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Black Friday Creep and the Thanksgiving Day Grinch: 2014 Edition

Posted by Dale Buss on October 17, 2014 05:11 PM

The war over the sanctity of Thanksgiving could turn into one of those annual holiday classics, like It's a Wonderful Life and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. But while it isn't quite the stuff of movie drama yet, the battle over when US retailers open on Black Friday weekend continues to provide plenty of tension.

Well before Halloween, Macy's has taken one of the initial steps this year by confirming to Huffington Post that it will open stores to Black Friday shoppers at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving day—two hours earlier than it opened last year, with online deals starting earlier. In 2014, Walmart kicked off its Black Friday deals at 6 p.m. on Turkey Day, while Target opened at 8 p.m.

Not surprisingly, this has led to angst especially among workers at America's biggest employer who are recruited to work on Thanksgiving day. Over the roughly three years that Black Friday creep has taken place, there have been outbursts of protest akin to the proliferating demonstrations over retailers paying only the minimum wage.Continue reading...

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Walmart Plans to Shore Up Stores, E-Commerce—and Take Action on Wages

Posted by Dale Buss on October 17, 2014 01:01 PM

For Walmart and its relatively new CEO Doug McMillon, the future is about the challenge of managing the gaps. The gap between $15 an hour and $7.25 an hour in wages. The gap between Amazon's commanding presence in e-commerce and Walmart's footprint so far. And even the gap between the company's performance and McMillon's own expectations.

"There is no excuse for us not to be doing better," McMillon told investors this week at a meeting in Walmart's home state of Arkansas, as Walmart cut its forecast for sales growth in the current fiscal year to between 2 percent and 3 percent from a prevoius range of 3 percent to 5 percent.

In outlining his growth strategy to the investment community McMillon stated, according to Bloomberg Businessweek, "I really believe our future is bright. There are so many ideas percolating around."

One of them involves accelerating the company's investments in e-commerce. But many challenges keep surfacing as well.Continue reading...

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JCPenney Taps Home Depot Exec to Fix Its Brand

Posted by Dale Buss on October 13, 2014 04:05 PM

Consider it a significant victory that JCPenney will have another CEO. Not long ago, its demise seemed to be a distinct possibility.

And at least incoming CEO Marvin Ellison will inherit a job that may have some upside when he becomes chief of the still-troubled retailer in August. But already there are differing opinions about whether he's the type of leader that Penney needs at this stage in its existence—just a couple of years after former CEO Ron Johnson nearly ruined it, and only very recently having stabilized under the leadership of CEO Myron Ullman.

Ellison, 49 years old, has been executive vice president of Home Depot's 2,000 US stores since August 2008. Before that he was president of the company's Northern Division and senior vice president of global logistics. He also was with Target for 15 years before that.

"He has proven his ability to produce results by improving operations, building customer loyalty, and motivating his teams," current JCPenney CEO Ullman, who preceded Johnson and then came back to the helm in 2013 to try to clean up the mess he left, said in a statement. "His experience and leadership are exactly what we need to accelerate the progress we have made over the last 18 months."Continue reading...

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Amazon is Opening a Brick-and-Mortar Store in New York City

Posted by Shirley Brady on October 9, 2014 03:37 PM

AmazonFresh grocery delivery trucks have been spotted around Manhattan, even though the service is officially only available in Seattle, Los Angeles and San Francisco areas. Now Amazon is preparing to open its first brick-and-mortar store in the Big Apple, and just in time for the holidays.

According to the Wall Street Journal, its New York store—which may serve as part showroom for Amazon's family of digital devices, from Kindle e-readers and Fire smartphone to the Fire TV set-top box—will open at 7 West 34th Street.

A top-riser on Interbrand's just-released 2014 Best Global Brands report at #15, the move would mark a landmark foray into physical retailing for the global e-commerce giant, which is often cited for encouraging "showrooming" that takes business away from brick-and-mortar retailers.

It's opening its own showroom and storefront in a retail site (take a peek below) that's located across the street from the Empire State Building, a tourist-filled area, while the building's loading docks will enable easy access for delivery trucks.Continue reading...

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Gap Inc. CEO Glenn Murphy to Hand Reins to Global Head of Digital

Posted by Shirley Brady on October 8, 2014 09:36 PM

In a surprise announcement, Gap Inc. revealed that its CEO, Canadian Glenn Murphy, would be stepping down on Feb. 1 following a seven-year run at the top.

His replacement? Art Peck, the company's global head of growth, innovation and digital since 2012, who joined the company seven years earlier from Boston Consulting Group.

The news came as Gap Inc. reported flat sales for September: Gap Global -3%; Banana Republic Global +2%; Old Navy Global +1%. The company's stock fell 8.1% in after-hours trading on the news.

As the Wall Street Journal noted, Murphy had "reversed a long-running sales slump but more recently has struggled to reinvigorate the company’s namesake brand." He joined Gap Inc. in 2007 from Canadian pharmacy chain Shoppers Drug Mart, where he was CEO.Continue reading...

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Will Santa or the Grinch Reign this Holiday Season? Forecasts Disagree

Posted by Dale Buss on October 8, 2014 04:50 PM

Will American consumers deliver a spicy trove of holiday cheer in the stocking of retailers this upcoming Christmas season—or a lump of coal?

Two widely-watched prognosticators have come up with radically different forecasts as shoppers spread out to stores and hit their favorite e-commerce sites to buy their gifts, as omnichannel shopping increasinbly becomes the norm.

The National Retail Federation forecasts a 4.1 percent increase in holiday spending, about one-third better than the 3.1 percent increase in 2013 over the prior year, and a far sight better than the 2.9 percent average annual increase over the previous decade. This optimism is ratified by a prediction by Deloitte that foresees a gain of 4 to 4.5 percent.

But another consultancy, PwC, just came out with a more pessimistic outlook, which predicts an "average household spend" in the US of $684 this holiday season, down by more than 7 percent from the actual spend of $735 last year.Continue reading...

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Walmart Pitches Healthcare to Customers While Trimming Benefits for Employees

Posted by Dale Buss on October 7, 2014 05:27 PM

When it comes to healthcare, Walmart giveth to its customers—and taketh away from its employees.

The retailing giant announced Tuesday that it plans to eliminate health insurance coverage for its part-time US employees who work less than 30 hours a week, while raising insurance premiums across the board for all employees.

At the same time, Walmart said that it plans to offer consumers one-stop shopping, in-store and online, for healthcare insurance.

Neither move is particularly surprising for America's largest private employer.Continue reading...

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Downward Dude: Lululemon is Opening a Men’s Store in New York

Posted by Mark J. Miller on September 25, 2014 01:15 PM

Women are still the dominant buyers of yogawear manufacturer Lululemon’s gear, but men are coming on so strong that the company is opening its first men’s-only store in an area that seems to be a hotspot for brands these days: New York's Soho district.

In its most recent quarterly report, the sale of men’s apparel at its stores rose 5 percent from the same period last year, Fortune reports. That comes on the heels of a 9 percent increase in the first quarter. Meanwhile, same-store sales dipped slightly in the first half of the year compared with the first half of 2013, while overall, the second quarter was better than expected.  

As Fortune points out, Americans doing yoga has gone up from 15.8 million in 2008 to 20.4 million in 2012, but only 18% of these yoga mat warriors are male. Of course, those who purchase Lululemon apparel aren’t required by law to do yoga in them so perhaps males have been attracted to the company for other reasons. Or perhaps it is simply Lulu’s female shoppers picking up a few things for their husbands and boyfriends.Continue reading...

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