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Kate Spade to use iPads as retail signage

Fashion retailer Kate Spade is rolling out iPads in its Kate Spade Saturday stores as signs beginning with Japan, then onto the U.S.

iPads in Kate Spade Saturday stores.
Kate Spade

Taking a page from Apple's retail empire, fashion retailer Kate Spade will use iPads in some of its retail locations as in-store signage.

The retailer today said it would debut the tech in its Kate Spade Saturday stores beginning in Tokyo, before bringing it to other locations later this year.

Apple has used iPads as in-store signs since early 2011, putting the tablets in front of each and every product -- even its $49 iPod shuffle. The encased iPads display information about nearby products like prices and configurations to let customers compare and customize models. There's also the option to page a retail employee to come over to provide assistance.

Kate Spade Saturday says the company is using the tablets -- which retail at $499 -- for product videos, as well as demos for how products can be used.

"Apple iPads will be strategically positioned throughout the shop, featuring content that is relevant to items in proximity, such as timely marketing messages, style suggestions and video, and user-generated images to encourage engagement with the brand and its products," the company said in a release today. "The iPads will additionally educate customers on multiple ways to wear and use select products."

The fashion retailer is using tech firm Control Group, which has been tapped for similar installations. Last July, airport vendor OTG announced a deal with the company to deploy more than 7,000 iPads in several airports. Neither Kate Spade Saturday nor Control Group provided a size of the deal. Kate Spade New York (a different Kate Spade brand) has 80 retail locations in the U.S. and more than 100 internationally.

In an interview, Control Group told CNET that the entire process of getting the software built for Kate Spade Saturday was less than eight weeks, from the initial meeting to production ready. There are also plans for software updates that will add new features.

What's really curious is the way the software will be used to showcase how products can be worn or used, potentially replacing mannequins in some situations. Control Group says companies -- in this case Kate Spade Saturday -- can do an A/B test by cycling certain products in that spot to see what's working, and change things faster, and without an interruption on the sales floor.

Updated at 11:55 a.m. PT to note that the iPads are headed specifically to the Kate Spade Saturday stores, and once again at 2 p.m. PT with additional information about the installation from Control Group.