The Future of Retail Discovered in a Galaxy Far, Far Away…

“Retail as theater” has been redefined. The new shopping, entertainment, immersive experience ecosystem will completely transform the roles of retailers, retail workers, brands, products, services and especially “customers.”

In the 1960s, before the term “retail experience” existed, CEO and industry icon, Marvin Traub, created “retail as theater” at Bloomingdale’s on 59th Street.

Traub explained, “We developed the idea that a store should be entertainment, not just a place to buy a suit and a shirt or a tie.”

Under Traub, Bloomingdale’s staged stunning and immersive product presentations, curated from around the globe, as must-see events, attracting media and celebrity visitors, including Queen Elizabeth.

Fathers, Fashion, and Family Therapy

(left to right) Arnold M. Katz, outfitted by Abercrombie & Fitch, with the author and his brother, Stephen. © Katz Family Archives

An Homage To My Dad, on Father’s Day

I recall my father as a fashion and style mentor. He set the bar very high. And, for me, it was the wrong bar.

In my memory, his wardrobe comes into sharp focus not only visually, but also as a reflection of his personal statements regarding essential goals, achievements and status.

Hudson Yards. The Next Miracle on 34th Street?

Courtesy of Related Companies and Oxford Properties Group

Where can you go to work, jump on a treadmill, watch a movie, see an art exhibit, and buy a $10 latte, a $4,000 Louis Vuitton bag, and a $32 million condo – all at the same location?

Hudson Yards, New York City.

The 28-acre mixed-use Manhattan real estate development will open nearly one million square feet of retail space on Friday, March 15.

With 18 million square feet of residential and commercial development, five office towers, including a 1,100-foot tall skyscraper with the city’s highest outdoor observation deck. The complex will ultimately include 4,000 condominiums, a hotel, and an art and music venue. Dining options include tapas and hot dogs, as well as foodie bait from David Chang and Thomas Keller. When completed and fully occupied, the mega-project will be home to 40,000 office workers, 4,000 residents, and a currently unspecified number of retail employees.

A Lot of Clams

“One of the best innovation stories I’ve ever heard came from a senior executive at a leading tech firm. His company had won a million-dollar contract to design a sensor that could detect pollutants at very small concentrations underwater.

It was an unusually complex problem, so the firm set up a team of crack microchip designers, & they started putting their heads together.

About 45 minutes into their first working session, the marine biologist assigned to their team walked in with a bag of clams and set them on the table. Seeing the confused looks of the chip designers, he explained that clams can detect pollutants at just a few parts per million, and when that happens, they open their shells.

As it turned out, they didn’t really need a fancy chip to detect pollutants — just a simple one that could alert the system to clams opening their shells. “They saved $999,000 and ate the clams for dinner.”

Greg Satell, Harvard Business Review June, 2017

That, in essence, is the value of open innovation. When you have a really tough problem it helps to expand skill domains beyond specialists in a single field. Many believe it is these kinds of unlikely combinations that are key to coming up with breakthroughs.

If a newsstand and a vending machine had a baby…

If a newsstand and a vending machine had a baby… It might be the “NanoStore,” created by store automation vendor, AiFi Inc.

Essentially an automated self-service convenience store in a small footprint, NanoStore can be dropped into an indoor or outdoor space. Swipe a credit card to enter, and once inside it is “grab and go” cashier-less tech observed by sensors, cameras, and other tech.

Amazon Go in a box? A reduction in consumer friction? A good example of retail evolution popping up everywhere? Or, another “S.O.S,” victim of Shiny Object Syndrome? Just because we can build something doesn’t mean we should build it.

Your thoughts are welcome, as always.

Bankrupt Once More

Payless ShoeSource is closing its 2,100 U.S. stores in what will be the largest-ever retailer liquidation when measured by the number of stores closing.

Payless was founded in 1956. In the 1990s the company sold 250 million pairs of shoes a year, in 2018 that number was estimated to be closer to 75 million pair.

Payless went through Chapter 11 bankruptcy restructuring less than two years ago and closed 500 stores. Creditors at the time became shareholders in the restructured company.

The company will begin liquidation sales at its U.S. and Puerto Rico stores this weekend. “We expect all stores to remain open until the end of March, and the majority will remain open until May,” a spokesman said.

The closings will increase pressure on already challenged U.S. retail malls, where Toys R Us, Sears, BonTon, and JCPenney have shut down stores. Payless said its international business, including Canada and Latin America will not be affected..

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