Archive for the 'Discount stores' Category

Why did Walmart acquire Bonobos?

In case you missed it (among the front-page coverage of Amazon and Whole Foods), Walmart acquired men’s online retailer Bonobos last week. RetailWire panelists weighed in on the pluses and minuses of the move, and here’s my take:

The news about Walmart and Bonobos was overshadowed by the Amazon headline on Friday, and understandably so because of the sheer scope and boldness of the Whole Foods acquisition. But Walmart’s news deserves some attention on its own.

This is another case where Walmart is buying a brand that offers more digital expertise and product development skill than the company appears able to build on its own. But there is a disconnect between Walmart’s brand image and the customers who are shopping Bonobos today. Chances are good that the majority of Whole Foods customers are already Amazon Prime members too. How much overlap exists between Bonobos and Walmart, and will the association with Walmart chase away Bonobos’s most loyal consumers?

Will Target’s latest reset work?

Target’s CEO announced last week that investors should expect tough 2017 returns as the company invests in stores and more competitive pricing. Here’s my recent comment from RetailWire:

Walmart was criticized a couple of years ago for investment spending on its stores because it was likely to put a dent into short-term results. But the long-term view for WMT is brighter because of this decision, and Target is aiming for the same kind of outcome.

But Target has some specific challenges ahead that a store revamp won’t fix on its own:

1. The longstanding conflict between “cheap” and “chic”: Target needs to be more price competitive but has built its brand promise on more aspirational goods;
2. The continuing lack of traction in the grocery business, especially to drive more frequent visits;
3. The head start on e-commerce (and omnichannel) that its biggest competitors already have;
4. The company’s longstanding inability to keep its shelves and pegs filled.

I can’t overstate the importance of the last point. A trip to Target where a third of the shopping list can’t be filled is a waste of time, no matter how compelling or competitive the merchandise might appear.

Target’s continued struggles with groceries and supply chain

I’ve combined a couple of recent RetailWire comments here — first about changes at the top of Target’s grocery business, and second about new hires on the logistics front — to reflect my concern that the company continues to have problems executing. First, about food:

It’s hard to judge Ms. Dament’s performance based on less than 18 months on the job and the possibly insurmountable challenge she faces. Maybe she underperformed, maybe it was a bad cultural fit or strategic clash –who knows? Anybody trying to turn this around quickly has not been dealt a winning hand.

Brian Cornell wrote off the Target Canada fiasco very quickly, but I’m not sure he can walk away from the grocery business so easily. The company spent billions on remodels and infrastructure to establish the business, and it doesn’t appear to have a replacement strategy waiting in the wings.

But how does Target fix it? It’s not a “top of mind” business and doesn’t have the critical mass needed to draw weekly shoppers. Perhaps Target should hire somebody from a more disruptive grocer (think Aldi or Trader Joe’s) who can offer up a more innovative, curated approach to the category.

Second, about logistics:

I’m no expert on supply chain management, but it’s clear that Target recognizes a logistics problem when it hires executives from two of the best in the business — first Amazon and now Walmart. I also don’t know whether Target has spent competitively over the years on logistics (compared to its competitors) but this is a longstanding issue. One of the biggest problems that doomed Target Canada was its inability to keep the store shelves filled, and anybody who shops Target regularly sees plenty of empty pegs on a regular basis.

Target has long pushed the idea of inventory turnover at the expense of satisfactory in-stock rates. If their new hires can accomplish both goals, more power to them….but the company needs to commit to higher service levels first, not just more speed and lower cost.

Walmart shows modest Q2 gains

Walmart stood out from most other retailers by reporting a comp-sales gain for the 2nd quarter, instead of a decline. (There continues to be strength in the off-price segment, too.) I think part of the reason is Walmart’s success at the food and commodity businesses while Target continues to struggle. Here’s my take from a recent RetailWire discussion:

Walmart veers from underperformance to overperformance over time, and the latest “overperformance” is really only in contrast to competitors like Target. A very modest comp-store sales increase is nothing to write home about when Walmart continues to lose share to Amazon, dollar stores, and other competitors. That being said, Walmart is doing a consistently better job drawing in regular food shoppers than Target, and some of its investments in store improvements are starting to pay dividends. But a 1.6% same-store increase isn’t cause for celebration, even in today’s tough environment for general merchandisers.

Walmart buys Jet.com

Some observations (about a month late) about Walmart’s announcement in early August that it is acquiring web startup Jet.com. Here’s my comment from a recent RetailWire panel discussion:

The risk isn’t great to Walmart, considering the purchase price vs. Walmart’s scale. But the reward is definitely in favor of Jet.com’s founders and investors, who are about to become very wealthy. The real question is whether Walmart intends to keep the Jet.com brand alive or simply wants to take a competitor off the playing field.Jet.com seems to have followed the typical internet startup path of losing money while aggressively trying to build traffic and market share. But Walmart’s move makes it hard to tell if Jet’s business model is sustainable over the long haul. Let’s face it — nothing about this move changes the reality that Amazon is the alpha dog.

BOPIS: Good for Target’s business?

To answer the question in the headline, Target would say “yes.” But, as I discussed recently at RetailWire, these kinds of omnichannel initiatives can be a double-edged sword:

Claiming success depends on what metric you use. Target’s argument seems to be that a growing percentage of orders is being fulfilled by stores — which is doubtless true — but it misses the bigger picture:

1. Is Target growing its overall topline sales? How about other general merchandisers who are pursuing “ship from store” strategies?
2. Is the “ship from store” trend actually cutting down on store visits, and the chance to sell impulse items?
3. How is the multitasking sales associate (busy fulfilling BOPIS or ship-from-store orders) doing his or her core task of interacting with customers or replenishing store shelves?

On the third point, it’s clear that department stores in particular have allowed their in-store service levels to decline while they try to fund omnichannel initiatives out of the same expense bucket. But by all appearances the issue is costing Target sales, too.

Target’s “LA25” grand experiment

Target is using its Los Angeles-area stores as a laboratory for new initiatives, products, store layouts and so forth. I reflect (at RetailWire) on the importance of both returning to its roots and simply executing better:

Target’s origins in 1962 were as an outgrowth of the Dayton’s department store chain. (Full disclosure: I worked there from 1978-1982.) Dayton’s was a pioneer in trend merchandising, and moved many of its key merchants and marketing executives over to Target to help create the “Tar-zhay” that many of us grew up with.

But most of Target’s initiatives for the past several years have been reactive to Walmart (and now Amazon) instead of forging its own path. The expanion of food, the “dollar store” at the entrance and the overall commoditization of the brand have helped Target lose its way. Meanwhile, the chain continues to struggle with the ABC’s of good supply chain execution.

So if the LA25 initiatives help reposition Target as a more upscale alternative, they will probably be successful in the long haul — but only if Target does a better job keeping goods in stock!