retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Associated Press reports that Benny’s - a 93-year-old general merchandise retailer with 31 locations in Southern New England - has decided to shut down operations by the end of the year. More than 700 employees will lose their jobs.

In a prepared statement, the company wrote, in part:

Many of you may have already heard the news: Benny’s, after 93 years in business, plans to close all retail locations by the end of 2017 as our ownership family has decided to retire. In a short period of time, the retail landscape has changed dramatically – especially for “brick and mortar” businesses. The decision to retire was strongly influenced by this changing face of retailing.

We will miss our employees who have been such a big part of what has made Benny’s successful for so many decades. And of course, we’ll miss our many loyal customers who have supported us over the years. We have never tired, in all of those 93 years, of hearing the stories of a child’s first bike bought at Benny’s or “if Benny’s doesn’t have it, you don’t need it.”

KC's View:
I don’t want to be insensitive here, nor do I wish to speak ill of the almost-dead.

But … it seems pretty clear to me that for too m any shoppers, Benny’s no longer was their favorite store. And I guess I am wondering if ownership ever really came to terms with how the world changed, and if they tried to adapt.

I’ve never been inside a Benny’s, to my knowledge. But I’ve seen pictures, and one of the things that I’ve noticed is that underneath the name of the store there is a slogan, “Famous For Low Prices.”

That’s a tough proposition, especially if you are competing with Amazon and Walmart. I fervently believe that with few exceptions - WinCo would be one - retailers have to avoid being compared only on price. They can’t make price the core argument. They should be more focused on value, but need to expand the definition of what that means in the mind of the shopper.