More on retail

imgresEven if you aren’t a shopper we all know that retail is changing.  Walmart is closing stores, Macy’s is laying off people, Gilt Groupe exited for less than it raised…need I go on?

This is a topic that fascinates me because I started my career in retail.  Those were the days that you had to go to a store to buy something.  Now you don’t have to leave your couch.  When I go into the stores I am not that excited.

There has to be a reason to want to go into a store.  Retailers need to be focused on what makes people want to come in.  The old ways do not work anymore.  Putting out new product on a t-stand isn’t that exciting.  It has to be about the overall experience.  Bryce Howard, the actress, went to Neiman-Marcus to buy her dress for the Golden Globes.  Any designer could have made a dress to fit her but perhaps she just enjoyed the experience of taking time out to shop for herself.

If customers are treated properly through a good experience they become loyal particularly women.  There is real data around it.  We are going to see massive change in how clothing is manufactured and what type of inventories are on the floor.  This generation is interested in sustainability and would rather spend excess cash on an experience or a trip vs more clothes or items.

Change the fitting rooms, change the experience, make the customer king/queen and most important make it enjoyable.  We will see in the next decade a major department store close shop based on lack of market share alone and if they can’t think out of the box there will be more than one that dies.

Comments (Archived):

  1. Sari Nickelsburg

    Walked into a major department store last week, and walked right back out. There’s no joy in combing through racks of clothes. Displays are terrible. Pricing online is almost always better without exception. It’s a little sad though. Some of my happiest childhood memories with my mom were of shopping with her. Not sure if she felt the same way. If I close my eyes, I can still hear her muttering “I hate driving in Jersey!” No sales tax. 😉

    1. Gotham Gal

      I did the same thing this week. Depressing.

  2. Ella Dyer

    One thing that doesn’t change is the fact that the customer is queen/king. Excellent customer service can be key. My hope is the conscientious consumer is considering sustainability and their slavery footprint too. A great place to start is

    1. Gotham Gal

      interesting site.

      1. Ella Dyer

        Yes, and one I try to promote. It’s staggering to think who “works” for our lifestyle around the world. When I look at our now 8 year-old granddaughter and think there are kids her age in factories in other countries, it makes me sick. Sadly, fashion is a big culprit as well put by John Oliver:

  3. Yinka!

    I like shopping but hate malls (giant, enclosed human zoos) and overlit mazes that comprise department stores. However, I love the KaDeWe (Kaufhaus des Westens – “Department Store of the West”) in Berlin. The centre of my attraction there is the food floor and things that drew me in were details like having a restaurant in the middle of the sales floor, food being prepared fresh by chef for customers who pull up a seat, drink tastings where they’re sold, etc. All without any chaos and obviously great ventilation as food smells did not drift or overpower the floor. Oh, and insane varieties of everything, including items which would be of secondary importance elsewhere, like jam. I’ve always wondered why North American stores weren’t like that.In contrast, food service in N. American malls is usually banished to basement level or far corner, if on the same floor. If retail here was (ironically) less about shopping and more about life(styles) and accentuated by experiences not achievable online, it could have a successful resurgence. E.g. how one spends more at wine stores which have primarily (in customers’ minds) social functions like a wine-tasting/music event spot.I think a key aspect to implementing treatment of the customer like royalty lies in labour and wages. If retail workers are treated and paid well, it would carry over to how they treat their clients.

    1. Gotham Gal

      I love the food halls around the globe. The one in Berlin is awesome! When you walk into malls and seeing sales people just hanging out looked bored it makes the consumer feel the same way.

      1. pointsnfigures

        Singapore Hawker stands are amazing. I am hoping to get to Berlin this year.

  4. pointsnfigures

    interesting, your last paragraph was Marshall Field’s motto: “Give the lady what she wants.” WalMart closed their fast convenient stores that middled 7/11 and Target. We had a few in Chicago and there was no compelling reason to go there when you could go to Target.

  5. Brandon Burns

    People always ask me why I didn’t push forward with the ecomm platform I started, Wander&Trade. This blog post encapsulates exactly why. Retail, both online and off, is not only a hard game, but a game that’s drastically changing. I’d like to believe that I was building a part of the positive change that’s coming, but the realist in me decided that it simply wasn’t a game worth playing at this time.People will always need to buy clothes, furniture, and other physical items. And there will always be stores that sell them. Retail might be changing, but it isn’t going anywhere. I’d rather jump back in when the waters are less choppy.Tenacity and perseverance are key aspects to being an entrepreneur, and I have massive guilt around “throwing in the towel.” But I also think folks need to know when to call it, and the earlier you can call it, the better. And whenever that guilt creeps back up, there seems to be a new article about yet another retail failure that makes me feel better for having called it quits instead of spending the last year and a half continuing to build something that most likely, due to the environment, could have ended up like Fab or Gilt, less valuable than the capital put into it.

    1. Gotham Gal

      retail is TOUGH.

  6. awaldstein

    we should go shopping together sometimes.have to admit, that buying stuff, like a couple of pairs of AG jeans in Soho is still a treat. it’s old school upscale brand store stuff, but service from young, super smart, highly attentive, well trained and so so educated on everything about where and how made, is a kick.I worked in my neighbors hardware store under the L in Brooklyn as a teenager and ran retail when the Tramiel family bought it for Atari. then pushed $1b a year through it at creaf. its in my blood, on and offline.enjoy LA. snowmagedden is here in ny. beautiful if you don’t have to go anywhere.

    1. Gotham Gal

      shopping in NYC is a very different experience than most places.

  7. Jenna Abdou

    Do you see any retail companies doing it right, Joanne? Story is a great example.

  8. LE

    There has to be a reason to want to go into a store.I recently bought my wife another pocketbook from coach. [1] They send me emails when they have sales. I saw something I liked in the email and went to the store and picked it up the same day. If I hadn’t gotten the email (as I often do from them) I wouldn’t have gone to the store that day.The other thing I like is that they put it in a nice bag and sometimes I get a thank you card from the sales clerk.(Picture of bag and box below.)[1] I have purchased many bags for different women (wife, mom, daughter) from Coach….

  9. AMT Editorial Staff

    Way back, with no kids, less responsibilities, shopping was “fun”. We’d enjoy walking and perusing. (Not mall shopping). Now, no way. NO interest in shopping unless on vacation. Don’t want to park, wait in line, “look”. It’s a time suck. All shopping done online. Prefer it that way.