macy’s Is Learning

macys2In an article called “Macy’s Discovers the Strength of Independent Retailers”,  “Retailing Together” reports on Macy’s recent announcement that they are laying off 7,000 workers and moving the merchandising and buying decisions into local district offices.  It seems that Macy’s has discovered that markets are different and that consumers, especially in the Midwest, like to have a part in the buying decision, too.  Imagine that!

Here in St. Louis, our traditional department store was Famous-Barr, part of the May Company.  When Federated Department Stores bought May in  2006   , the promise was that local management would be retained and that shoppers would notice little difference.  But it didn’t take long to see changes in the stores’ merchandise.

Famous-Barr became Macy’s and buyers located in the Midwest were replaced with national buyers.  Turns out not to have been such a great decision.  Now Macy’s is doing a 180 and trying to recover lost customers and sales.

Meanwhile, independent retailers just keep on doing what they’ve been doing all along.  If ladies in Missouri like a certain style of shoe, the local shoe store has them while Macy’s has been trying to force them to wear something else.

If gentlemen in Iowa prefer tweed sport coats, that’s what the local men’s shop is carrying while the national chain’s trendy offerings crowd the closeout rack.

On the other side of the coin, the agility and flexibility of the local merchant make it much easier for them to react when local tastes do change.

I hate to age myself, but I was working for a national retail chain in the early ‘7os.  The disco craze made Nehru jackets a hot item.  All the local stores (including Famous-Barr) had them in stock.  By the time my company’s buyers in New York reacted to the trend, got orders through the beaurocracy,  and got merchandise into the stores, I got my Nehru jackets the day after all the local stores had put them on closeout.

Not much has changed.  Customers are still  looking for value, not just price.  They’re looking for personal service, not an hour-long wait in a checkout line.  They’re looking for a place, like Cheers, “where everybody knows your name.”

And that, my friends, is what independent business is all about.

Lights, Camera, ACTION!

I’m a firm believer that you should look for good ideas everywhere.  That explains this link to an unlikely web site for a business blog.  It’s called Widows Quest, written by Anna Farmery of Great Britain.  Anna is also responsible for The Engaging Brand blog and podcast and is one of the three Podcast Sisters.

Anna wrote today on “Facing Life’s Problems“.  Long story short [you’ll have to read Anna’s post to get the longer version] the first step in solving any problem is to take some kind of positive action.

Whether the problem is bad weather or cash flow, it’s not going to go away until you take that first step.

On Looking Prosperous

I was talking to a friend today and he mentioned some recent shopping experiences. He’s noticed, and I have too, that there are some (a lot of?) companies who aren’t making a very good impression on prospects and customers based on the appearance of their offices/stores.

Ok, things may be a little tought right now and maybe you’re trying to cut expenses in every way possible, but you have to maintain a look of success if you’re going to get anyone excited about doing business with you.

Your business must be bright and cheerful.  If things are slow right now, it might be a good time to invest in some paint, a carpet cleaner, and some new accessories to liven up the place.  Replace burnt-out light bulbs and anything that’s not 100%.

Then take a look in the mirror.  I know, we have to work with what nature gave us appearance-wise, just look at the picture on the left.  But I’m talking about your overall disposition and your wardrobe.  This applies to everyone in your business, whether they deal with customers or not.  You must give the appearance of success, even if you’re in a slump.  You may not have had a customer in a week, but when one does come in, you can’t look like you just crawled out of bed.

If yours is a casual business, then dress the part.  But casual doesn’t mean sloppy, dirty, or unkempt.

If you’re in a business where you deal with customers (and who isn’t) then you’re in show business.  Actors dress the part and so should you.  They practice their craft and they’re ready to go on when the time is right.  Ask yourself, “Are my customers seeing a box office smash, or are they seeing ‘Death of a Salesman’?”

Football, 3-D Glasses, and Pets.com

Like most Americans I went to a Super Bowl party Sunday.  Part of the hype leading up to the telecast of the game was a promotion, sponsored by a soft drink company, for a preview of Disney movie, filmed in “3-D”, that won’t be out until this summer.    To see this commercial, and that’s what it was, a commercial, you had to visit your nearest retailer and pick up a pair of “3-D” glasses.

Like Ralphie, in the movie “A Christmas Story“, who waited weeks for the arrival of his “Little Orphan Annie Secret Decoder Ring”  we were told to gather around the TV at the end of the second quarter of the game appropriately clad in our fashionable cardboard glasses.

At the appointed time, as I looked around the room at a group of usually sane people wearing cardboard “glasses”, it made me think of how the actual football game has become secondary to marketing at the Super Bowl.

These folks had gone to the trouble of going to the store to get their 3-D specs to watch a commercial!  If the game itself were in “3-D” the whole thing might have made sense, but to do it for the pleasure of seeing a commercial was just a bit much.  Where Ralphie had sent away for his decoder ring expecting to get a secret message from Annie, only to be disappointed to find out that the “message” was actually a commercial for Ovaltine, we knew exactly what we were going to see.

pets_dot_comWhich made me think how things have changed in just a few years.  Remember Pets.com?  They created quite a stir when they spent $1.2 million to advertise their on-line business during the 2000 Super Bowl.  The ad, featuring a sock puppet,  was rated #1 [The company would close it’s doors before the end of the year, but that’s another story.]

The idea of  an internet-only business spending that kind of money on TV advertising was unheard of.  But here we are, just nine years later, with dot com’s advertising like crazy.  E-Trade [my wife loves the baby] and GoDaddy.com both purchased multiple ads for this years event for something north of $2 million each.  Both companies ran well-produced, obviously expensive ads.

By the way, can you name the teams that played in the 2000 Super Bowl?  Probably not.

Which begs some  questions:

Is the Super Bowl a broadcast of a football game interrupted by commercials, or a broadcast of commercials interupted by a football game?

Better yet, is it really a Springsteen concert surrounded by a football game?

Does the pregame show really have to start more than eight hours before the game?

Does any football game really need ten announcers?

And finally, aren’t the Budweiser Clydesdales the cutest giant animals ever, especially when they’re in love?

[The St. Louis Rams defeated the Tennessee Titans in Super Bows XXXIV on January 30, 2000 by a score of 23-16, Kurt Warner’s only Super Bowl win.  If you didn’t know that, you weren’t really watching the game.]

Credit Where Credit is Due

Regular followers of Mining the Store should be aware that for two and a half years I blogged at Mine Your Own Business, the Tacony Corporation blog.

My last post at MYOB was on December 24, 2008 which was also my last day (after twenty-nine years) at Tacony. That blog continues with new authors and is well worth a look.

Unfortunately, due to a glitch in the Typepad software, when my name was taken off the Tacony blog, the byline for all 680+ posts that I wrote was changed to someone else’s name. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a simple fix although I’ve been assured that it’s being worked on.

In the mean time, until the situation at Mine Your Own Business has been corrected, I have copied all the posts that I wrote there to this blog. For the most part, anything posted on this blog written up to and including December 24, 2008  originally appeared at MYOB although there are some that originally appeared here.   To put it another way, anything that appears on the other blog up to and including December 24, 2008 was written by yours truly, regardless what the byline says.  Hopefully this is only a temporary solution.

I’ll keep you informed.