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..

Z

The Retail Apocalypse is Old News. Now What?

In 2019, regardless of size, tenure or segment of business retailers, brands and suppliers must recognize that they can no longer navigate the new landscape with old maps.

Tomorrow’s retail winners will be nimble, data-driven, fast-to-market and cost efficient. They will have the foresight, fortitude and fearlessness to disrupt their own identity and legacy models.

“Do or do not. There is no try.”

The rate of change will escalate. There is no time for deep contemplation. Winners will leap, measure and then optimize.

Failing fast will be a requirement, not an option. Succeeding fast will be a requirement, too.

The Alchemist’s Retail Prophecies for 2019:

Warning: One can identify prognosticators who use a crystal ball to predict the retail future. They’re the ones with glass shards in their bleeding hands and smoke issuing from their charred eyebrows.

20 Companies Account for Nearly All Retail & Fashion Profits

20 “super winner” companies now account for 97% of economic profit in the retail and fashion industry, a dramatic increase from 70% in 2010.

This finding is one of many interesting insights released in the “State of Fashion 2019” report from McKinsey & Company and The Business of Fashion.

The study shows increased polarization, with luxury and value advancing and mid-market players falling behind. “Well-known European luxury companies tended to be overrepresented in the top 20, with North American companies coming in a close second.”

Over time North American department stores lost out, with none remaining in the top 20, compared with three 10 years ago — a stark illustration of the fragility of the traditional retailing model.

The report states that 20% of companies represent 128% of the total industry economic profit.

Credit Cards, Swiped

Retailers have been trying for years to escape more than $90 billion in swipe fees levied by credit-card companies.

Some believe the answer lies in payment apps, with also allow retailers to collect consumer data and may provide “stickiness” with their loyalty programs.

While shoppers have largely shunned mobile payments offered by third-party providers like Apple, Google and PayPal, retailers are trying to persuade customers to embrace the technology by dangling discounts and other perks.

Several chains, including Walmart, Starbucks & Kohl’s , have had some success by baking the apps into their own loyalty programs—and more than half of companies surveyed recently by the National Retail Federation said they’ve implemented “branded digital wallets” or are considering it.