Department Store Demise
Lord and Taylor is going to be WeWork. Henri Bendels closed their doors. Gymboree is bankrupt. Barneys is negotiating for their space on Madison Avenue as their lease is ending so where that ends up is anyone’s guess but the store definitely does not have the same unique selection that it used to. Nordstrom has been smart about changes in retail but they just lost their co-President to cancer. Macy’s is just a mess. Saks on 5th Avenue is always packed but their stores elsewhere seem to lack that luxury experience. Sears is done, Kmart is over and Walmart is making some interesting changes. Who will rise to the top and make tough decisions to change the demise of the department store?
Ed Finkelstein, who ran Macy’s for years, created “The Cellar”. He had a vision that the kitchen was becoming a more integral part of the next generation and took the entire basement of Macy’s in Herald Square and created a new look where kitchenwares sold including food and vendors showing their wares for people to see, taste and try. It was a brilliant move at that time and that moved Macy’s in a new direction. Unfortunately that became stale as everything eventually does and the executives scaled upward, became private and killed the business. Recently Macy’s bought the concept shop Story which is a move in the right direction but how they integrate that into their stores is another thing
There is the brilliance of the concept shops such as Collette who was the leader in this category, RIP. There is now Dover Street Market and Corso Como that are slowly beginning to expand although I would question that the Corso Cuomo in downtown NYC will survive. Bad location choice.
We are seeing the rise of new brands from Parachute to Away to Warby Parker filling some of the empty spaces on the streets and shopping malls. The department store just needs to be smart about how they will operate in the future. There is massive real estate in those malls, there is a shortage of housing, people want to interact with each other, many still want to have an experience when shopping, Amazon might be growing but they have become a utility and are also opening stores. Where are the flower making classes? The cocktail making events? The family events? More pop-ups? Concerts? Book readings? Art installations?
We will look back to this time and be able to point to the store that pulled out of the box and went down a new path. Finkelstein did it decades ago and everyone followed suit. Nobody should follow suit. Every store needs to be creating their own concepts and take all of us as consumers into a new direction.
Restaurants and bars and Green Markets aside I’m not real clear on how much shopping I do at stores.There are things that I want to be sold–like wine and art–where I need a narrative and info that I prefer face to face. There are things like my brand of jeans that I need to look at and try on.When I jumped into Chelsea Market yesterday to avoid freezing after the Warhol at Whitney exhibit, i snooped around and took advantage of going to the great cheese shop there.But if I look at my credit card statements, there is damn little that is not part of above and on the Amazon card which includes Whole Foods.
But you might return to the cheese shop. 🙂
yes!I really like that shop cause as its just fun to shop at with a huge assortment of raw sheep and goat cheese which is my thing.
One thing that I learned when growing up came about in the 70’s when a friend in school of mine had just returned with his family from WDW in Orlando.He said ‘they will always be adding to it it will be changing and growing’ (something like that).And of course that did happen. They added and are still growing the place adding rides, attractions, always trying to keep people coming and making it better all the time. (Even in face of competition from other venues). Parents take their kids to Disney. Adults go back to Disney. When I went years ago with my wife and kids I walked around Epcot for hours just taking pictures inside the stores there. Spent an entire day doing that (I don’t like amusement rides). Las Vegas similar perhaps. Plenty of places to gamble. AC is no Las Vegas ( and many reasons for that which I won’t get into…)Now here is the thing. You don’t have that type of high powered thinking or drive in your local mall developer or retailer. Not the same caliber of people or thinking. Malls are real estate and drive by finance, rents and so on. Stores can’t be unique like a Disney vacation can be. So malls are really just what I call ‘taking advantage of the low hanging fruit of opportunity’. As such once that fruit and oppty is gone there is little they are going to be able to do with the resources they have. They are fighting a losing battle.
I hope they aren’t fighting a losing battle
I wrote about this place on Fred’s blog: https://vulcansrest.com/ knitting store. Quadrupled in size last year and moved out of town because they were so packed (parking was tough) doing even better now.You just have to have a USP and I don’t see the big department stores with that.Not that you can’t be huge you just have to have a USP.You should really go into a Cabella’s. I know it’s not your thing, and if you go to their library you will be offended, but they are huge and just have it down. From the layout to the merchandise to the staff. I’m talking to a sales associate we are talking about hiking. He says yup I know all about that I was a National Park Ranger for over a decade.They have malls in Delaware that absolutely are killing it: The 184 store indoor Christiana Mall https://www.christianamall…. The mmSQFT+ outside fashion center: http://christianafashioncen… next door. Costco and Cabellas in separate buildings and another big mall less than a mile away.Now LE would say it is because we have no sales tax (true) but it still is because you can go to so many places like the Container Store (where my daughter needed some supplies.Middletown, DE where all the cars are from DE and is too far for tax free people to go to is killing it as well.Same for the beach outlets: https://www.tangeroutlet.co…I loved the cellar, but last time I went it was more like a food court than what it used to be. And that of course is the iconic Herald Square location with those great wooden escalators. My favorite was going there with my Dad as a kid and getting a Napoleon pastry. (couldn’t find those last time)
Knitting and activities like that make so much sense. I get Cabela’s too.
I have expanded my commerce transactions with a last category: Supplying (Walmart, Costco), Buying (Amazon, Google), Shopping (you want tons of specialty stores to browse) Christianna Mall, and Passion (you will go just to them) Knitting Store.
love those categories!
BassPro, like Cabella’s is killing it (pun intended, LOL.) The one here in Bridgeport, CT, has a bar, bowling (which looks like an amazing theme park), a multi-story aquarium in the fishing department that looks realistically like what a river looks like under water and stocked with all the kinds of fish you would catch in a local river. The location is right on the harbor so you can actually take out boats to try them out before you buy them. They have fishing classes right on the harbor and also excursion fishing lessons. It’s totally amazing — love it!
So retail isn’t dead.
Bass Pro is Cabella’s and vice versa. They took the best of both and killed the category.
Yes. I haven’t been to Cabella’s yet. The closest one is over an hour away while BassPro is five minutes away.
It’s more of an experience than it is traditional retail though. There was a store in the Poconos that we used to stop off at when taking our kids to camp for the summer and back. Was just this big in the middle of nowhere country store. Had farm animals inside the store and all sorts of animated displays – kind of like you see in ‘it’s a small world’ at Disney. So of course you stop there when passing by. And since it’s the only place in the middle of nowhere it draws people. The inventory is all things you’d never see in the ‘big city’. So it’s kind of cool walking through it. My point is we wouldn’t stop there if it wasn’t so unique and it would have crowds if it had any real competition. (Because the real estate would be to expensive.).In a way it’s kind of like the country version of Eataly. A place where both locals and tourists can walk into and get entertained and some food. (Reading Terminal market in Philly is kind of like a poor man’s Eataly I guess so same you kind of go there if you are near it).
It was Cabella’s in Hamburg, PA. How do I know that? The Appalachian Trail goes through there and there is good rock climbing and Eagle watching at Pulpit Rock and Pinnacle Peak within hiking distance.
Nope this place:https://www.countryjunction…The high tension power lines run right over the parking log. You can here the buzzingof the power when you park in the lot.There was a fire there several years ago. Between the time that my kids went to camp aroundthere and my stepkids went to the same camp. It’s located in a area where the camp (a jewish camp) doesn’teven put it’s name out there for fear of (what I heard) is anti semitism. So when you have to drop thekids off you have to find it without signs.
You just have to have your niche. Have you heard of Bealls Department Store (pronounced Bells) 500 stores in FL and killing it: https://www.beallsflorida.c…You must know Terry Lundgren met him several times at UofA https://cals.arizona.edu/fc…Compared to the Bealls CEO Steve Knopik: https://www.flchamber.com/t…I would say scaled upwards and became private is accurate.Also a ton of this is just blocking and tackling LE says about Wawa which also started down here: https://www.wawa.com/aboutNotice a ton of these are private which means they can have a long term view. This is near to my heart We had 20mm transactions in our North American DataCenters on Black Friday this year which provide rewards to retailers that have at least 500k customers. Think about that means 500/second average.The question is why do people go to you? Bealls for instance is loaded for bear when the snowbirds from the Midwest come to escape the cold. Wawa serves people going to work, and the trades, and lunch. Dollar General builds stores in places like where I live so people can only travel a mile and get basically stuff that they need now instead of driving to the grocery store or Walmart.People now have infinite choices which means that just having lots of stuff doesn’t work, and sadly when I informally survey most big department stores outside of the city they just aren’t hitting the mark with some sort of mission.
They also have dioramas like you would see in a natural history museum.
You know Bass Pro and Cabella’s are one in the same? Just has to do with how close to water you are, or how much hunting there is where you live. They merged and have the best of both at each store, they just kept the names different but everything is the same except a slight focus. But I am sure I could buy the same flannel shirt I am wearing from Cabella’s today at the Bass Pro shop in Bridgeport.
Mainly I go for the salt water fishing gear and for boating supplies.
Wow, that sounds like a serious destination!
It’s totally geared toward the hunting/fishing/sporting demographic, so it’s not for everyone.
I do neither. But I do bars, bowling, and aquariums, ha!
You might really not like it but it is a great experience: https://www.cabelas.com/cat…
My dad was a big fan. When he died, my mom auctioned his huge gun collection with Cabelas. I can definitely see why they succeed (even if it isn’t my cup of tea).
That really is a small part of their store. I see many tourists come in and take pictures. But that is not why they succeed it is just part of them, although I am sure the experience for your Mom was much better than anywhere else.
Yes he would say that (sales tax). However the reason is because the lack of sales tax causes the critical mass that makes it work and attracts enough crowds so that the area is profitable. It’s similar to my ‘cigarettes at Wawa’ theory. Take away the cigarettes and the entire economics changes. People want houses at the beach for more than the water. Take away the water and all the sudden there are no crowds and everything changes, right? No sales tax is an incentive. People are moved by incentives much more than what makes sense rationally. Wawa to their credit is building bigger stores so they probably realize they need to operate going forward in a world where they will not sell cigarettes (opening bigger stores than they ever have).
First I don’t think they make much money selling cigarettes. Now you might say they bring people in. But if you can’t get them anywhere then it’s still an even playing field.I however don’t believe that. Pot is getting legalized everywhere it seems. Allow that and not smoking? Very doubtful.
I went to Lord & Taylor over the holidays because I was searching for a dress for a formal event I was invited to at the last minute. L&T has always been my go-to store for dresses and for business attire — you could always find what you needed. One quarter of their main floor used to be all dresses, for any occasion. Another quarter used to be all business attire. Not anymore. Now the store was divided up by brand and each brand only had a small rack (or less or none) of dresses. Formal wear? None at all — all gone. Business attire? None. There was nothing there that looked interesting or caught my attention. The store looked mundane. The mall itself was packed but hardly anyone was in L&T. It was eerie. I felt like it would be only a matter of time before it closed.I ended up leaving and going to Macy’s. Even Macy’s has downsized their dress department and there was only one small rack of formal dresses. Disappointing. Then I thought, maybe I’ll go look at cashmere sweaters as a gift for my son. Nothing. Only plain cotton or wool sweaters. No cashmere. So, I left.Oddly, I ended up getting a dress at the department store, Boscov’s, that took over the local J.C. Penny space. They had a lot of dresses! I found 20 dresses that I liked to try on! 20! It was amazing! Also, this is a store I would never ever have willingly gone into if I wasn’t desperate to find a dress. It was very bare bones, poor decor, just plain but filled with stuff — everything packed in. It made Kohl’s look luxurious. The store was packed with people too. The prices were cheap. I ended up buying a designer dress for an insanely low price. I wasn’t even searching for a bargain but got one anyway.Boscov’s – https://www.boscovs.com/
I did business with them many many moons ago
I never even heard of them until they took over the JC Penny space.
Reading, PA. Middle of nowhere. Something to be said for that. Check out Beal’s in Florida. They are also doing well.
With Lord and Taylor if people were buying dresses they’d have the dresses, right?One of my daughters? She uses Stitch Fix. For her birthday she wanted me to get her gift certificates to Stitch Fix. She likes the fact that they put together the outfit for you. And she is in NYC where there is plenty of places to shop and buy clothing.
I find there are very few stores like Anthropologie which have invested in their spaces and seem to have retained their brand affinity and foot traffic.
I wonder why there aren’t drop-in daycare centers, yoga studios and gyms at the mall (at least not at any mall I’ve been to).There’s a store in Grand Central, PiQ, that nails a certain type of retail. We went in before Christmas and it was *mobbed*. We wanted to buy everything in there. It’s like an upscale version of the stores in Elizabeth Center arcade.I share Susan’s experience with L&T. Last time I went in to find something nice, it felt seriously down market and depressing. Like a Marshall’s without the fun discovery aspect. I don’t even know where I’d go today if I needed something formal. When I lived in San Francisco I went to Lowe’s, back when they had genuine designer labels.
My equivalent question is why do women’s clothing stores not have anything to occupy men who come with their wives or girlfriends shopping?
Macy’s in Herald Square used to, they had a great sports bar in the basement with very cheap Grolsch beer (relatively) My girlfriend commented it was surreal, she would open the door, 200 men would turn around one would close out and the rest turned back to watching football.
Stores like PetSmart and Tractor Supply let you bring your dog. Ikea has a daycare. In almost every outdoor mall there is a Sports Bar to take care of the big babies.