Archive for September, 2011

Macy’s RFID rollout

As a followup to my last post about Macy’s IT initiatives, here’s a recent RetailWire comment about RFID. Macy’s is committed to rolling out RFID technology (including inventory tracking) by late 2012, and it’s a welcome move:

This is a long-overdue move, and I’m still surprised that Walmart didn’t get there first. Many of Macy’s vendors overlap with other department store accounts (often under other labels), so they ought to be ready when the next national retailer steps up to the plate. To make “My Macy’s” a true success — not just a slogan — it takes this sort of commitment to technology and good execution.

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Amazon starts a brushfire

Plenty of comments at RetailWire (including mine, below) about Amazon’s introduction of the Kindle Fire tablet. I see it as part of a broader strategy, in which Barnes & Noble (not Apple) is the real target:

I agree with the premise that Barnes & Noble is the biggest short-term target of the Kindle Fire. And keep in mind that Amazon also launched three other Kindle models yesterday, including a basic wifi-only model with an aggressive price of $79. It’s a powerful flanking strategy for the Kindle brand, and also allows Amazon to develop a more sophisticated tablet in the future that can compete more effectively against the iPad.

IKEA tests a “man-cave”

RetailWire panelists recently talked about a new concept being tested in some IKEA stores: A “men’s lounge” complete with TV’s and other diversions, to be used while the female partner wanders the store. The idea has plenty of “legs,” in my opinion:

This is an idea that would work not only in other IKEA stores but in all sorts of retail settings. In fact, the traditional regional mall typically has a female-centric tenant mix and could use a similar idea. Just providing a seating area (as many malls do) is a courtesy but not an incentive to extend the shopping trip. Let’s see if an enterprising mall developer follows suit.

Pop-up stores: Here to stay?

Most RetailWire panelists agree with my comment that the phenomenon of “pop-up” (temporary) store sites is not a passing fad driven by the economy:

I’m not so sure that pop-up stores will “go away” when the economy improves. (Whenever that happens…) It’s turning out to be a useful way to sell seasonal goods in a cost-efficient way, and stores selling everything from holiday goods to garden supplies are discovering the benefits. It’s also a great way for vendors to “take their brands to retail” in order to create some buzz and test new product concepts. Even when retail business strengthens — and the excess inventory of space starts to tail off — the idea has lasting benefits.

More thoughts about Target and Missoni

Goods were showing up on Ebay on the day of the launch…and, as a fellow RetailWire panelist says, it’s a free country. However, the underlying issue is Target’s complete mismanagement of the Missoni launch. From the lack of inventory (in stores and online), to the poor replenishment, to the website crashes, this is a disappointment from beginning to end considering the marketing muscle that Target put into it. It’s great to have a brand image centered on “design,” not so great to have a brand image lingering on bad execution.

Holiday 2011: Anyone out there with a crystal ball?

In a cycle of negative economic news, RetailWire panelists recently took their turn forecasting 4th quarter sales. Here’s my perspective:

There are a lot of mixed messages about what kind of holiday shopping season lies ahead. Today’s Wall Street Journal paints a bleak picture of forecasted sales, but the numbers this year don’t bear it out. Most observers would agree that BTS shopping was more robust than expected, especially in the specialty apparel segment.

So the best predictor ought to be each store’s own cautiously optimistic forecasting that was probably done many months ago. Holiday 2009 is an anomaly, because 2008 sales fell off a cliff and most retailers were understandably leery of too much inventory. At the same time, inventory management tools are doing a better job getting the right goods into the right stores…perhaps even more important to successful sales and margins than the “macro” inventory number.

Netflix (or Qwikster)…what were you thinking?

RetailWire panelists recently had an opportunity to weigh in on the much-publicized travails of Netflix. In particular, their recent announcement about separating (and re-branding) their DVD business from their streaming business raised a lot of eyebrows, including mine:

I might as well pile on … I got the e-mail from the CEO yesterday and was scratching my head after reading it. Netflix has managed to mess up great brand equity in record-breaking time, and now compounds the problem by changing the name of the part of the business that worked in the first place. (There’s nothing in the “mea culpa” about the lousy selection of streaming movies, which is the underlying challenge.) Would any retailer moving from single-channel to multi-channel (which is essentially what Netflix is doing) drop the brand name from the core business that built its reputation in the first place?


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