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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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.

Ralph Lauren’s Barber

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.

– Steven Kurutz for The New York Times.

Authenticity is Overrated

Miquela Sousa, who recently graced billboards from London to Japan as part of an UGG ad campaign, ticks off all the boxes for a fashion model of the moment: She is exotic, attractive and huge on Instagram.

She is also entirely fake news, a computer-generated character who—despite her Instagram posts—can’t feel the pain of a hangover or appreciate how hard it is to walk in stilettos.

Miquela was created by LA startup, Brud, which is betting that it can turn her, and other CGI social-media personalities, into a cast of characters that is one part Marvel Entertainment and one part Kardashian.

Like comic-book characters or even Barbie, they can evolve with the times without aging. And, unlike real-life characters, their drama can be managed. Brud launched Miquela on Instagram in 2016. With carefully composed images, she appeared lifelike and didn’t identify herself as CGI until recently, as part of a staged drama that played out over a series of posts. On Instagram, she (it?) professed to be angry at Brud for lying to her about her true origin. Yoree Koh & Georgia WellsThe Wall Street Journalh

Immersive Retail Experience, Fully Caffeinated

The Starbucks Reserve Roastery opened its doors today in New York City. A further example of mortar & brick retail expansion.

The 23,000 sq. ft. flagship showcases coffee’s journey from bean to cup and joins locations in Seattle, Shanghai & Milan, with future openings coming to Tokyo & Chicago.

The store is a fully working coffee roastery, where small-batch and rare single-origin coffees and blends are created. “We designed the Roastery as the pinnacle experience around all-things-coffee, there is nothing else like it in the world…

It serves as a Starbucks brand amplifier and a platform for future innovation,” said Kevin Johnson, Starbuck’s new ceo.

The Roastery will debut the Arriviamo (aperitivo) Bar, where mixologists will serve cocktails and “spiritfrees” featuring coffee and tea, Drinks will include the Nocino Notte, made with cold brew coffee, barrel-aged gin and black truffle salt, and the Triomphe, made with Teavana Darjeeling Tea, gin, dry Riesling, aquavit, passionfruit sparkling water & orange saffron bitters.

Customers will also discover the Milanese bakery Princi with on-site baking of fresh breads, Pizzas, cornetti, focaccias, desserts and more.