STEVE’S BLOGS

The Increasingly Useless Middleman

The Increasingly Useless Middleman

Traditional retail, at its core, relies largely on being a middleman. The typical multi-brand retailer sits between the manufacturing community and its target consumers, performing valuable intermediary tasks like selecting the right products for the markets it...

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Quitting Is Underrated

Quitting Is Underrated

We don’t have to spend much time among our friends or on social media to run across the never-give-up, quitting-is-for-losers, in-it-to win-it ethos. There’s a whole socially acceptable narrative built around the concept that we must keep pushing no matter what. It’s...

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Tractor Supply Proves Physical Retail Is Very Different, But Far From Dead

Tractor Supply Proves Physical Retail Is Very Different, But Far From Dead

Despite the relentlessly bleak news of sales declines, store closings and retail bankruptcies, Tractor Supply Company not only reported strong quarterly sales but announced plans to open 75 to 80 new brick-and-mortar locations. While clearly benefitting from some...

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The Customer Is The Channel

The Customer Is The Channel

Despite the accelerating growth of digitally-enabled shopping, the concentration of power in the hands of consumers and the blurring of the lines between retail channels , it’s still common for retailers to report their sales for e-commerce and physical retail as two...

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We’re Never Ready

We’re Never Ready

Oh sure, maybe we’re ready for the easy stuff. Ready to leave for work, make dinner, hop in a Lyft, do the laundry, pay the credit card bill. But the work that matters, that enlivens the spirit, that changes us, our tribes, and the world around us? That’s a whole...

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Why Does It Take A Crisis For Retailers To Innovate?

Why Does It Take A Crisis For Retailers To Innovate?

During the COVID-19 crisis we are experiencing tremendous innovation and experimentation on the part of just about every retailer. From curbside pick-up (and other forms of “contact-less” delivery), to appointment shopping, to the overall hyper-growth of e-commerce,...

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The Upside Of Denial

The Upside Of Denial

Is there any? If your experience is anything like mine, you know how seductive denial can be. Denial is the temptress that helps us avoid pain. Denial keeps us in our comfort zone like a warm bath at the end of a long day. Denial creates the sense that defending the...

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The Bullet’s Already Been Fired

The Bullet’s Already Been Fired

The bullets that killed RadioShack, Sports Authority, KB Toys, Sharper Image, and many other once iconic brands were fired long before their respective downward spirals of cost cutting and store closings began. They weren’t legislated out of existence. Consumer...

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Extremists

Extremists

Over the last few years I’ve gotten a fair amount of mileage out of my catch-phrase “Physical retail isn’t dead. Boring retail is.” And, accordingly, I’m often asked: “okay, so what’s the opposite of boring?” My tendency...

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Retail’s Museums of Disappointment

Retail’s Museums of Disappointment

The following is an excerpt from Chapter 4 (“The Collapse of the Middle”) of my new book. Last week, nearly a year later,  I went back to the mall that is referenced below. Sadly, nothing has changed. I guess the Austin area is immune from the forces of...

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The Future Is Already Here

The Future Is Already Here

One of my favorite quotations is from science fiction writer William Gibson who said “the future is already here–it’s just not very evenly distributed.”  In fact, I like it so much that Chapter 6 of my new book is basically an extended riff on...

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Misteaks Were Made

Misteaks Were Made

If we try a new tactic, it might not work. It might be too early, too late, too expensive, too small a market, you name it. We might mess up the execution or spend too much money to possibly earn a decent return. Indeed, if we build it, they (the customers) might not...

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Gradually, Then Suddenly

Gradually, Then Suddenly

“How did you go bankrupt?” Bill asked. “Two ways,” Mike said. “Gradually, then suddenly.” ERNEST HEMINGWAY, THE SUN ALSO RISES There are plenty of times when events catch us completely by surprise. Maybe what happened was completely...

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The Five Emerging Forces Of Retail’s New Normal

The Five Emerging Forces Of Retail’s New Normal

It’s anyone’s guess how quickly retail will mount any semblance of a meaningful rebound from the COVID-19 crisis. Yet, regardless of the pace and distribution of potential outcomes from such a recovery, five major forces are revealing themselves. I suspect few sectors...

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The Key To JCPenney’s Survival Isn’t Closing Stores. It’s Becoming Relevant.

The Key To JCPenney’s Survival Isn’t Closing Stores. It’s Becoming Relevant.

The Relevancy Imperative is not a Jason Bourne novel turned into a cinematic action thriller—though with this report that Jeff Bezos might ride in on his white horse to save the day, perhaps truth will turn out to be stranger than fiction. Instead, while Wall Street...

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Is A Neiman Marcus, Saks Merger Inevitable?

Is A Neiman Marcus, Saks Merger Inevitable?

For years rumors have abounded that various forces were trying to lead North America’s two leading luxury department stores to the alter. And I can neither confirm nor deny that I may have been involved in analyzing such a marriage on more than one occasion. Now, such...

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Bailing Doesn’t Fix The Hole

Bailing Doesn’t Fix The Hole

The parade of bankruptcies that is being unleashed–or more accurately, accelerated–by the COVID-19 pandemic will result in vast numbers of store closings, layoffs and other major expense reductions as long-struggling retailers attempt to stave off...

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The Neiman Marcus Bankruptcy: Separating The Myths From The Realities

The Neiman Marcus Bankruptcy: Separating The Myths From The Realities

As a former senior executive at the Neiman Marcus Group (though gone for more than a decade now) it certainly filled me with sadness when I heard that the iconic luxury retailer filed for bankruptcy. Though, as I wrote about nearly a year ago, this news is hardly...

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Retail’s Great Bifurcation 2.0

Retail’s Great Bifurcation 2.0

It was nearly 10 years ago when I first started to notice the bifurcation of retail. More and more, success was being found at either end of the shopping spectrum. Retailers, whether brick & mortar dominant or predominantly online, that offered great prices and...

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Dead Brands Walking

Dead Brands Walking

What follows is a sub-chapter from my new book. When I wrote it last fall I had no idea how prophetic it would be. While I had been writing and speaking about the collapse of the middle and the increasing irrelevance of retailers that were failing to become more...

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Retail’s Looming Question: If You Open It, Will They Come?

Retail’s Looming Question: If You Open It, Will They Come?

Across the United States—and in many hard hit international markets—so called non-essential retail is beginning to reopen. While the precise timing and specific methods of operation vary by geography, the theoretical ability of consumers to traffic physical stores...

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Mike Tyson, Covid-19 And Getting Back On Your Board

Mike Tyson, Covid-19 And Getting Back On Your Board

Famed business strategist Mike Tyson once said “everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Whether the epic health and economic crisis brought on by the coronavirus is a true Black Swan event is debatable, but it’s clear no business...

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The Fault In Our Stores

The Fault In Our Stores

The following is excerpted from my just released book Remarkable Retail: How To Win & Keep Customers in the Age of Digital Disruption, which I finished writing and editing at the end of last year. Many people believe that the COVID-19 crisis is the proximate cause...

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Good Enough No Longer Is

Good Enough No Longer Is

We could have an interesting philosophical debate about whether it’s desirable that so many of us have become weapons of mass consumption. We can make a good case for the many perils of an always connected, constantly distracted, FOMO-driven, social-media-obsessed...

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Wired For Connection

Wired For Connection

The following is an excerpt from my new book, which will be released on Tuesday. Most people strive for connection. From our earliest years we take comfort (if we are fortunate) in our families, seek out friendships, and join classes, teams, and social groups. The...

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The Drip Method of Irrelevance

The Drip Method of Irrelevance

“If you dislike change, you’re going to dislike irrelevance more.” – Retired General Eric Ken Shinseki In most decision-making sessions, as we pore over the spreadsheets, company analysts typically discuss discount rates that are being used,...

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A Slightly Better Version of Mediocre

A Slightly Better Version of Mediocre

The following is excerpted from my forthcoming book Remarkable Retail: How to Win & Keep Customers in the Age of Digital Disruption, which will be published by LifeTree Media on April 14th. There is nothing inherently wrong with the concept of continuous...

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Hope and Fear

Hope and Fear

It’s hard to imagine a time filled with more fear and less certainty. Our daily routines are now anything but. Markets are in turmoil and job losses are mounting. Some of the businesses and organizations we love edge ever closer to the precipice and there is a...

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Curbside Enthusiasm: Retailers Adapt In A Time Of Crisis

Curbside Enthusiasm: Retailers Adapt In A Time Of Crisis

Confronted with the escalating coronavirus crisis—and the shockingly dramatic sales declines many brands are experiencing—companies need to re-think their ways of doing business. In some cases, these new efforts are in direct response to the specific challenges posed...

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The Coronavirus Will Accelerate Retail’s ‘Collapse Of The Middle’

The Coronavirus Will Accelerate Retail’s ‘Collapse Of The Middle’

For retailers struggling with failing consumer value propositions, the coronavirus pandemic could not have struck at a worse time. Just as many are running out of meaningful cost reduction moves and are in desperate need of profitable top-line growth (and the cash it...

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Black Swans and Purple Cows

Black Swans and Purple Cows

The notion of “black swan events” originates in the  ancient Latin saying “rara avis in terris nigroque simillima cygno” (translated roughly as “a rare bird in the lands and very much like a black swan”) that presumed that black...

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Strategy At The Precipice

Strategy At The Precipice

At one time I kicked off my keynote speeches by saying that I had put together a short video that summed up how many executives are feeling about the state of retail today. Then I showed a clip from Poltergiest II that mostly features 15 seconds of a teenage girl...

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Shift Happens

Shift Happens

Think for a moment about all the radical shifts we are experiencing in this age of digital disruption… The shift from largely siloed experiences to those that are cross-channel and demand well-harmonized integration. The shift from going online to living online....

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We’re all going to die!

We’re all going to die!

Hopefully that’s not news to you. As the late, great metaphysician Jim Morrison reminds us: no one here gets out alive. In fact—and bear with me for a moment as I do some math–if you managed to wake up this morning, you are now one day closer to...

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Macy’s Underwhelms With New ‘Shrink To Grow’ Strategy

Macy’s Underwhelms With New ‘Shrink To Grow’ Strategy

A few weeks back Macy’s announced plans to close 125 stores and eliminate more than 2,000 jobs. It will also be closing its Cincinnati, Ohio office and relocating Macys.com from San Francisco to New York City. The next day the company expanded on its “shrink to grow”...

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J.C. Penney’s Fight For Survival

J.C. Penney’s Fight For Survival

As my fellow Forbes.com contributor Sandy Stein points out in a related post on J.C. Penney’s most recent quarterly earnings report: “You know the bar has been set low when comparable sales…of negative 7.7% (and) twice the loss of the previous year, meets...

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Wayfair, StitchFix And Pure-Play E-commerce’s Scaling Problem

Wayfair, StitchFix And Pure-Play E-commerce’s Scaling Problem

Late last month, Wayfair, the leading online-only furniture brand, reported dramatic sales growth and yet year-over-year profits fell significantly. Unsurprisingly the stock took a steep hit. In its most recent earnings announcement, Stitch Fix, the online styling...

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Physical stores: Assets or liabilities?

Physical stores: Assets or liabilities?

Of course the obvious answer is “well, that depends.” As the intersection of economic feasibility and consumers’ willingness to adopt new technology hit a tipping point, for retailers that had invested big bucks in the brick-and-mortar distribution of music, books and...

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The Ticking Time Bomb Of E-commerce Returns

The Ticking Time Bomb Of E-commerce Returns

Returns have long been the nemesis of many retail brands. When a product is returned or exchanged, not only does the retailer experience incremental supply chain costs, but often the item cannot be resold at the original price owing to damage, wear and tear, or...

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E-Commerce May Be ‘Only’ 10% Of Retail, But That Doesn’t Tell The Whole Story

E-Commerce May Be ‘Only’ 10% Of Retail, But That Doesn’t Tell The Whole Story

It seems as if those who spend a lot of time worrying about the future of retail have fallen into one of two camps. There are the “retail apocalypse” proselytizers who would have us believe that virtually all shopping will eventually be done online, that most...

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Ulta and Sephora keep defying the ‘retail apocalypse’

Ulta and Sephora keep defying the ‘retail apocalypse’

It seems like more and more brands didn’t get the ‘retail apocalypse’ memo. As many in the media shout “bring out your dead,” it turns out quite a few major retailers keep cruising along despite being heavily invested in  physical stores. Sephora, which already has...

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Gap, J. Crew, Hudson’s Bay and the Unrelenting Collapse of the Middle

Gap, J. Crew, Hudson’s Bay and the Unrelenting Collapse of the Middle

It finally seems that most people have caught up to the fact that reports of retail’s death are greatly exaggerated. There is no retail apocalypse. Software is not eating retail. Brick-and-mortar stores are not going away. Traditional retailers are not all doomed. And...

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The 3 big problems with omnichannel retail

The 3 big problems with omnichannel retail

In early 1999, as a fairly recently minted VP, I found myself at a posh Arizona resort attending Sears annual “strategic leadership team” meeting. At the final session of our retreat then CEO Arthur Martinez made a bold–and as it turns out rather prophetic–statement...

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Another store bites the dust: Why retailers like Shopko fail

Another store bites the dust: Why retailers like Shopko fail

Last week, Shopko, the long-beleaguered department store chain, announced it would begin a complete liquidation. It now joins a growing list of once-prominent retail brands (Payless Shoes, Toys “R” Us, Gymboree) that first tried to shrink to prosperity, only to...

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Watering Dead Flowers

Watering Dead Flowers

Many of us seem to be praying to a god of unending, unrelenting perseverance. If your social media experience is anything like mine, it’s not long before some form of never-give-up-ism hits your timeline. Then, most often, that person’s followers pile on with a hearty...

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The toys are back in town: A reimagined Toys ‘R’ Us returns

The toys are back in town: A reimagined Toys ‘R’ Us returns

As it turns out, reports of Toys ‘R’ Us’ death may have been greatly exaggerated. The iconic toy retailer—which filed for bankruptcy in 2017 after piling up more than $5 billion in debt—closed its more than 800 U.S. doors and seemed destined for the retail graveyard....

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Retail apocalypse? Maybe it’s time to worry about a disruptor meltdown?

Retail apocalypse? Maybe it’s time to worry about a disruptor meltdown?

As much as “retail apocalypse” continues to show up in the headlines, by now most people that take the time to look at the facts know it’s nonsense. The truth is while much of retail is definitely different–in some cases radically–it’s far from dead. Physical retail...

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Pier 1 Imports: From bad to worse to dire

Pier 1 Imports: From bad to worse to dire

Pier 1 Imports reported quarterly results last week and—there’s just no nice way to say this—they were awful. The company, which only last week completed a 1-for-20 reverse stock split to avoid its shares being delisted, delivered an abysmal 15.5% drop in sales and...

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Retail’s new rush to rent

Retail’s new rush to rent

While the overwhelming majority of retail involves a transfer of ownership from seller to consumer, renting products is hardly a new concept. The so-called rent-to-own industry is large and well-established, led by companies like Rent-A-Center. This market sector...

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Has Amazon hit a wall?

Has Amazon hit a wall?

At first glance, it might seem like a preposterous question: Has Amazon hit a wall? Even after what most considered a disappointing quarterly earnings report, Amazon’s growth and competitive position are the envy of just about every retailer on the planet. But three...

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With the RealReal’s blockbuster IPO is ‘recommerce’ retail’s next big thing?

With the RealReal’s blockbuster IPO is ‘recommerce’ retail’s next big thing?

It’s hard not to be impressed with The RealReal’s stock market debut. The luxury reseller raised $300MM in its initial public offering and saw its shares soar nearly 45% before settling in at at a market capitalization of $2.4 billion. Not too shabby. Until very...

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So now retail is all about the experience? Just what the heck does that mean?

So now retail is all about the experience? Just what the heck does that mean?

L’Occitane new experiential retail concept store in New York I keep reading that success in retail today is all about the experience. Some retail influencers whom I cross paths with on the conference circuit often anchor their talks on some variation of customer...

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Discordant notes

Discordant notes

Earlier this week, after my youngest daughter’s college graduation, I had to fly back from Portland. Upon arriving at PDX, as an Executive Platinum member, I was able to check-in quickly and I practically glided through security. When I got to the gate I learned that...

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Out on a limb: 14 predictions for retail in 2019

Out on a limb: 14 predictions for retail in 2019

Last year I started making annual retail predictions–some more provocative than others. For a first-timer I must say I think I did pretty well. Undaunted, I’m now back with my 2019 list of (mostly) bold predictions. Here goes… Apocalypse? No. Yes 2018 was yet another...

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The stores strike back

The stores strike back

Amidst all the retail apocalypse nonsense it turns out that physical retail isn’t dead after all.  Last year some 3,000 new stores were opened and physical retail continued to have positive growth in most major global markets. One of my 14 predictions for retail in...

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Retail reality: It’s death in the middle

Retail reality: It’s death in the middle

I first pointed to what I called “retail’s great bifurcation”literally two years ago today. Though it wasn’t the first time that I had observed what I saw as the impending collapse of the middle. I began writing and speaking about that during 2011. As we emerged from...

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Kohl’s, JC Penney and the relentless collapse of retail’s boring middle

Kohl’s, JC Penney and the relentless collapse of retail’s boring middle

  Kohl’s and JC Penney both reported sales and earnings this past week. And while there is always plenty of discussion about how they did relative to Wall Street’s expectations, that’s all rather beside the point. Whether Kohl’s deepening partnership with Amazon...

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Omnichannel is dead. The future is harmonized retail.

Omnichannel is dead. The future is harmonized retail.

I’m calling it. “Omnichannel” is dead. And in my mind it’s long overdue. Nearly 16 years since its apparent coining, I think most of us can agree that if “omni-channel” ever had any real usefulness as a concept (debatable), it is now well past its expiration date. And...

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The blended channel is the only channel

The blended channel is the only channel

For quite some time, various executives and so-called gurus have been going on and on about “multi-channel” this and “multi-channel” that. In fact, it’s hard to get through a discussion–or speech or consulting report or white paper or blog posting–on multi-channel...

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Physical retail is not dead. Boring retail is.

Physical retail is not dead. Boring retail is.

It may make for intriguing headlines, but physical retail is clearly not dead. Far from it, in fact. But, to be sure, boring, undifferentiated, irrelevant and unremarkable stores are most definitely dead, dying or moving perilously close to the edge of the precipice....

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Retail’s new fork in the road: Understanding ‘buying’ vs. ‘shopping’

Retail’s new fork in the road: Understanding ‘buying’ vs. ‘shopping’

As I pointed out in my last piece, it is all too easy to be misled by high-level statistics and narratives that paint an incomplete picture of the retail landscape. Similarly, many fail to appreciate the underlying dynamics that (increasingly) separate industry...

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Macy’s acquires Story: Game changer or much ado about nothing?

Macy’s acquires Story: Game changer or much ado about nothing?

Last week Macy’s announced it had acquired Story, a New York-based concept store, and appointed founder Rachel Shechtman to be its new “brand experience officer.” And, for the most part, enthusiastic gushing ensued. Let’s simmer down, people. As I regularly write...

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The store closing panacea

The store closing panacea

There has been a strong and growing narrative that the single smartest thing a struggling retailer can do is to close stores and, in some cases, a lot of them. I first touched on this nearly three years ago in my post “Shrinking to prosperity: The store closing...

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Shrinking to prosperity: The store closing delusion

Shrinking to prosperity: The store closing delusion

Yesterday Radio Shack announced it’s closing 1,100 stores, nearly 20% of their total. Earlier this year, JC Penney took the axe to 33 units, amidst a rising call of analysts pushing for more aggressive real estate pruning. Sears has closed some 300 units across the...

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Different, not dead: The future of brick & mortar retail

Different, not dead: The future of brick & mortar retail

“Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”  – Mark Twain* Media reports highlight the dramatic shift of spending from traditional stores to e-commerce. Industry analysts and pundits predict the demise of brands with substantial investments in retail real...

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Sears: The World’s Slowest Liquidation Sale (Redux)

Sears: The World’s Slowest Liquidation Sale (Redux)

Today Sears Holdings reported comparable store sales decreases of 10.9% and its twelfth straight quarterly operating loss. And when we are reminded that despite a decade of Eddie Lampert’s leadership there is still no articulated–much less viable–strategy to turn the...

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A bunch of little kids running toward a soccer ball

A bunch of little kids running toward a soccer ball

I was the coach of my first-born daughter’s soccer team when she was 5 years old. The coaching requirements, apparently, were lack of competing hobbies and near infinite patience. As it turns out–and through good fortune–lack of knowledge of the game and no...

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The struggles of the flying trapeze artist

The struggles of the flying trapeze artist

If only growth–profound, meaningful growth–personal, business or otherwise, could happen without confronting our fears and was devoid of any risk, absent any real struggle or pain. Wouldn’t it be great if the journey from a challenging present set of circumstances to...

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The future of omni-channel will not be evenly distributed

The future of omni-channel will not be evenly distributed

While many brands were slow to drink the omni-channel Kool-Aid, failing to recognize a fundamental shift in consumer behavior that began over a decade ago, most are now throwing gobs of money at various cross-channel marketing and “seamless integration” initiatives....

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Retail’s Single Biggest Disruptor. Spoiler Alert: It’s Not E-commerce

Retail’s Single Biggest Disruptor. Spoiler Alert: It’s Not E-commerce

There is no question that the retail industry is under-going a tremendous amount of change. Record numbers of store closings. Legacy brands going out of business–or teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. Venture capital funded start-ups wreaking havoc upon traditional...

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5 reasons Sears should liquidate ASAP

5 reasons Sears should liquidate ASAP

This article was originally posted in May 2014. As a former Sears senior executive I’ve followed the once mighty brand’s journey from mediocrity to bad to just plain sad. What a long strange trip it’s been. When I left in late 2003 we were gaining traction in our core...

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Sears Holdings to convert most stores to indoor waterparks

Sears Holdings to convert most stores to indoor waterparks

This blog was originally posed April 1, 2014. After years of fighting declining sales and anemic profits, Sears Holdings (the parent company of Sears and Kmart) announced today that it would convert all of its more than 800 mall-based Sears department stores to indoor...

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Omni-channel’s migration dilemma

Omni-channel’s migration dilemma

This blog was originally posted in August 2014. The shift in retail to a more omni-channel world is dramatic and profound. And since the term “omni-channel” gets thrown around a lot–often vaguely or carelessly–let me be clear about what I mean: more and more customers...

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Stop blaming Amazon for department store woes

Stop blaming Amazon for department store woes

Note: This post originally appeared in January 2017. Given Amazon’s staggering growth and willingness to lose money to grab market share it’s easy to blame them for everything that is ailing “traditional” retail overall–and the  department store sector in particular....

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Every Single Retail Store in the US To Close Permanently By Month’s End

Every Single Retail Store in the US To Close Permanently By Month’s End

Note: This post originally appeared April 1, 2017 In a surprise move that underscores the sweeping changes faced by the retail industry, the National Retail Federation, speaking on behalf of all of its members, announced today that every brick & mortar location of...

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$20billsfor$15.com seeks first $1 trillion IPO valuation

$20billsfor$15.com seeks first $1 trillion IPO valuation

Note: This post first appeared April 1, 2019 On the heels of Lyft’s $24 billion initial public offering–and what could be $100+ billion valuations later this year when Uber and WeWork go public–$20billsfor$15.com filed its S-1 on Friday. In its filing the 2 year old...

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Just because you killed Jesse James…

Just because you killed Jesse James…

“Just because you killed Jesse James, don’t make you Jesse James.” – Mike Ehrmantraut to Walter White, Episode 3, Season 5 of Breaking Bad. Just because you’ve shot down my idea doesn’t mean yours is better. Defending the status quo can be necessary, but mostly it’s...

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The tranquilizing drug of gradualism

The tranquilizing drug of gradualism

In his “I have a dream” speech, Martin Luther King, Jr. challenged a slow and steady pathway to civil rights reform. Those in favor of an incremental approach feared that making waves–that being too confrontational–would backfire. It was seen as too risky a strategy....

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I am the captain now

I am the captain now

For a long time brands had the upper hand. The purchase funnel was relatively straight-forward. Media channels were few and generally well controlled. The consumer’s access to product and pricing information was limited. Distribution channels were highly disciplined....

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Sears: The one thing that could have saved them

Sears: The one thing that could have saved them

As much fun as it is to call out Eddie Lampert on his misguided, selfish and seemingly delusional decade-plus leadership of Sears Holdings, when the world’s slowest liquidation sale is ultimately complete–I’m guessing, for all intents and purposes, by this time next...

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Sears: The world’s slowest liquidation sale

Sears: The world’s slowest liquidation sale

“I see dead people…they only see what they want to see.  They don’t know they’re dead.” – Cole Sear in The Sixth Sense There probably was a time when Eddie Lampert honestly believed that Sears and Kmart could be resurrected as competitive retailers. But the concept of...

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Plot twist: Amazon’s future may soon be tied to physical stores

Plot twist: Amazon’s future may soon be tied to physical stores

This blog first appeared in September 2018 It’s hard to underestimate the success and increasing power of Amazon. Their market cap hovers just under $1 trillion. Their growth rates have been astounding. By most estimates Amazon now accounts for nearly 50% of all US...

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Defying the Sea of Sameness

Defying the Sea of Sameness

Any business school course on strategy will devote significant time to the importance of competitive differentiation.  We attend marketing conferences where speakers pontificate on the need to have a unique value proposition.  Excellent books like Seth Godin’s Purple...

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The future of omni-channel will not be evenly distributed

The future of omni-channel will not be evenly distributed

While many brands were slow to drink the omni-channel Kool-Aid, failing to recognize a fundamental shift in consumer behavior that began over a decade ago, most are now throwing gobs of money at various cross-channel marketing and “seamless integration” initiatives....

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E-commerce’s pesky little profitability problem

E-commerce’s pesky little profitability problem

Online-only retailers have attracted huge amounts of investment capital during the past decade. Flash-sales sites such as Gilt and RueLaLa have collectively raised hundreds of millions of dollars. Rather small, but rapidly growing, specialty players like Bonobo’s,...

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Death in the middle

Death in the middle

In politics, finding the middle ground is often challenging, but typically it’s what is needed to make societal progress. In conducting our own affairs, behaving moderately–what the Buddhists call “the Middle Path”–is usually the best way to find happiness and...

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Retail’s great bifurcation

Retail’s great bifurcation

This post originally appeared on my previous blog site in December 2015. It’s not that malls are dying. In fact, many malls are not only surviving, quite a few are thriving. Despite all the doomsayers, physical retail is not facing extinction. Not only are many...

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