Archive for July, 2012

Is the “youth market” losing its luster for retailers?

Retailers’ fascination with “youth” (sometimes ignoring the truth of an aging demographic) is a double-edged sword. My recent comment on RetailWire points out that some stores are broadening their appeal better than others:

Retailers’ focus on the young customer will never wane completely, but smart apparel companies are trying to broaden their appeal. (The “fast fashion” retailers like H&M, Zara and Uniqlo are probably doing a better job than their U.S.-based counterparts like Aeropostale and Abercrombie.) There will still be a place for junior trend retail: After all, “Millenials” will be the parents of teenagers someday too.

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Repurposing the mall to combat e-commerce

It’s true that adding dining and entertainment venues to malls and lifestyle centers can provide experiences not available online. But there are plenty of other good reasons to pursue this idea. Here’s my comment from a recent RetailWire discussion:

Malls and lifestyle centers need to drive “experiential” traffic, but not only to compete against online shopping. More importantly, they need to find ways to keep consumers onsite longer and to let malls return to some of their original purpose as the social hub of the suburbs. And, let’s face it: With the consolidation of mall anchors and struggles of specialty apparel chains, there is plenty of space available for this sort of repurposing.

CityTarget: A new concept for urban locations

The latest discussion at RetailWire about “small format” retail centers on CityTarget, a new idea being rolled out in Chicago and elsewhere. I see Target as particularly well-positioned to make this work if it gets the merchandise content right:

I do expect Target to get the CityTarget concept right over time, although even 80,000 sq. feet may not always be easy to find. It will take some well-focused assortment planning to make this work: Not just fewer items like lawn furniture, but more product geared toward the urban lifestyle. Apparel is a particular opportunity to “get it right,” although that looks like a challenge for the entire chain right now.

The Shopkick app: A way to combat showrooming?

Here’s a brief comment from a recent RetailWire discussion about Shopkick. This is a mobile app that encourages store visits with targeted offers. My thoughts:

For all the hand-wringing about showrooming, this is a perfect example of how to turn location-based smartphone technology to a retailer’s advantage. It’s noteworthy that Best Buy and Target (two of the biggest complainers about showrooming) are on board with Shopkick, along with Macy’s and other major retailers.

Shopkick’s challenge is to deal with the likely proliferation of competing apps aligned with other stores — it doesn’t need to turn into another Groupon.

USOC uniforms made in China

RetailWire panelists (including me) added their two cents’ worth to the recent controversy about U.S. Olympic uniforms being manufactured in China:

It would not be difficult for the USOC to source Olympic uniforms domestically, instead of manufacturing in China, Burma (really??) or elsewhere. It’s not surprising that a tone-deaf decision is met with political outrage in the middle of the current conversation about insourcing or outsourcing.

But will consumers willingly shift their allegiance toward US-made goods on an everyday basis? Not likely, given the pricing benefits of manufacturing overseas.

Amazon approaches same-day delivery?

Interesting speculation on RetailWire about whether Amazon is planning to offer same-day delivery as it expands its network of distribution centers. Here’s my take:

There is a growing movement among Amazon’s competitors to merge online shopping with the convenience of in-store pickup (Walmart) or using its stores as mini-distribution centers (Macys). Amazon needs to react to these kinds of developments to sustain its mastery of logistics as one of its key strengths (along with price and assortments).

To make this an achievable goal, Amazon is reaching deals with various state governments (New Jersey, for one) to open new distribution centers. This will enhance the states’ tax revenues at the same time that Amazon expands its supply-chain advantage.

Nordstrom partners with Topshop

I commented recently on RetailWire about the announced rollout of Topshop locations inside Nordstrom stores. It’s planned for a slow rollout but I expect it to become a chainwide initiative:

Nordstrom, like many US retailers, is trying to find ways to emulate the best of the “fast fashion” retailers. Adding Topshop is certainly a shortcut in that direction. It’s easy to foresee the success of this test and its eventual rollout throughout the U.S.

Nordstrom has proven before (with Faconnable) that it can execute a branded shop concept and make it a win for both parties. I expect the same sort of success from the Topshop collaboration, which has already worked well for Selfridges in the U.K.


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