WHY IS IKEA SWAPPING MEATBALLS FOR KIMCHI?

THAI SHOPPERS EMBRACE ECOMMERCE A whopping 22% of fashion is now bought online by Thai shoppers, and with Thai e-commerce growing to 12% of the population, good credit card penetration and a high standard of delivery services, it’s about time for UK fashion brands to start expanding to South East Asia. Just remember it’s all about ‘petite’ sizes (as I discovered on my hunt for a swimming costume in Thailand, where anything over size 8 is considered XXL. Thanks for the confidence boost guys).
MALL DESIGN AT ITS FINEST Planning your Shopping Mall in Europe? Pop over to Hong Kong, where mall design is like a military operation. IFC Mall on the Harbour was our favourite. The Apple Store was mobbed, but with Apple Pay on every desk, there were only minimal queues, as every employee can take payment anywhere in the store.  Also, every store in the mall delivers your shopping free to locations an hour’s travel away (mine arrived in 45 minutes) so no need to stagger around town with bags cramping your style.  Entirely integrated with transport links to the ferries, airport and rail, IFC Mall is placed opposite the harbour with its beautiful views of the hustle and bustle of the river traffic.  Surely we could squeeze in a London IFC Mall on the South Bank? 
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BEAUTY BOX OPENS IN SEOUL Burberry’s much-loved Beauty Box format makes it from our very own Covent Garden to Seoul.  You can virtually try different types of nail patterns before committing to a colour, admire catwalks on 95” screens and immerse yourself in a virtual-digital shoppingverse.  Tested first on Londoners and now landing in a larger scale in the biggest Asian market for cosmetics, Burberry’s concept includes a personalised monogrammed perfume bottle. Now, that is what I call “class act”.

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SOCIAL SHOPPING COMES OUT OF THE CLOZETTE  When not busy bitching about Uber, Singaporians are busy on social shopping sites. Young fashionistas post their Outfit of the Day on the Clozette app, then followers use the visual search facility to check which of the stores have similar items, so they can grab the garments online and recreate the outfit.  The power of social is visible from the scale of the following that the  ‘blogguettes’ have, so make sure your brand looks after your key bloggers (however diva-esque they may be!)

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TAXI APP IS UBER POINTLESS One man’s Uber is another man’s annoyance, as the taxi app is under attack in Singapore.  To fight Uber, the authorities sponsored the Taxi-Taxi@SG, an app that displays the location of available taxis. However, Taxi-Taxi does not actually allow you to make a booking!  Duh, back to the drawing board, and do invite someone who has actually used a taxi before to redesign the app for the 21st century.

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MEGA MALL GOES DIGITAL Strength in numbers as leading Thai e-com fashion and lifestyle brands join forces to create a big digital shopping mall under one website, OnlineSaleTH.com, for the holiday shopping season.  Well marketed on Instagram, @onlinesaleth and Facebook, the Thai e-com multi-brand collaboration is showing Europeans how it’s done. We loved MoxyST.com, as where else would you get an essential Mini Drone Rolling Spider? And they deliver to the UK. If you have to return your spider, the site lets you track the package all the way to the refund into your bank account. That is what I call a luxury service. Can we have that in the UK please?

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FACEBOOK FOR BEAUTYNISTAS? Beauty in Asia is a mega business, and VanityTrove.com  proves the explosion of social commerce in cosmetics. Backed by top Asian cosmetic brands but fiercely independent, it provides a style-sharing platform for a mad mixture of girls sharing their beauty tips, reviews and holiday snaps, and trying on a mind-boggling number of products and brands. Girls act as filters for each other, and can also see personalised product recommendations based on what is suitable for skin and colouring. Topshop Hongkong even runs its own beauty school and posts great make-up videos into VanityTrove – which could be a minefield with the wide mix of races and faces, so well done for the cosmopolitan take.  

IKEA SWAPS MEATBALLS FOR KIMCHI IN SEOUL The bricks-and-mortar brigade is landing near Seoul to create IKEA’s biggest store so far. As Koreans follow Europeans in the trend to live alone or in two person households (by 2020, 35% of households are forecast to be a one man or woman show) the brand is betting that its minimalist designs will appeal to young urbanites. IKEA has even localised its menu, with kimchi bibimbap instead of meatballs, and the furniture is petite to suit smaller apartments. E-com is tipped to follow shortly, to the delight of the no-car expats. The prices look a tad high (certainly higher than in Thailand) and nobody yet knows how to DIY, but the hammer-and-nails section looks fun. Welcome, Korea, to the art of reading an IKEA manual. Having put up a few shelves myself, I will be happy to provide a hotline for distressed shelf-builders.

TOUCHING TUNES Would you like to be able to touch your favourite song? Mariah Carey’s song “All I want for Xmas is You” has been visualised in 3D printing by Fanbiestudios.com. Get a sculpture of sound waves that create your favourite song from the Singapore-based designers. You can add your own colour and customise the depth of the sound valleys.  Neat! The city has already invested $500 million into nurturing this new technology, providing a mega Sillicon Roundabout for dozens of 3D printing start-ups. Now Mr Mayor, where is London’s £500m to match this sort of innovation support?

WHEN IN DOUBT, PASS THE E-SECURITY BUCKET Following the infamous Sony hack, Asian retailers are reconsidering their cyber security strategy, and many may be tempted to delegate the IT to ‘experts’. So far Cisco has volunteered to take on the role, starting in Hong Kong and offering a combination of e-security, logistics and Internet TV to merchants as a single platform. The retailer simply has to provide the product. As a brand is usually expressed by the way all those elements are presented, we think that if you unify them you will lose the unique experience, so we are not convinced.  But needs must, so maybe this is the way to go for us too, if cyber wars escalate beyond the current Sony spat.

CAN YOU HELP UNLOCK THE CITY? Finally our charity project – helping out people with sight impairments. With impaired vision, shopping and travelling is a nightmare, both online and off. Unlocking the City through sound is a new approach by Guide Dogs, Microsoft and Future Cities Catapult, who are developing a sound-driven set of tools that can guide people through their local high street and transport hubs. Watch this video and email me if your brand would like to help the pilot by making your stores more navigable for all.

WISHING YOU GREAT HOLIDAYS! These are the delicious dumplings Tangyuan that Chinese girls make for Winter Solistice, the Dong Zhi Festival (similar to Christmas Eve). Have a good break.