retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The other day we took note of a <i>Financial Times</i> report that the Best Buy board of directors has completed its investigation into misconduct allegations against its CEO, Corie Barry, and said that it "supports the continued leadership of the Company by Ms Barry. To preserve the confidentiality and integrity of the process, the Board will have no further comment."

I commented:

I was considering just slotting this into the "FastNewsBeat" section, but thought that it would be fairer to give the story clearing Barry the same kind of position that I gave the story about the original allegations. 

That's especially because we got a number of emails that sort of piled on Barry before we knew any details about the charges. I think sexual harassment in the workplace is a serious issue, and I would never minimize it, but not every relationship is harassment and not every allegation is true.

I suspect that Best Buy's board took this very seriously because of the company's history, and so if it cleared her, it must be because she was in the clear.

One MNB reader responded:

Thank you for your comments regarding Best Buy and CEO, Corie Barry.  They were spot on. In this day and age we seem to rush to judgment when perhaps we should take care of our own “house” before judging others.  I too believe the Best Buy board would have done their due diligence.

We keep getting email about the fake ice being used in places too warm for real ice.  MNB reader Grant Ainsworth wrote:

On the fake ice note – my brother used to use for training on but never actually playing. The best part about it is it can be used like a treadmill with an incline. I do not think this is something you can do near as easy with real ice.

I referenced a Jeff Goldblum line from <i>The Big Chill</i> the other day, and a reader wrote in to say that a number of co-workers had never heard of the movie.  Prompting MNB reader John Rand to write:

Which leads to a core question for those of us who have been around a long time: Is it still plagiarism if no one else remembers the source?

Good question.

Regarding the Barnes & Noble contretemps, from an MNB reader:

It’s as though your commentary was reading my mind re: Barnes & Noble publishing white classics in blackface as an effort to “embrace diversity.”  As I was reading the summary, I thought to myself, “I wonder how many POC were involved in this decision.”  Alas, you had the same query.  I was in a conference earlier this week of about 200 regional commercial real estate experts.  Zero diversity.  Zero, and I’m not exaggerating.  Our city’s population is at least half non-white.  I see the articles about Goldman Sachs and the board diversity requirement for future investments.  I like the progress, but boy, it sometimes seems like we have a LONG way to go.

MNB reader Dan Beard had a thought about yesterday's FaceTime about LL Bean continuing to look for innovative ways to reach new customers:

On “never letting down your guard,” it’s not just he competition to have an eye on.  The business environment changes hold as many if not more permanent hazards. The demise of Kodak when digital photography changed the landscape is an example.  As always you spark thought invoking conversation, really enjoy your FaceTime.

MNB reader Ken Robb, however, wanted to quibble with at least one of my observations:

No question...LL Bean is an American success story.  I used to love their clothing and ordered items from them several times per year.  However, more recently it seems that the quality has least that is my perception.  Instead, now I order from Filson, albeit more expensive, but consistently high quality, with the durability I used to expect from LL Bean.

I've not found that … but I suspect that having registered that observation here, you may hear from them.

Regarding Instacart's unionization issues, MNB reader Jeff Weidauer wrote:

Retailer support and acceptance of InstaCart has never made sense, a point you’ve made several times. This latest effort to unionize brings that point home: InstaCart, its workers, and the retailer each have different and divergent goals. The retailers who welcome this interloper into their domain have invited a Trojan Horse, and they should be prepared for the consequences.

You're playing my song.

From another reader, on another subject:

Regarding Macy’s cost-cutting to invest back into their business, for the last 20-years of my working career I was involved in several cost cutting initiatives with plans to reinvest in the business.  Did it work? Yes, when we reinvested in the business AND did not do more of the same that got us into the cost cutting mode.  No, when we invested it to do more of the same or chose to drop the savings to the bottom line instead of investing back into the business.

In my piece about Macy's issues, I asked who its target shopper is, which prompted MNB reader Michael D. Benghiat to write:

In my opinion it's not "who is the target shopper" but rather "where is the target shopper."

Your piece that follows,  Mall Owners Take Novel Approach To Retailer Bankruptcy, hits on this. Malls are looking like "ghost towns." With the exception of a handful of malls that are still driving traffic (like Somerset Mall here in Troy, MI), malls are just not where shoppers are going. Not to mention online having an impact.

Second, I agree about the experience -- it's lacking. It is quite "vanilla" as you put it. But also, I feel the shopper wants something more personalized. My wife really has stopped shopping at the big box retailers such as Macy's and prefers smaller, more "boutique" type shops. Now this may be age-related but when you step into a Macy's or any like retailer and get the assistance you need that does indeed play into the experience.

I met with Peter Sachse once, a former Macy's C-suite executive who held various marketing/sales/digital/revenue roles; he is a smart guy but no matter the strategy and shifts in business plans it didn't seem to change the outcome. It's happened to so many as you know and the don't need mentioning.

It will continue to be a struggle for these once iconic retail brand names to remain relevant. Maybe the smaller brand extensions or "off-shoots" will prevail to keep those brands from permanently dying off.

From another reader:

Cutting for prosperity would be known for what it is - a corporate death spiral. We’ve stopped shopping at Macy’s because of their greatest flaw and one that will be worsened by the cuts. Store staff, especially in Kansas City, has been cut to the bone. If you want to buy something, finding someone to actually take your money is almost impossible.  The KC store offered a form of ‘self checkout’ which I thought was a way around the lack of staff. Except the last step of the procedure when you had to find someone to verify your purchase. They would be better off finding ways to make it easier to buy rather than more difficult.  Off to Nordstrom’s, I guess, which is just 100 yards down from Macy’s.

Except Nordstrom is moving. Dead mall walking?

And from yet another reader:

Macy’s has devolved into a shoddy discount store with no real message. I used to enjoy shopping there, but their ‘Backstage’ is a trash heap. If they want to be a discounter, then go all in and do it. Make it something innovative, tell me - the customer - what to expect. I’m not in the least surprised they’re closing stores.

And there you have it.

A note from MNB reader Bob Samples:

Kevin, a few of your stories today had a common theme.

Your blog today talked about how Macy’s announced a plan to go from 800 stores (at its peek) to 400.  Looking past that we see that:

9,300 retails stores closed in 2019

50 Earth Fare stores are closing 2020

39 Lucky’s are closing in 2020

120 Shopko’s are closing in 2020

All while Amazon stock eclipses $2,050/share (it was $374 five yrs ago).

See a pattern?

Finally, yesterday I mentioned that "there are generations of people who have no idea who Jim Croce was and who never have listened to his music. Which is a shame.

You don't tug on Superman's cape
You don't spit into the wind
You don't pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger
And you don't mess around with Jim…

MNB reader Kevin Watkins wrote:

My 21-year-old son somehow stumbled across Jim Croce’s music and loves it.

And, from MNB reader Brad Morris:

For Christmas 1975 my grandparents gave me my first record player. I had just turned eleven, and they thought I would like more music than I could listen to on my little AM transistor radio. Now I needed some records to play on it. I only had $10 in saved allowance; enough to buy two albums. I bought Jim Croce’s Greatest Hits (he had passed two years earlier) and Elton John’s Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy. While that record player and all the subsequent records are long-gone, I still listen to both of those albums today via Apple Music.

There never seems to be enough time

To do the things you want to do

Once you find them

I've looked around enough to know

That you're the one I want to go

Through time with…

Great stuff.