July issue out now

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is generating a lot of excitement at present – and while there is mounting anxiety about how it could develop in the future, its emergence is undeniably fascinating.

In retail, AI could transform the daily operations of independent retailers and suppliers – from crunching detailed reports in seconds to providing viable 24/7 customer service via a chatbot. For designers, it could even be used to create garments and collections based on buyers’ exact specifications.

Some fashion brands have already hit the ground running with AI. City Goddess, for example, has developed a new cutting-edge app that will offer stockists personalised trend suggestions, sales tips, smart product recommendations, styling advice and insights into social media trends. CEO Yathu Kanagaratnam says it will “revolutionise the operations of independent boutiques” and “bring
a new era of sales and profitability to the ever-evolving fashion industry” (read more on page 20).

Meanwhile, Sheffield brand Jessica Flinne Fine Jewellery is also using AI in some of its business operations, such as enlisting the help of ChatGPT for faster copy writing. Founder Jessica Flinn-Allen weighs up some of the pros and cons (and explains why she finds AI in retail both “exciting and a little bit scary”) on page 86. Plus, Bira CEO Andrew Goodacre uncovers some of the ways it could empower indies to compete with larger retailers in his column on page 97.

Of course, AI inevitably conjures up apocalyptic scenarios for most people. But the real concern for humanity largely refers to Artificial General Intelligence (the type portrayed by science fiction), which doesn’t actually exist yet. That’s not to say it isn’t coming. According to some experts, powerful systems that are ‘generally more intelligent than humans’ could soon be a reality. And for the 1,000 tech leaders who recently signed an open letter urging for a pause on its development, the risk to civilisation is very real. Hopefully, the main priority will be safety and changing the world – and retail – for the better.

Gemma Ward, Editor

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The July 2023 issue of Boutique magazine is out now