It ain't easy being a teen (retailer)

Carol's latest Retail Wire weigh-in on why teen retailers are falling out of fashion

Tech IS the new fashion and at the same time, traditional fashion is operating in a trend-less environment (quick, what is the hottest apparel trend for fall/winter 2014? I don't know either). There is simply no compelling reason to refresh the wardrobe or reverse the trade-off between togs and tech.

A larger deadly dynamic is at work that is by no means exclusive to teen retailers though: death by category killing. What was once a recipe for success, going deep and wide within a category, is now a perilous path for brick-and-mortar retailers. When opportunistic digital niche killers like Amazon (and the flies they either swat or eat, like Quidsi), take a focused fancy to a category, brick-and-mortar retailers have little recourse. Toys 'R' Us is in this hard place as are office retailers (hence the mergers and recent maniacal focus on category expansion through digital marketplaces).

Abercrombie just (finally) extricated Mike Jeffries, ending his mind-bogglingly long tenure at the top. Hopefully the new guy/gal addresses this inescapable reality through business model innovation rather than another wave of category or brand rejiggering.

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Purchase of Saks unearths hidden real estate win in $3.7 billion building

Carol's latest Retail Wire weigh-in on retailers-as-asset-managers.

Saks' real estate treasure trove reminds me of when J.C. Penney moved its headquarters from New York to the prairie known as Plano, TX back in the '80s. Penney built what at the time was considered a state-of-the-art campus (or unimaginative eyesore depending on who you asked) using only part of the proceeds. The new headquarters was quite controversial and some old-timers still mark the event as the beginning of Penney's downward spiral. Now an adjacent $2 billion mixed-use development is due to break ground early next year as Penney once again leverages its astronomically-appreciating real estate assets. Retail has become a game of asset leverage and bricks-based retailers are waking up to the value locked up in their physical locations, as facilitation points for digital commerce, as stand-alone assets and as flagship locations for brands. Should retailers be in the real estate business? That train left the station years ago.

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Digital channels influence half of brick-and-mortar sales

Carol's latest Retail Wire weigh-in

One of the most urgent challenges retailers face this holiday season is making order-online-pickup-in-store options convenient and speedy. Forcing customers to collect online orders at multi-purpose customer service desks, or requiring them to travel deep into the bowels of a store during the holidays is a recipe for frustration. Retailers should set up dedicated spaces for in-store pickup, preferably close to the front entrance. Even better, why not set up temporary curbside structures for that purpose or partner with companies (like Curbside) that will make it happen?

Read the article and the rest of the discussion on Retail Wire.