Retail Execs Debate Price, Positioning
By James Mammarella -- Home Textiles Today, 1/26/2009 12:00:00 AM
New York —
Sparks flew as retail execs tackled issues of product, presentation, brands, service — and above all, pricing — at the Financo, Inc. Annual Industry Seminar here earlier this month.
Staking sharply opposing viewpoints on price were Burt Tansky, chairman and ceo, Neiman Marcus Group, and Mickey Drexler, chairman and ceo, J. Crew Group.
"The world is not about overpriced designer goods anymore," asserted Drexler. "We're in a sea change right now."
Posing the 'is luxury dead?' question, Tansky stated: "A resounding 'No!'"
"Neiman and Bergdorf are brands built on fashion, quality and service," Tansky said, noting, "Through all this, our unique merchandise is selling better" than the everyday goods.
Ultimately they agreed that quality fashion product is a must — and its development stems from what Drexler called "passionate, committed management who own stock in the company" and what Tansky called "entrepreneurial" merchants who "work very hard to get the unusual and the unique."
Tansky said his company was bent on mounting more "non-price-driven promotions" and has always had success with "small events" where shoppers can see new ideas and new fashion merchandise, which they then tend to buy with enthusiasm.
Mindy Grossman, ceo of interactive retailer HSNi, used "fewer-bigger-better" as her translation of "unique." She said her company was using its real-time connection and information on each individual consumer "to get her engaged" and to gain "share of wallet." HSN (Home Shopping Network), she pointed out, is technologically and brand-positioned to drive "the convergence of content, community, and commerce."
The topic of internet retailing meshed with that of price pressure from too-broad distribution. Gordon Segal, chairman and founder, Crate & Barrel quipped, "You gotta be Google-proof," because "people can find the cheapest price in 32 nanoseconds while we're sitting there saying 'How can we display it better?'"
Crate & Barrel will "cut skus dramatically," reduce the number of vendors and focus on those who are "healthy and well," Segal said, as the retailer takes stock of sharply altered industry conditions.
Responding to a question by host and moderator Gilbert Harrison, chairman and ceo of Financo, shopping center figure David Simon, chairman and ceo of Simon Property Group, summed up the store real estate picture. He said he currently could "foresee a decade of no new development or very little redevelopment."
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