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…]

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…]

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…]

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…]

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…]