retail news in context, analysis with attitude

I'm an enormous Jimmy Buffett fan. Have been forever. One of the enduring pleasures of owning a convertible is the ability to put down the top, crank up some Buffett, and take a drive to the beach.

Now, I acknowledge that Buffett's fan base skews old. One can see that when attending a Buffett concert - there are a lot of middle-aged people there (and people like me who like to consider themselves middle-aged but who are often reminded by their children that this would mean that I'm going to live to 124). But I've always been impressed by the number of younger people who show up at concerts; I suspect that these are kids who, like mine, have been raised on Buffett music and have enormous affinity for the mythical charms of Margaritaville.

The presence of these younger folks, I've long believed, is a positive thing for the Buffett/Margaritaville empire. Buffett is 70, after all, and this is a time when his business, in league with numerous other companies, has been opening new restaurants, hotels and casinos in various locations. I'm sure that the music business is a smaller and smaller part of his revenue stream, though it remains a critical component, since it creates the environment that feeds the other businesses.

That said ... I saw a story this week that makes me wonder if Buffett and his business folks may be making a strategic mistake.

A site called Mental Floss reports that "construction on a Margaritaville-themed senior housing development in Daytona Beach, Florida is currently underway," designed to provide a community for "seniors who dream of spending retirement like they’re living in a Jimmy Buffett song."

According to the story, "Latitude Margaritaville will offer many of the same amenities as a typical Florida retirement complex. Residents of the community’s 6900 homes will have access to a gym, a pool, arts and education programs, a beach shuttle, and a 200,000-square-foot shopping center.

"According to the Margaritaville blog, the facility will also channel the brand’s 'authentic, ‘no worries,’ tropical vibe.' Indoor and outdoor dining spaces will serve food and drinks from the Margaritaville restaurant chain and a bandshell in the village’s center will host live entertainment."

I'm just not sure this is a good idea, if only because it seems to firmly establish Buffett and Margaritaville as an old-person's brand ... and at a certain point, that is likely to make it less attractive to younger consumers.

One of the goals of the leader of any brand - and that's what Jimmy Buffett essentially is - has to be to make sure that the brand outlives them. Hopefully, Buffett will be performing for years to come, keeping the brand alive. While this move into the retirement community business may seem like a smart short-term play, I'm not sure it is the best way to make the brand relevant to the next generation on which it will depend for future growth.

As for me, if I'm going to waste away in Margaritaville (and I'm probably constitutionally incapable of doing this for more than a couple of days), I'm going to find a real island and a real beach and order myself an authentic local beer and maybe some conch.

I just re-read that last paragraph, and it reminded me of something that I often think about ... usually when I'm in Las Vegas or Orlando.

I'm not a big fan of either place, largely because they are built around artifice and illusion. But whenever I'm driving through Orlando or jogging along the Las Vegas strip, I always remind myself that part of the reason I don'd find them enthralling is that I've been to most of the places that they try to recreate. I was born in New York City, so who cares about New York New York. I've been to Paris, and Venice, and in fact to six of the seven continents (Antarctica remains on my bucket list) and 49 of the 50 states (I still have to get to Alaska). Fake versions cannot help but disappoint me.

I've been really lucky. And I guess I just mention this because sometimes when I write about stuff, it may appear that I've lived a privileged life, which informs my attitudes. Which I have, and it does. But I never forget it ... and am thankful for the opportunities I've had, and the ones I will have tomorrow and the next day.

That's it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.

KC's View: