Edward “Eddie” Lampert that is. Yes, once again the storied chief of Sears Holdings (SHLD) provided me, and therefore you, with yet another perspective on how or how not to run a retail business.
Actually, when all is said and done, and the fate of Sears (and Kmart) plays out, I believe Eddie will merit some kind of industry award. As an incredibly elusive and low profile leader of such a giant retail business, he nevertheless stirs up controversy on a strategic level.
What is he doing and why is he doing it? Well, I take a shot at answering that question in the “Fast Buck Eddie – Brilliant or Bonkers” article. As you will read, even though some of Sear’s visible initiatives might be questioned as ‘bonkers’ ideas, the real though not transparent underlying strategy might well be described as brilliant. And, if he’s successful in pulling it off, the award could be designated ‘Master Magician of The Year,’ for what you see is not what you get. ‘Abracadabra’ – now you see it, now you don’t.
All the ribbing aside, Mr. Lampert is one brilliant individual if he’s doing what I think he’s doing. And, strategically, it’s instructional for any business in a similar position.
On a macro-economic level, it also complements part of my thesis on deflation in “On the Edge of Supply- Side Deflation: Murky, Scary and Uncharted Waters.” Sorry if I’m being the post-Christmas ‘grinch’ and tossing water on the great numbers coming out of the holiday shopping season, but, I believe it was simply a spike out of a deeper and enigmatic economic undercurrent. As you will read, I believe that no amount of stimulus on the demand side will return us to robust growth and may, in fact, act as an accelerant for further disinflation, potentially tipping the economy into the feared deflationary spiral.
Gloomy and audacious though it may seem, I urge you to read the article carefully because I believe the perspective it identifies and expands upon, if not new, has not been sufficiently examined. It flies in the face of traditional thinking about demand-side stimulants being the road to recovery.
Though it might be a tall order, if we can somehow manage capacity out of the economy, and regain a more balanced supply/demand ratio, we will once again have a strong and vibrantly growing economy.
Oh, and Happy New Year!
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 Kohl’s Department Stores, and dozens of others. In addition to his role as Publisher and CEO of The Robin Report, he is a professor at the Graduate School of Professional Studies at The Fashion Institute of Technology, where he teaches the thesis of his recently-published book, The New Rules of Retail, co-written with Michael Dart, Partner and Managing Director at Kurt Salmon.