New York Fashion Tech Lab Connects Retail to Crucial Innovations

Amazon is fundamentally disrupting how and where we shop, but in-store retail still has life in it.

The Seattle e-commerce giant is “a hefty competitor, but that doesn’t mean brands and retailers don’t have the ability to fight back,” says Kay Koplovitz, co-founder and managing partner of Springboard Growth Capital in New York.

In fact, she points out that, as of last year, online retail sales made up only 13 percent of total sales, according to data from the U.S. Commerce Department. “There is still plenty of heft in traditional retailers,” she says.

Still, Koplovitz concedes that, to continue to thrive, retailers and brands must be smarter and faster in adopting new technological tools that will enable them to stay relevant in a fast-changing e-commerce environment. (While online sales are a relatively small fraction of total sales, the category represents nearly half of the total growth in retail spending in 2017.)

Koplovitz has a front seat to these changes as co-founder of the New York Fashion Tech Lab, a Springboard program that helps retail tech startups connect with industry. The program—don’t call it an accelerator, she says (more on this later)—last week graduated its fifth class of startups. Springboard focuses on supporting women entrepreneurs, and all startups in the Fashion Tech Lab classes have at least one woman among the founding team, Koplovitz adds.

“Retailers are now asking for specific technologies that they feel they lack, and the startups are marrying that up with needs of retailers and fashion brands,” she says.

As she guides innovators aiming to work with the retail industry, Koplovitz draws on a long track record in media and retail, two industries that have been profoundly changed by technology. She was the founder, chairman, and CEO of USA Networks and a board member of Liz Claiborne/Kate Spade & Company and publishing company Time Inc.

Right now, the “holy grail” is to use artificial intelligence and visual search technologies to find the shoppers who want their products. For example, Google’s Lens blends augmented and virtual reality with camera and search technologies, which allows a user to take a picture of, say, a dress or pair of shoes someone is wearing and find out … Next Page »

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