What Can Today’s Retailers Learn from the Captain of the Titanic? Plenty.

Like the captain of the Titanic, leadership of failed and failing retailers has been publicly, and occasionally brutally, criticized. In some instances, this criticism is clearly deserved, in other cases not.

It may not be as bad as it seems.

Despite the painful passing and decline of retail industry stalwarts including Linens ‘n Things, RadioShack, The Bon-Ton Stores, Toys R Us, Sears and Kmart, retail chains including Macy’s, Kohl’s, Walmart, Target and other major retailers are showing financial improvement. Macy’s stock price is up 40+ percent year-to-date, Kohl’s is up 30+ percent, and Target is up 25+ percent. The rumors of the death of brick-and-mortar retail have been greatly exaggerated. And, Sears, Kmart and JC Penney are still open for business.

Recently, I participated in the Annual Retail Forum at Columbia Business School where a keynote speaker addressed a question from the audience: “

How would the speaker approach the precarious position of a challenged major retailer? What steps would you recommend?”

The response was,

“Shut it down…they don’t deserve to stay in business.”

This, “throw in the towel,” response brings to mind a key question we should ask ourselves. What would we do if we found ourselves as CEO of a retailer at risk of complete cataclysmic failure? One obvious metaphor is that of being captain of the Titanic. You may not remember, but the Titanic had a bonafide captain: his name was Edward John Smith.

Continue reading “What Can Today’s Retailers Learn from the Captain of the Titanic? Plenty.”

Where Will Tomorrow’s Retail Leaders Come From?

Look at Kohl’s.

  • Prior to joining Kohl’s, new CEO Michelle Gass, spent 17 years at Starbucks and began her career with Proctor & Gamble.

  • Kohl’s recently appointed president, Sona Chawla, spent 7 years at Walgreens as president of ecommerce.

  • Chief Merchanding Officer, Doug Howe joined the company from QVC.

  • And Chief Marketing Officer, Gregg Revelle, served at Best Buy, AutoNation & Expedia prior to joining Kohl’s. 

Really? What do they know about general merchandising?

A lot. Kohl’s shares are up an impressive 30% in 2018 – during a “retail apocalypse.”
Kohl’s has shops where customers can return their Amazon purchases, and buy Amazon Echo, Fire & Kindle devices. Crazy? Like a fox. It’s doubtful that Kohl’s is creating new Amazon customers, and the store is generating increased traffic & loyalty.
Want groceries with your comforter set? Aldi will open supermarkets inside Kohl’s doors as part of a new partnership. Strange bedfellows or clever collaboration? Credit Kohl’s with innovation and a focus on fundamental retail metrics – driving increased sales with less inventory – better turn, less dilution.
Well done.
And, the company is well positioned to gain market share from recently departed retailers Bon-Ton, Toys R Us and Babies R Us.

(c) David J. Katz, 2018

Private “Label” vs. Private “Brands”

Let’s be careful not to confuse private “labels” with private “brands.”

Private label merchandise is generic goods, sold as a commodity (and commodities have price as their value proposition). Private brands, when properly executed, are truly brands, exclusive to a retailer or channel of distribution, with distinct brand attributes, supported by significant marketing. 

Overall, private “label” continues the “race to the bottom,” favoring low cost producers. The problem with the race to the bottom is that you might just win — or worse, come in second. 

Continue reading “Private “Label” vs. Private “Brands””

22 Billion Minutes per Month

Americans spent 22 BILLION minutes on Amazon shopping platforms in December 2017 alone. More than the next nine platforms combined.

Interestingly, there is a large gap between time spent and dollars spent on mobile vs. desktop devices: while Americans spent nearly two thirds of their online shopping time on smartphones or tablets in Q4 2017, more than 75 percent of e-commerce dollars were spent on desktop devices. This indicates that many people browse products on their mobile devices, but prefer the convenience of a larger screen and keyboard to complete the checkout process.

#retail #ecommerce #shopping #smartphones #tablets #checkout #mobiledevices eBay Walmart Kohl’s Target Macy’s

Data and chart from Statista Global comScore, Inc.