Robin Lewis

About Robin Lewis

Robin Lewis has over forty years of strategic operating and consulting experience in the retail and related consumer products industries. He has held executive positions at DuPont, VF Corporation, Women’s Wear Daily (WWD), and Goldman Sachs, among others, and has consulted for dozens of retail, consumer products and other companies. In addition to his role as CEO and Editorial Director of The Robin Report, he is a professor at the Graduate School of Professional Studies at The Fashion Institute of Technology.

Potluck From Eddie “One-Liners” Lampert

RR_POTLUCK FROM EDDIE ONE-LINERS LAMPERTI hail from the Midwest. When I was growing up, family friends and relatives would occasionally gather for a potluck dinner.  As we well know, this ritual asks that each person contribute a dish of food; dinner  becomes the luck of the draw, and a lucky surprise, if you are lucky.

In my sentimental frame of mind, I thought this was a great metaphor for the potluck of one-liners that Eddie Lampert, Chairman and CEO of Sears Holding, has spewed out in annual meetings, been quoted in the media, and letters/papers he has written over the past decade. And they are … well, surprising.

Following are just some random picks out of the hundreds of quips and comments he has made — mostly as deflections from the reality of how he has been sinking the Titanic over the past decade.   [Read more…]

This Time IS Different

Both Economically and Politically

Stock price declining

Stock markets are crashing around the world, as I write this. China is cited as the culprit — or at least the catalyst. Some $10 trillion has evaporated from the global stock market since a June peak. The DJIA, S&P 500 and Nasdaq indexes continue to drop, now moving beyond 10 percent from that peak, which puts them into correction territory (it takes a 20 percent drop to be defined as a bear market).

And a few minutes following the opening bell of the NYSE on 8/24/15, the Dow lost 1089 points, which has not experienced such a steep loss since October 2008. And it will be the first time in the history of the Dow that it will have dropped a total of 1500 points in three consecutive days. [Read more…]

Kraft, Campbell Soup, Nestle…and More

RR_Kraft, Campbell Soup, NestleAll Facing Enormous Headwinds

The newly formed Kraft Heinz food giant’s announcement to slash 2500 jobs is a harbinger of much worse headwinds facing all packaged food companies.  As much as they would like to spin this as a positive cost-cutting move resulting from the synergy brought about by the merger, they and their competitive peers are heading into the perfect storm. In fact, all of the packaged food companies have been struggling for growth over the past couple years, and it is just going to get worse.  Simply, but apocalyptically, they are in the wrong business, selling the wrong products to the wrong consumers.

Perfect Storm Front #1

[Read more…]

Old Power Brands Are Asleep

Old Power Brands Are AsleepSephora Leads a Wake Up Call

One thing the overly heralded tech-driven start-ups do not have is brand recognition. They do not have the indelible consumer connection that has taken the “old world” power brands years and millions of dollars to nurture, build and maintain.

Brand recognition aside, the techie entrepreneurs do have three advantages over established brands that afford them the ability to launch and quickly ramp up their businesses:

  1. Creative new way to market a product or service.
  2. Understanding how technology can facilitate the concept.
  3. Limitless funding from “casino playing” investors, allowing them to scale without making any money.

[Read more…]

Stores Are the New Black

The Grove Shopping Mall - Los Angeles

Terry Lundgren, CEO of Macy’s, borrowed this quote during his opening remarks at the University of Arizona Global Retailing Conference in Tucson back in April, attributing it to NYU-Stern Marketing Professor Scott Galloway, who also happens to be one of the world’s experts in digital marketing.

Calling stores “the new black” is a nod to that old-fashioned expression referring to something that’s come into style. Simply said, it means they are not only not going to be replaced by e-commerce, they will thrive as the “in vogue” standard-bearer for retailing. In fact, even more dramatic than Galloway’s assertion that stores are now in vogue is his prediction that pure-play e-commerce is actually going away. [Read more…]

J.Crew Enters Danger Zone

RR_J_Crew Enters Danger Zone A Graveyard Resting Place for The GapA Graveyard Resting Place for The Gap

It may be too late for Mickey (Millard “Mickey” Drexler, CEO, J.Crew). Ironically, I believe the J.Crew brand is going the way of the Gap. Drexler was at the Gap’s helm, lifting it up out of its initial ditch to become one of the most revered and powerful apparel brands in the world. As any good captain of the ship, he was still on deck as it was submerging, never to return. I have pointed out why Gap, in my opinion, will not ever return to its former pinnacle. In There is No Gap Déjà Vu, I reported that the decade-long attempts under two Gap CEO’s, and now a third that would be as futile as the first two, have not understood that once consumers mentally disconnect from a brand, it’s over — fini, the fat lady sang, period. Note: I said brand, not the failure of being off-trend or bad styling; not bad product, marketing, imaging or advertising … none of which alone would necessarily render a brand kaput. It’s a combination of all of those interconnected elements that complete a brand’s persona, and which over time indelibly and powerfully embed the brand in consumers’ minds. [Read more…]

Jet.com: Reefer Madness

jet.comPardon my ‘60s pot metaphors of late.  There’s just maniacal, seemingly drug-induced behavior happening and it seems to be going viral across many industries.

In particular, I think there’s a lot of legalized pot being passed around among Internet start-ups, and their investors are smoking the stronger weed.  I mean, look at this photo of Marc Lore, founder of jet.com. Does he not look high as a kite and giggling his brains out? Hey, he just snookered his fellow investors out of $225 million over the past year for a hallucinatory, cockamamie idea that, in my opinion, will go up in…well, smoke. [Read more…]

There Is No Gap Déjà Vu

gap_RL_RR_7-15-2015More Like A Slow, Sears-Like Descent To The Bottom?

Glenn Murphy exits.  Art Peck takes over.  It matters not who the players are because there has been a revolving door full of them for the past 15 years, all declaring how they would return Gap to its once dominant position as the cool apparel brand for America’s youth.  All of them failed to do so, and there is no reason to believe Art Peck will have any better luck.  Actually, even luck would not be enough to reverse the ultimate fate of this storied brand.

I say this because the brand was driven into ubiquity (the anti-cool for young consumers, and therefore, the beginning of its end) in the late ‘90s and first two years of the Millennium under the watch of then CEO, Millard “Mickey” Drexler.  With a Gap on every corner, so to speak, cool turned to cold and its descent began. Ironically, Drexler would leave the helm of the brand that he guided through two decades of meteoric growth from $480 million in revenues upon his arrival in 1983 as president, to almost $14 billion in 2000, an amazing 2,400 percent increase when he left.  Indeed, his success earned him the moniker of the “prince of all merchant princes.” Unable to right the ship when it started to sink, Drexler retired in 2002. Comp store sales dropped 5 percent in 2000, their first decline since 1989, and then a whopping 13 percent in 2001, with the overall Gap brand down 12 percent. [Read more…]

GoEnjoy.com

“Personal Commerce” and Preemptive Distribution

There are two strategic concepts that are imperative for any consumer-facing business to achieve success in the 21st century: personalization and preemptive distribution.

goenjoy

As former Apple executive, Ron Johnson’s Genius Bar creation and Apple’s entire retail model exemplified these strategies early on. Now Johnson is leapfrogging his original creation through the launch of goenjoy.com. Essentially, Enjoy sends an expert to deliver a product purchased on their site to each and every consumer upon demand, and within hours. The expert then advises the customer how to integrate and use the product in ways that best fit into their personal lifestyle. And this hour-long consultation is free. Thus, the personalized Genius Bar experience occurs wherever the customer is. [Read more…]

Don’t Fall for It, Macy’s

Beware of The Eddie Lampert/Richard Baker REIT Syndrome

Macy’s is not in the real estate business; it is in the business of satisfying consumers’ dreams as one of the largest retail brands in the world. If Macy’s reduces one iota of focus on doing just that, they do so at their own risk. Therefore, it should not fall for the dubious pitch reportedly being made by some greedy hedge funds that Macy’s should form a REIT (real estate investment trust), an entity to which it could sell many of its valuable real estate assets and then lease the space back to the stores currently sitting on the space. In this creative financing scheme, the REIT profits as Macy’s cost of doing business increases. [Read more…]

Tracking and Winning the Revolution

revolutionHey, are we having fun yet? Let’s think about where we are today. Is it somewhere in the early exciting phase of the retail transformation that we know is possible? Or are we held back by the fear of failing to make this shift and ultimately be snuffed out?

Here is where we really are: At the intersection of the art and science of retailing, converging on technological steroids, serving an omnipotent consumer who expects and demands the satisfaction of their dreams wherever they may be, whenever, how and how often — and instantaneously.

Daunting, complex, disruptive — these are just a few of the ideas describing the awesome challenges facing us in this profoundly transformational era.

Traditional brick-and-mortar retailers across all channels are in the process of seamlessly integrating technology, the Internet and m-commerce into the omnichannel model, while at the same time mining big data, configuring apps, and selecting from the endless stream of experience enhancing gizmos, gadgets and augmented reality for the delight of their shoppers. [Read more…]

Pirch, Lululemon, Cabela’s, Burberry, Apple: What Do They Have in Common?

Addictive-BrandsThese brands are not retailers.  They are neurologically addictive experiences, co-created by the brand and their dopamine-addicted consumers.  And not so incidentally, the experiences happen to take place in physical buildings. And oh, yes, because the customers are addicts, they buy tons of the brand’s stuff and they can’t get back to those experiences fast enough for their next fix.  By the way, for those of you who don’t know what dopamine is, it’s a chemical in the brain that gets released every time we have an elevated experience. It provides feelings of euphoria, self-satisfaction, wellbeing, and can lead to addiction.

The dopamine-releasing brands headlining this report (and there are others) are such because the experience they have developed requires that the customer participate in creating or shaping the that experience to satisfy their own personal desire at the moment they engage with the brand. [Read more…]