“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.”
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… 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.
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..
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.
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.
Ralph Lauren’s barber, Clemente Dimonda, used to work on Jamaica Ave., in Queens.
Dimonda said. “One day, this man grab me by the jacket, and he say, ‘Look at me!’ I say, ‘I look at you!’ He say, ‘You’re too qualified for this area. You got to go to New York. You make a lot of money.’ Mr. Dimonda raised his finger and poked the air to finish: “I never forget.”
That was 50 years ago. Mr. Dimonda still wields scissors at age 85. He gives a “gentleman cut, no crazy look, high class, clean,” and uses old-fashioned supplies like witch hazel & cotton necklaces to catch loose hair.
After years located on 5th Avenue & 46th St., Mr. Dimonda now works from a shop designed by Mr. Lauren and tucked into the Polo headquarters at 650 Madison Ave. The operation looks like “the sort of a barbershop you’d expect to see on an ocean liner in the ’30s.”
Tommy Hilfiger “used to come here for an excuse,” Dimonda suggested that Mr. Hilfiger was less interested in a haircut than a look around the Polo offices. “He used to come at night. One night I show him out, ‘Tommy, let’s go.’ He say, ‘No, go ahead, I follow you.’ I say, ‘No. You follow me.’ Since then, no more Tommy.” Mr. Hilfiger did not return a request for comment.