The Future of Fashion Retail: Fraser Harper

Fraser Harper of LNCC

Portrait: Carlo Ninchi for Fashion We Like // Store images courtesy of LN-CC

LN-CC secular space

What are the key ideas behind LN-CC that make it 'a progressive retail concept'?

LN-CC was born from our own progressive mindsets in our desire to move retail forward. We had become very un-stimulated of retail, in general, at that time. So we decided to launch LN-CC to satisfy a more discerning consumer. We believe that everything, from the store design, store experience, brands, buying philosophy to product’s mix, is a very progressive expression.

The recent renovation of the store in Dalston introduced, among other features, a private in-store bar called the Chameleon Sound Space. What kind of events are you going to host there, and are those events an important part of your company's culture?

We have hosted numerous events at LN-CC since we launched almost three years ago — may they be exhibition launches, book launches, or music events. We have been fortunate to work on projects with some of the world’s most renowned artists and musicians such as Phil Manzanera (Roxy Music), DJ Harvey, or Joe Claussell. This is reflective of our culture as it is born out of our love for that particular artist or musician.

According to American entrepreneur and investor Marc Andreessen, "€œRetail guys are going to go out of business, and ecommerce will become the place everyone buys. You are not going to have a choice".€ Do you agree with this notion and if so, why?

I agree with the top-line notion in that I think the shift will mean that the majority of retail sales will be done online, but I don’t think you can generalise the whole retail sector. One way of moving retail forward is by developing the environment and creating something that is worth visiting and that has never been done before. You also have to consider that, if you achieve this, the press and word-of-mouth generated will increase your online business also. The store has been our biggest asset in terms of awareness and, therefore, has increased our overall sales number dramatically. If you can do physical retail well and in an interesting format, I think having both physical and online is the best way.

LN-CC Chameleon

As ecommerce continues to grow, how do you see physical retail spaces responding to this challenge? Do they need to focus more on creating concepts and offering a richer in-store experience?

I think the physical retail spaces need to embrace the internet. Either they create a multi-channel retail environment which compliments their physical space, or they embrace the internet in other ways to better interact with their customer base from a community or acquisition perspective.

In which aspects of business is your company choosing to invest right now? Is your physical store, along with the concept behind it, more important than your online presence?

We always have and always will continue to treat the store and the site as equals irrespective of how much they turn over, seeing as we would never want one to be the poor relation to the other. They both do things that the other can’t do, so it’s imperative that they are both running at their optimum.

How does social media influence the way people interact when it comes to shopping? For example, do you believe that Facebook or Pinterest could offer an integrated shopping experience?

Social media is fast becoming a key influencer in consumer shopping activities, and platforms such as Facebook, Weibo, Naver, and Pinterest are having an increasing impact on our traffic and sales. It is difficult to see how they could offer a truly integrated experience for a specific brand or retailer given the widespread nature of the conversations on these platforms.

Currently, quite a few online fashion retailers are focusing on quality content. How important is content to you, and how is it affecting the world of fashion ecommerce?

Content is critical to our business. The core concept of our business is “interesting the interested.” We buy interesting product and we present it in interesting ways and we achieve astonishing results. Since launching our business two and a half years ago we have been featured on more than 13,000 global digital media sites. Depending on whom you are and what you’re into will depend on whether you think the content being generated is quality or not. Content is only good if you are creating content that is really relevant to your audience and this can only be judged if they respond positively to it.

LN-CC Store

Chuck Townsend of Condé Nast was quoted as saying in the WSJ: "My eyes are wide open. I don'€™t consider [the traditional ad-revenue model] to be a perennially sustainable stream of revenue". We see brands becoming publishers and publishers stepping into retail sales (for example, Telegraph's œFashionShop). Is this the beginning of a new era for these industries? How do you see the relationship between media and retailers developing in the future?

I think that the space is definitely changing and evolving and it’s fascinating to see retailers trying to become creators of content and also for media players entering the retail space. LN-CC has rarely spent any money on advertising because it has a strong belief in its concept, and we have always held the belief that in order to get featured in the media you need to either pay or be great or interesting or both. Our business model has been created on the basis of being interesting, and this has so far delivered us consistent and sustainable media results. Nothing of course is guaranteed and we need to consistently monitor new online behaviours and react appropriately.

Collaborative consumption, personalised recommendations, social shopping. Are there any online trends that have the potential to disrupt fashion right now? Where would you choose to invest if you had to?

Yes there are. Small companies that are doing what they do for the right reasons and not trying to make cash are the places to invest your money now. These will be the most successful if nurtured properly and will resonate with people who actually know what’s happening in the market place rather than those who think they do. The one company that I really admire at the moment is Business of Fashion as they continue to relay real news and real issues even if they are close to the bone or really create a backlash or reaction, and they are continuing to grow and continue to get investment. Hats off to them.

What is fashion shopping going to be like in the near future?

I don’t think there will be too many dramatic changes in the near future; all of the existing channels and strategies will each evolve in a natural way for this period of time. We live in a fast-moving global environment, and my belief is that the seasonal model is outdated and not relevant for our period. I believe the largest and most significant change will be when the brands abolish seasons and speculatively produce monthly collections and distribute them via multi channels to their global retail and consumer base.

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