A Whole New Kind of Club

Formal coupleHad Groucho Marx been a Millennial, his famous adage “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member” would read a little more like “I don’t want to be admitted to any club that will accept me the way I’m dressed.” Millennials everywhere are turning up their noses this fall to the informally dressed, seeking out venues like exclusive private clubs and retailers that help them fake it until they make it. [Read more...]

Darkness at Dawn

iStock_000012485261SmallThe closer you get to the Equator, the more dawn and dusk become switches rather than transitions. It’s dark, it’s light.

I’ve learned as a global traveler to keep the curtains open at night, my goal to be in bed shortly after sundown and up at first light. Recently, I had a corner room at a hotel with floor-to-ceiling windows on two sides. The view of Paulista and the rest of São Paulo turned on a little before six; the cell phone towers, the park below and the high-rise buildings looked like uneven stubble on the contours of a Brazilian chin.

I was picked up at 7:00 AM by my colleague, the CEO of a publicly traded shopping mall company, in his Land Rover and we headed across town to the private airport to catch our turbo-propped Sky Master. We were headed for Brasilia. The traffic was heavy, and as we inched our way around a traffic circle, I lowered the window on the passenger’s side to stick my hand out and help get us to the outside lane. The driver gasped and I realized the window was almost two inches thick. Bulletproof. I struggled to get the window back up. The stupid Yankee had comprised the moving security perimeter. It took two security guards at the airport to tease the window back to its original position. [Read more...]

Lost Shack

Radioshack Lithium BatteryThe good news is that Radio Shack has opened five high-profile remodeled stores featuring its “Let’s Play” strategy that sports a cleaner, pared-down assortment dolled up with electronic merchandising wizardry like video screens and audio plug-in stations.

The bad news is that this leaves 4,306 Radio Shack stores in the country that need to be remodeled.

Welcome to yet another chapter in the ongoing retail soap opera that Radio Shack has become over the past few years. The company is on its fourth CEO in three years, has seen its market cap drop to 2% of what it was at around the start of the century, and it has not made money in at least the past four quarters. All the while, it has seemingly had more merchandising solutions than the number of batteries in its ubiquitous signature department. [Read more...]

Hindsight is Always 20/20

coachIn April 2011, I read my New Yorker cringing at Reed Krakoff’s comment on his design process at Coach:

“I bang it out,’ he said.‘I know what came before, I know what’s coming next, I know how it will work in the context of the store and the ads. It’s like a code.’…Krakoff picked up a bag from the table, a lilac nylon tote, with silver-studded black patent-leather handles a female face silk-screened on the front. ‘This fills the arty, limited kind of hole,’ he said. ‘I may cancel this bag. But it doesn’t matter. Then I just need something else to fill that hole.’”

Ouch! Such hubris from the executive creative director of the then-$4 billion global accessories brand, and in retrospect an indication that Reed’s attention was really on his eponymous line introduced in 2010. Ariel Levy’s article, Brand-New Bag, oozes Reed’s aesthetic contempt for the women who made him successful. Well, on Friday September 6th, Reed, along with a group of investors, bought the Reed Krakoff brand from Coach finalizing the separation (though Coach has a minority share in Reed Krakoff); a new chapter has already begun at Coach. [Read more...]

Meet the Millennials

polaroid_1Multi-Faceted, But Not Beyond Understanding

Retailers need to tune into the 18-to-30 crowd that comprises almost a third of all Americans – a bigger population segment than Baby Boomers. The Millennial generation numbered 79 million in 2011, with an outlook to stay at 78 million by 2030. Meanwhile, Baby Boomers will be retracting from their current 76 million to 56 million by 2030. This enormous segment of the population tends to make more transactions, but spend less per transaction. They have discretionary income and are willing to spend it… but the question is how, and where? The answers can be contradictory.

At MasterCard, we have seen data pointing to some varied behaviors within the Millennials category, as well as how they like to shop and how they’ve started to change the nature of shopping itself. Not surprisingly, a comfort level with technology has a lot to do with their ease in navigating the multichannel retail landscape – after all, they’re the ones who’ve made social media into the retail marketing tool it currently is. MasterCard has data from 80 billion anonymous credit card transactions to help better understand the needs of the Millennial consumer segment. [Read more...]

Delhaize’s New Way Forward – A Blueprint for Retailers?

logo_delhaize_67_cmykChanging markets and disruptive technologies have shaken many retailers to the core. Many are flailing about in all directions in hopes of chancing on a solution.

Barnes & Noble wanted to convert to a technology company, but couldn’t. JCPenney wanted to become a boutique mall, but couldn’t. Best Buy doesn’t know which way to turn.

So it goes for many retailers, including some in the food-retailing sector. Let’s take a look at one company in that industry – Delhaize. More than just about any retail company, it has tried out every conceivable model to reinvent and reinvigorate itself, but eventually decided to return to its core business. That move gave it two clear options for the future. Delhaize is an interesting case study in lessons that other retailers can learn from. [Read more...]

A New Strategy: Individualizing Store Growth

In my last article, I talked about “Data, Data Everywhere” and how critical it is to simplify retail analytics so we can use the data to take the right actions to help more customers buy, and less time analyzing the hundreds of reports trying to figure out how. When we use data correctly, we have proven that we can develop each store based on their own specific needs…resulting in significant performance improvement and new-found profits. It’s a new way to grow!

I’ll never forget an energy filled conversation I had with a very successful CFO of a large retailer. I was sharing my approach of “individualized store development” when I quickly realized that after patiently listening to my theory he wasn’t buying it. He informed me that his one-size-fits-all, top-down approach is far easier to implement and that I should adopt the command-and-control approach which has worked successfully for the past 20 years.

I clearly did not make my case. But it was helpful as I went back to the drawing board on how to more effectively communicate this new approach. I learned that his point of view is highly indicative of where many leaders in our industry are in terms of how they think about stores and growing revenues. [Read more...]

Crime, Punishment & Retailing

African street vendorOrganized retail crime is escalating, but can law enforcement cope with a global crime spree and a new class of criminal?

When I was eight years old, me, and two equally nefarious friends, decided to hit the local Woolworth. The objective? The new Duncan yo-yo and two green plastic, spacegun-shaped waterguns.

My guys—not exactly Goodfellas—were supposed to distract the cashier and stock boy, but took a powder when they saw the manager grab me by the shoulder. Half an hour later amid threats of prison, my mother picked me up, smacked me on the head and dragged me home where I faced the dreaded “wait ‘til your father gets home” scenario.

So much for my criminal career! [Read more...]

Going Hybrid: The Next Stage for Fashion Retailers

hybridToday’s fashion companies operate in a highly competitive environment, driven by increasingly fickle, price-conscious consumers, rising costs and clothing trends that change at light speed. With increased drops, the proliferation of SKUs and an incessant demand for newness, the big three—retailers, brands and manufacturers—are battling it out for market and wallet share.

We know we’re preaching to the choir. You know better than anyone that there is a need to control business activities as much as you can—control over everything from product concept to consumer purchase. What’s emerging is the hybrid business model, where the big three are integrating across the supply chain in an effort to protect margins.

Why is this so important for retailers? If you haven’t thought about going hybrid, chances are that your competition has. Wall Street demands growth and with increased competition, international expansion and the rise of omni-channel retailing, retailers are seeking new ways to maintain that growth and stand out from the crowd. [Read more...]

The Future of Everything

MakerBot_Replicator2X_high_1In 2011, at the TED conference in Long Beach, surgeon Anthony Atala demonstrated an early-stage experiment that could someday solve the organ-donor problem: a 3D printer that uses living cells to output a transplantable kidney. Dr. Atala and his team take an image of a kidney to create an exact 3D image of the organ, then print the kidney layer by layer based on the patient’s kidney using their own living cells. In seven hours, you have an exact replica, ready to transplant. Given that 90% of the people who are on the transplant list in this country require kidneys, it gives new meaning to supply and demand. Out of all the presenters at TED that year, Dr. Atala made the biggest impression on me. 3D printing is a revolution that will transform our society in ways we can’t even imagine. It will give rise to thousands of new businesses, new ways of distribution, new processes of intellectual property management, and create an entrepreneurial and financial tidal wave that will dwarf the Internet in its scale and disruptive power. [Read more...]

Prestige Jewelry: Coming to Your Local Outlet?

Robin_Report_Sep2013_stock2The number of emails in my inbox alerting me about sales is seemingly infinite, and frankly, I’m losing interest.

The funniest was Cache’s “our sale’s on sale.” Really?!?! Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s regularly have fine jewelry on sale and clearance, a practice which undermines one of the category’s perceived competitive advantage, that of stored value. Blue Nile’s founding in 1999 was a harbinger of the category’s deterioration as it provided transparency and comparison shopping across the diamond supply chain. With Amazon having entered the competitive fray, the typically unquestioned pricing practices and thus, the luxury underpinnings of fine jewelry, could be further damaged. [Read more...]

Brands Looking Forward, Look Back (Way Back)

gracearticle1Many of the most successful rebranding efforts of the last year, the most forward-facing of them all, have all used the same weapon of choice: their archives. Brands as highbrow as Dior, to as proudly lowbrow as Levi’s, have looked to the creative history of their designers to add a layer of narrative and credibility to the contemporary context of their brands. And while this type of endurance-branding may be partially a result of The Great Recession, Millennials. Are Eating. It. Up.

This is because Millennials are natural researchers; many of us were somewhere between 18 and 8 when Google arrived in our homerooms. While we haven’t always had smartphones, we have always had access. I don’t need to tell you how this has manifested in our shopping habits online. But much less is known about the compulsive way many Millennials forage online archives for stylistic inspiration. Think Netflix “binge-viewing,” or better yet, a “Google K-Hole” (an allusion to a Special K or Ketamine bender, in this case resulting in days lost to Googling). Online archives such as Getty Images or Google Image Search welcome us, for free; which is why it is easier than you may think for an influencer Millennial to pick up an obscure Fellini reference. We are such active researchers that we tend to forget what we saw, where. We can get to the point that we have to rely on our browser’s history tab over our own brand fidelity and crowded memory. [Read more...]