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.

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…]

Hointer’s Dr. Shouraboura Is Leapfrogging Bezos’ Amazon Into The Future

hointerDr. Nadia Shouraboura may not be a household name…yet. Nor was Jeff Bezos in the early days of Amazon. And among those who do know her, she may be considered audacious by some, but not by moi. She was quoted in a recent article about her technologically disruptive, no, potentially nuclear-level disruptive, logistics, distribution, consumer-delighting and personalized new retail model: “Soon, every item in the world will be sold like this. It will be bigger than Amazon.” No small vision here, and no small effort to make it happen. But in my opinion, you can take that declaration to the bank. And she’s got the creds to justify such a bold statement about her unique model which is described below. Also to pique your interest, Macy’s is nine weeks into a beta test of this unique model, seeing its potential.

What you are about to read is truly a quintessential example of the convergence of the art and science of retailing. [Read more…]

TJX Companies

Luxury Brands, Fast Fashion, Treasure Hunt, Localization, Super Value

Untouchable

tjx_1The TJX business model is not easily copied. In fact, one could make the case that the specific differentiators and advantages that have been crafted into its DNA cannot be duplicated, period. With the exception of Ross Stores, smaller and not a pure copycat, TJX Companies Inc. (T.J. Maxx, Marmaxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods) all but owns the so-called “off-price” space it dominates.

Hey, you guys in the other sectors, in the middle of the “perfect storm” of an overstored, intensely competitive retail environment, with omnipotent consumers driving you into the insanity of the retail share wars, you can only dream of being in such a position. [Read more…]

Jonathon Duskin Who?

Jonathan-DuskinActivist Lightweight Attacking Children’s Place

I like being an activist myself, but a special kind.  I like attacking financial activists who assume they understand the businesses they are attacking, yet build stories based on the only thing they do understand: numbers. These stories are all about creating greater shareholder value, but mask the real objective, which is to make tons of money for themselves. Sadly,  90% of them don’t know what the word strategy means and couldn’t operate their way out of a paper bag, much less lead the process. Most of them destroy more value than they create.

Which brings me to Jonathan Duskin, the current poster child activist lightweight, whose track record could only be described as “failing upward” as he became CEO of Macellum Advisors. Somehow he got Barington Capital Group to collaborate with him (I guess he needed their now questionable credibility) in sending an “attack” letter to Norman Matthews, revered industry veteran and Chairman of the Board of Children’s Place (PLCE). The delusional letter, penned by Macellum and Barington, was sent from out of the blue (or black) the night before Children’s Place’s 4th-quarter earnings call (March 12th), attacking the company’s operating and leadership performance under its CEO, Jane Elfers. The “delusional duo” of Macellum and Barington (the delusion revealed below), with a 2 percent share of Children’s Place, had not uttered a peep of discontent during any of the four previous investor calls throughout 2014 — or even two months prior to the attack letter. Perhaps Duskin was trumping up the delusion in a dark room somewhere before luring Barington into the deal?  Who knows? [Read more…]

Internet of Things (IoT)

IoTA Connected Life

If you think the tsunami of new technologies, more spectacular one day after another, are now within your grasp of understanding, and soon to be mastered in implementation, do not pat yourself on the back and take a breather. The proverbial light at the end of the tunnel is a far bigger and faster tech train than the many you are just beginning to feel comfortable with. And it’s coming right at you. Yes, your business will soon ratchet up to another level of innovative opportunities and complex challenges.

We are hearing or reading the words IoT or the “Internet of Things” more frequently. It is the next technology mega-trend. And there are some early manifestations of it, from fitness bracelets to watches, connected refrigerators and automobiles, to thermostats and industrial equipment. But it’s still in the nibbling-around-the-edges phase. However, as breakthroughs in reducing the cost of sensors, processing power and increasing bandwidth continue, it will accelerate the ability to connect with more things, faster and cheaper. [Read more…]

Remembering Ralph Erardy

ralph_erardyVP, Group Publisher, Women’s Wear Daily

Remembering Ralph is delightfully easy because he is delightfully unforgettable. First, as my professional colleague at WWD, and then very quickly becoming a dear friend, I see Ralph with that twinkle in his eyes, mischevous or sweet or happy or all three. And more energy and enthusiasm for all of life, I have never seen.

We loved enjoying the WWD CEO Summits together with our wives. His Claudia and and my Martha both so wonderfully funny, we would belly laugh our way through the entire Summit. And Ralph and I on the golf course were something to behold. Talk about creating a comedy out of that very serious game. We were goofy and goofier, hacking and whacking our way into the woods, the water, and the traps. You name it, we’d screw it up. There was no handicap high enough for us. [Read more…]

An App For Hugging? Never, Ever at Mitchells

mitchellThere should be a Master’s degree in customer engagement (MCE) obtainable from Harvard or any of the other top-tiered universities. It should be as revered and valued as an MBA, including comparable compensation.  And every retail associate or associate wannabe, for both online and off, should be required to obtain that degree. Why? Because it is the most critically important job in retail, even more important than all the hotshot jobs in the C-suite. I use the word engagement, rather than service, because readers’ eyes tend to glaze over upon reading about customer service, a term they have become desensitized to because of its redundant over-use. Plus it has become a “paying-lip-service” term for too many retailers.

In fact, the MCE curriculum could be copied right out of Jack Mitchell’s revised and updated book: “Hug Your Customers,” published by Hachette Books, on sale today. For readers who are not aware of Mitchells Family of Stores, they are a group of five upscale designer and luxury goods stores (Mitchells, Richards, Marshs and two Wilkes Bashford stores) that have total annual revenues north of $125 million and growing. While there are a few other retailers with notably high levels of customer engagement (Nordstrom for sure), Mitchells is legendary for their over-the-top personalized connectivity with each and every customer, starting from day one in 1958 when they were founded. [Read more…]

Pirch – The “Third Place” For Kitchen and Bath Lovers

pirchWho would have thunk that hanging out in a kitchen and bath appliance store could replicate the Starbucks experience for coffee aficionados and Apple for computer lovers? Well, thunk again. Pirch, as in perching, or sort of feathering your nest in a totally fun and interactive experience, is the reason consumers will flock (pun intended) to Pirch as a “third place” to hang (work, home and Pirch). Just as Starbuck’s and Apple disrupted how coffee and computers were sold and consumed, Pirch is disrupting the appliance world with a fundamentally new and co-created experiential model.

Founded in 2009 on the vision of its CEO, Jeffrey Sears, and Chairman, Jim Stuart, their goal was to make shopping for kitchen and bath appliances “inspirational and joyful.” Originally named Fixtures Living, it was changed to Pirch in 2013, meant to more accurately suggest a perch or nest. “Perching is like feathering your nest, roosting at home. It’s a feel-good name,” said Sears in a PRNewswire article. [Read more…]

Macy’s – The Distribution of Things

macys_distributionAgain, in Front of the Trend

I recently wrote about Macy’s distribution brilliance. And even though the ink is hardly dry, here I am again. Actually, I am not going to focus on lauding what most people might view as a great Macy’s marketing program with Plenti (a cross-brand and industry point-generating redemption deal), which I’ll explain in a minute. This new collaboration is really a tactic, albeit very innovative, to support what I view as Macy’s larger distribution strategy and vision.

My recent article was about Macy’s understanding of the broader and more accurate definition of omnichannel. Too many retailers interpret omnichannel to mean simply two channels: online and brick-and-mortar stores.  So let’s get it straight once and for all.  The old term multi-channel meant more than one channel of distribution.  The new concept omnichannel means “all” distribution channels. Under the multi-channel definition, company strategists would align operations, distribution, marketing and all other functions with the needs of each channel as if they were “silos.” For example, the store, catalogs, marketing strategies, etc., would all be tailored to the needs of the specific channel, assuming different customer behaviors for each.  Omnichannel, as Macy’s and other enlightened retailers are employing the model, is the seamless integration of consumers’ experiences in a matrix of all distribution channels, wherever and whenever the consumer wants it: stores, the Internet and mobile devices, TV, direct mail, catalogs, and now, even operating on other brands’ or retailers’ distribution platforms.

“Plenti” of New Distribution Platforms

Rite Aid, AT&T, ExxonMobil, Nationwide, Hulu, and Direct Energy

So, the Plenti deal basically adds many other distribution platforms to Macy’s omnichannel strategy.
It’s pretty simple.  All the aforementioned companies, including Macy’s, are interconnected with each other through Plenti’s program.  Each time a consumer spends a buck at any one of those companies, they receive a point (equivalent to a penny), which then can be applied to discounts at any one of the companies.

As so aptly described in WWD: “Consider pulling into a gas station, filling up your tank and earning a point per dollar, then applying those points to get discounts on shoes at a department store, or cough drops at a drugstore.  Or imagine getting points for discounts at Macy’s or Exxon just by paying for your auto or homeowner’s insurance.”

And while one could argue that these are not, by definition, used for distributing goods, it is, in fact, an indirect strategy of distributing the brand on non-related, but compatible industry and product categories. It all ultimately leads to expanded distribution, acquiring new customers as well as maintaining current customers who will be delighted to build up a bunch of points for new deals.

In fact, Macy’s strategy might more appropriately be called the “distribution of things.”  Borrowing from the term, the “Internet of things,” which describes the interconnectedness of everything, Macy’s is interconnecting and integrating all possible distribution platforms that engage their consumers wherever they may be.

Think about this, Macy’s.  In the future, when you perfect the use of your “big data” and are able to profile each and every loyal customer and what they personally dream for in their lives, you will be permitted into their homes, to be downloaded into their “global communications center” from which they get important and timely information from you and other permitted brands. You will give them information about new styles that you know, from your database, they will love.  A fashion show invitation or Stella cocktail party can be hyped for their attendance.  And you might even be able to deliver products to them that they can keep or be placed in a Macy’s return box to be  picked up by Instacart or some such service that will inevitably spring up over the next couple of years.

The big shift is that the home will be the final distribution platform. The “distribution of things,” indeed.