Asleep at the wheel
By Carole Sloan, founding editor-in-chief -- Home Textiles Today, 4/19/2004 12:00:00 AM
We seem to be in the midst of a whirligig of retail makeovers.
We're hearing words like "reinvention," "customer-centric," and "value-oriented." Somehow, it seems that this is stuff basic to Retailing 101.
And more and more, we're hearing that the mall is not the big dinosaur it has been made out to be in recent years.
All the retailing folks who have been doing the mea culpa bit should have been looking at their businesses day-by-day, month-by-month and year-by-year. Not waiting till it might be too late.
Fortunately for many, the latter doesn't seem to be something about to happen.
But does it take rocket scientists to understand that you can't get a baby stroller through aisles crowded with sale tables; that putting every piece of whatever product line is involved on the floor isn't helping customers; that screaming sale, sale, sale doesn't give a high level of confidence in the product mix; and that confusing pricing just doesn't work?
The failure to wake up earlier has put a number of retail companies on the hot seat — not just in terms of their customers but also where Wall Street sees them. Those two factors often are in direct conflict with the way many major retailers look at their businesses.
For those retailers like the star du jour of whatever era — Kohl's for now, Dillard's for a decade or so ago — the same lack of attention to change has impacted a previously stellar performance.
Off-the-mall seems to be the mantra for retailers that are predominately in malls. JCPenney sees good potential for its four off-the-mall stores, and half of its new stores this year will be in that format. Sears has two open, with a couple more pegged for opening by the end of 2005. But we haven't heard much about the Federated test of smaller stores in outpost places.
And very lately, Penney execs have been extolling the renewal of the mall as a social gathering place for young and old. Federated sees the department store as a new place for the younger customer. A walk through Bloomingdale's on several recent visits certainly upheld that view.
But in today's marketplace and short-term consumer loyalty spans, there's little time for delay.
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