retail news in context, analysis with attitude

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Hi, I'm Kevin Coupe and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy. There are three subjects on my mind this morning, so let me take them one by one…

First of all, I've gotten a number of emails asking me why I haven't covered or commented on the travails of American Apparel, the clothing retailer that has been in the news lately because the board stripped founder Dov Charney of his chairmanship and moved to fire him as CEO. The board made the move after years of allegations of sexual misconduct, though the official reason apparently has more to do with financial shenanigans (like paying off employees so they wouldn't sue him for sexual harassment).

The reason I haven't commented on the situation is because I have this feeling that immediately after doing so, I'll need to take a shower … the situation is just so sleazy and creepy that I just haven't wanted to talk about it.

So let me just say this. From all reports, the board has known for a long time what Charney's behavior has been like, but only decided to step in when it affected the company's financial performance. I'm not a prude, and I think that whatever goes on between consenting adults is none of my business. But that doesn't seem to be the case here, and it certainly isn't the kind of company where I'd want one of my kids to work. (I wonder how many of the board members have kids who work there. I'd bet none.)

The board could've stepped in years ago, and probably should have … because certain kinds of behavior simply ought not to be tolerated. The allegations against Charney - which he doesn't seem to deny, but just argues that the board has no right to depose him - make him seem like a dirtbag, but the board may, in fact, be no better. A pox on all their houses.

On the brighter side, I've been totally jazzed lately to see a number of articles pointing to how various fictional creations on Star Trek - like the transporter, the food replicators, the holodecks and even warp drive - suddenly seem to be less like science fiction and more like science…people are actually working on them, and they seem within the realm of possibility.

I just think this is totally cool. I know I'm a bit of a geek about this, but Star Trek remains one of the most hopeful entertainments ever created … it actually posits a world where things are better, where mankind has gotten beyond petty concerns and looks beyond itself. It may be a lot more difficult, but if we can actually develop a transporter, I hope at some point we'll be able to achieve the things Star Trek says about the human heart and mind. I'm not encouraged on that score, but I'm hopeful.

Speaking of hope … few things make me as hopeful as what I like to call my summer adjunctivity … I'm speaking to you this morning from the campus of Portland State University in Oregon, where I'm spending much of my summer team-teaching a marketing class with the great Dr. Tom Gillpatrick. It's early, but I can tell you this based on experience - the students are going to be smart, committed, innovative and thoughtful…and I'm going to learn as much from them as they learn from me. (This is true on so many levels. For example, I learned last night that one of our students is, in addition to her studies, a member of the Portland Shockwave, a women's full-contact professional football team competing in the Women's Football Alliance. I didn't even know there was women's professional football, much less a league. And last night we got a lesson in how the team and league work. Like I said, I learn a lot teaching this class.)

Once again this year, we're going to have some terrific guests joining us in the classroom. I've been lucky enough to have friends of mine from all sorts of companies, some of them from as far as 3,000 miles away, come to Portland to spend time with my classes over the past few summers. I think this speaks volumes about their generosity of spirit, and to the allure that the classroom has for many of us. For a few hours, we're not putting out fires. Rather, we're stoking them…hopefully in the bellies of these terrific students.

It is just a blast, and I'm lucky and privileged to be here.

That's what is on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.

KC's View: