retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Regarding the stories we have posted here about the "showrooming" trend, MNB user Lisa Cartolano wrote:

Many retailers are "becoming more like showrooms"? Their inventory in the store is low and I frequently go online to buy what I need since the store didn't have it.  Just last night I searched online and a retailer's online site said they had the item in stock in a particular store. When I got to the store, there were none to be found.  That was a wasted trip and that just frustrated me as a shopper. It will make me cut down on my trips to that retailer in the future.

We had a piece the other day in which I ranted - a bit - about how some CEOs end up out of touch with the front lines, using as an example the way the CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, Michael Jeffries, demanded certain perks on his private jet.

MNB user Katie Whelan wrote:

I am all for corporate jets and don’t believe for a second that traveling “private” necessarily obscures one’s view of the world.  Don’t you just have to question any leader who mandates such silliness as Jeffries requires and publishes it?  I find his requirements  absurd and completely incongruous with the role of a “leader” in a private jet or not.  CEOs and their perks are the business of the leaders, their board and their shareholders.  If I had an investment in A & F, or any interest in shopping them, I’d be re-thinking it right now.

To be clear, I did say in my commentary that I understand the need for private jets, and that they allow CEOs a greater level of flexibility and can permit them to be more effective. I was just saying that in this case, it seemed to have more to do with personal comfort than business efficiency and effectiveness ... and seemed particularly incongruous since the retailer hasn't been doing very well lately. (Y'know, that might be a great way to incentivize CEOs. Keep the company's performance at X level, and you get to use the jet. If it falls to Y level, you right commercial, but first class. If it falls to Z ... it's coach.)

MNB user Glenn Cantor wrote:

There is a great line given by Richard Gere’s character, Robert Miller, in the new movie Arbitrage that effectively symbolizes how corporate leaders lose touch with reality.

A young man that Robert Miller has helped support is explaining his plan to begin his life anew, in Virginia.  He tells Robert Miller that he bought an “Applebees.”  The corporate exec’s response is, “what’s Applebees?”


And extra credit to the MNB readers who cite business lessons from the movies...

On the subject of stores that stay open on Thanksgiving - and those that do not - one MNB user wrote:

I echo your sadness and view regarding how much earlier the stores are opening, or heck - the fact that they're open at all during a holiday, but isn't this indicative of what's happening in the workplace today?  By that I mean the erosion of work/life balance.   It's not a worker's market, it's an employer's marketplace these days.  While I realize that sounds cynical, it's simply the truth as I see it.  In my household, my husband works a "standard" 60 hour work week with some weeks eking into the 80 hour range.  He works for a major corporation and across departments this is the expectation, not the exception.  They do not have 40 hour work weeks and no, they do not get paid overtime.   Another member works when they take a day off work (scheduled vacation days) and still has to claim it as a vacation day.  The expectation is you are on call at all times and an on-call phone is rotated for weekend.  The two companies represented here are in two completely different industries.   Sadly, when talking with friends from other industries, I hear similar stories which leads me to believe this is a widespread issue and not isolated to my household.

Regarding retail companies choosing to open during the holidays - my daughter recently worked for Walmart as a front line employee.  She started her tenure last September and worked through the holidays.  I fully anticipated her chagrin when faced with working Thanksgiving and Christmas, however much to our surprise she was thrilled at the prospect of overtime and co-workers were happy to give her the chance so they could time with their families.  While am personally opposed to workers being forced to work during a time that should be dedicated to family, I'm also open to the idea that it does work out well for some folks too.

From another reader:

My family is mixed, religiously. We don’t all celebrate Christmas and Easter, or Passover and the High Holy Days. However, there are two holidays that always bring us together: The 4th of July and Thanksgiving.

Every July 4th my parents, brothers and their families trek to my house where we always spend the time around the pool relaxing and all the cousins can be together and the grandparents can revel in having all their grandkids in one place, BBQ and fireworks displays. At Thanksgiving we all head to my parents’ house where we all cram around folding tables as the cooks in the family scramble to keep everyone full to overflowing while we argue politics between football downs.

I recently entertained a job offer that would have meant a very long-distance relocation. When speaking to my family about the opportunity and if I should accept, my teenage children only asked one question: “Will we still be able to be able to go to Grandma’s for Thanksgiving?” When I said yes they both responded that they were OK with whatever I decided to do.

I know different holidays mean different things to different people and that many would rather be shopping on Thanksgiving, but when I think about people not cramming around tables, elbow to elbow, taking in the love and the loved-ones around them, I can’t help but feel a little sad that something special, something uniquely American has been lost. Of all the holidays we celebrate, why not emphasis those that bring us together, rather than those that highlight our differences?

We had a piece the other day about "the slow death of the DVD," which prompted an MNB user to write:

When I read your eye-opener today, I thought you could have just as easily reported on “The Slow Death of the CD”.  Case in point:  My daughter is in our church Christmas musical.  The director gave us a script and a CD.  We don’t even have a CD player anymore!  We had to import the CD into iTunes and put it on her iTouch (a repurposed iPhone, actually), so she could practice.  A few years ago, it seemed inconceivable that CDs would go the way of 8 tracks, yet here we are.

I have to tell you that last week, I actually went to a Target store near me to pick up the new Taylor Swift CD for my 18-year-old daughter ... she wanted the actual CD because the Target version had bonus tracks, and she asked me to do it because she's away at college and had no way to get to Target.

I did it on one condition - that I could open the package and download it to iTunes before sending it to her. (FYI...I used the USPS. I figured they could use the business.)

So, Target and the record company (do they still call them record companies?) got me to buy a CD by establishing a differential advantage. There's a lesson there.

I'll also tell you this. I love the CD. (I'm a big Taylor Swift fan ... I've even been to a concert with my daughter, though I have to admit that I think I was the oldest male in Madison Square Garden that evening.)
I also have to tell you that the Target near me - in Stamford, Connecticut - is one of the most depressing, badly merchandised Targets that I've ever been into, and that if I never have to walk through those doors again, it'll be just fine with me.

Sadly, I don't think we'll be getting back together. Ever, ever, ever.
KC's View: