to return borrowed items.

As the first step in a broader partnership, the drop-off boxes will also allow WeWork members to hire new clothing and accessories via a tablet connected to the Rent the Runway website. The service is primarily aimed at those who subscribe to its monthly subscription plans. Normally, these customers would return items in the mail, which can slow down turnaround times for other renters.

The company also plans to open a series of clothing rental pop-ups at select WeWork locations. ‘We knew there was a demand for creating these drop boxes in other convenient locations,’ Maureen Sullivan, COO at Rent the Runway, told CNBC. ‘There is a massive opportunity to not only grow our drop-box network… but also to grow mini-stores within WeWork.’

There is rising demand for Office Stores, as brands recognise that the workplace can be a profitable retail opportunity.

Dunkin’ Donuts builds a home powered by coffee

Dunkin’ Donuts microhome by New Frontier Tiny Homes, US Dunkin’ Donuts microhome by New Frontier Tiny Homes, US
Dunkin’ Donuts microhome by New Frontier Tiny Homes, US Dunkin’ Donuts microhome by New Frontier Tiny Homes, US

US – The chain has worked with New Frontier Tiny Homes to create a microhome that runs on biofuel made with discarded coffee grounds.

The Home That Runs on Dunkin’ is a fully functioning house featuring a kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and jacuzzi, which shows how coffee waste can be used as an energy source. The fuel that powers the home’s generator is a biofuel blend, using 80% coffee oil extracted from spent grounds. It provides enough energy to run a washer-dryer, air conditioning, a fridge and lighting.

The space was initially located in New York’s Madison Square Park, with consumers now able to rent it on Airbnb for £10 ($13, €11.50) a night. While the tiny home is a one-off, the project demonstrates the opportunity for coffee brands to move beyond their wasteful practices to create a powerful and sustainable source of energy.

Last year Transport for London announced that it will use coffee grounds to power some of the city’s buses.

Uniqlo replaces warehouse staff with robots

Tokyo – A video released by the brand offers a glimpse into an automated packing space once staffed by people.

Uniqlo has just finished transforming one of its warehouses in Tokyo’s Ariake district, where robots have been given the role of inspecting and sorting its products. These automated workers have been so successful that 90% of the warehouse’s human staff have now been replaced by machines. In the video, robots are seen reading electronic tags, confirming stock numbers and packing items.

This level of automation could soon be the reality for every one of Uniqlo’s warehouses, as its parent company Fast Retailing plans to invest £690m (¥100bn, $882m, €779m) in converting its warehouses around the world.

Automation in the workplace remains a controversial prospect, with 44% of jobs in the UK retail sector expected to be at risk of automation by the early 2030s, according to PwC. For more on how robots are making their mark in retail, read our microtrend Grocery AI-sles.

Uniqlo automated packing space, Tokyo Uniqlo automated packing space, Tokyo

Singapore’s frictionless grocery store and dining concept

habitat by honestbee, Singapore

Singapore – habitat by honestbee is a technology-enabled supermarket, restaurant and retail innovation lab.

The store was created by honestbee, an online marketplace offering grocery delivery services. Shoppers can browse habitat’s fresh produce and open-plan supermarket before depositing their loaded trolleys at an AutoCheckout station, where their items are automatically scanned, packed away and payment is taken. In the meantime, shoppers can explore the store’s 15 dining concepts, which include an oyster bar, speakeasy and charcuterie counter.

For those in a rush, honestbee’s app allows customers with 10 items or less to Scan & Go, skipping the checkout process. The space can also be used as an innovation lab to test new technology and dining concepts.

Since Amazon introduced its just-walk-out retail technology in 2016, retailers have been racing to implement sophisticated checkout processes that cater for time-pressed consumers.

Stat: Brands are missing an ethical meat opportunity

Although younger generations are increasingly concerned about animal welfare, Mintel has identified a distinct lack of ready meals offering ethically sourced meat. According to the company’s Global New Products Database, just 3% of prepared meals globally had an ethical food claim in September 2018, up only slightly from 2013–2014.

Mintel notes how brands are introducing meat-free and vegan recipes, instead of focusing on the opportunity for ethical meat options. ‘Despite concerns over animal welfare, many consumers find it hard to completely abstain from meat, highlighting untapped opportunities in the category for brands to incorporate meat with higher welfare standards,’ says food and drinks analyst Ayisha Koyenikan.

Among a universal shift towards sustainability, consumers are increasingly taking a more educated approach to their eating habits.

Thought-starter: Will the everyday man buy cosmetics?

Michael Sheridan, founder of retail design agency Sheridan&Co, says the men’s beauty sector is ripe for growth, but first it must address the everyday man.

Where women’s cosmetics have focused heavily on the tenets of beautification, modern men’s cosmetics have – to date – focused on subtle enhancement, correction and refinement; a ‘barely there’ aesthetic that complemented rather than masked the face.

But perhaps the time has come for men to reclaim the act of wearing make-up, albeit in a truly modern way – one that allows them to look the best possible version of themselves, without fear of judgement or stigmatisation. Of course, this is just the start of the journey, and while the male grooming and cosmetics market is unlikely to overtake the women’s market any time soon, the sector is clearly on an upwards trajectory.

Brand language must be carefully balanced. Terms like ‘guyliner’ have a lot to answer for in terms of putting ordinary men off cosmetic experimentation. Instead, functionality and transparency must sit at the forefront of brand communications, with language that is clear and unfussy in order to have impact.

Read Michael Sheridan’s full Opinion piece here.

The Y Code, a men’s beauty brand concept by Sheridan&Co The Y Code, a concept men’s beauty brand by Sheridan&Co

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