PROFILE

Matthew Stern

Associate Editor, RetailWire
Matthew is a writer and editor currently based in Logan Square, Chicago. Some of his recent journalistic work includes profile and feature writing for CompTIA: The IT Trade Association, and he has also undertaken copywriting and content creation for disparate clients in a broad range of industries.

Before pursuing a career in editing and copywriting, he spent more than a decade as a freelance journalist and critic, writing about music and movies for a variety of publications online and in print. Matthew contributed reviews, articles and think-pieces to publications such as the Village Voice, the New York Press and The Brooklyn Rail, wrote promotional event blurbs for the Washington City Paper and was a regular review writer for experimental music website Dusted Magazine. During this time, he also performed various content and marketing-related roles in the non-profit sector.
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  • Posted on: 08/11/2017

    Will Toys ‘R’ Us take Manhattan the second time around?

    I strongly agree with those who've mentioned Toys "R" Us hopefully learning a lot from this pop-up that the chain can work into its stores. The fact that the pop-up is broken out into stores-within-a-store bodes well. Last time I was in a Toys "R" Us a few years ago it struck me as feeling like a warehouse-sized tchotchke shop. There appeared to be little rhyme or reason to anything, somehow giving the impression that every product was an afterthought despite there being no main product on which to focus. This was even true of the branded merchandise sections. But when I later read about the American Girl store-within-a-store deal a while back, I thought Toys "R" Us was finally on the verge of realizing all the potential they have.There are a million little niche toy worlds out there that don't have enough pull for their own standalone concepts (like, say, skateboards or video games have) but nonetheless have dedicated enthusiasts/collectors/obsessives with their own vernaculars, levels of connoisseurship, expertise, fan YouTube channels and so on. Action figure collecting seems like an obvious one. Yo-yos, some might be surprised to find, have an incredibly dedicated "scene." And what about this whole fidget spinner thing? The kinds of varieties of those things that emerged and the things people were doing with them were kind of mindboggling. Toys "R" Us could have had people lined up out the door for the entirety of that trend's fifteen minutes with the right kind of store-within-a-store.So hopefully the shop-within-a-shop emphasis of this pop-up will help show Toys "R" Us the path to a redesign for its main stores. Those stores have so much space to work with -- Toys "R" Us needs to make the stores feel alive, not like customers are shoving and tripping their way through a storage unit!
  • Posted on: 03/20/2017

    Will the soy-in-chicken report sink Subway?

    Funnily enough, Subway's saving grace here (if the CBC report is accurate) could be the fact that the chain isn't (I don't think) considered all that healthy anymore by consumers, certainly not like in their heyday in the '90s when it was one of the only fast-food outlets where you could hope to see something resembling a vegetable. I think the low-carb trend did a lot to separate the idea of health from the idea of eating an entire loaf of bread for lunch, and competition from fast-casual chains hasn't helped Subway either.And I don't even know if the chain is positioning itself as healthy anymore. I remember a year or two ago seeing that Subway was promoting a sandwich with Fritos on it and figured that was a quiet admission that the company was no longer targeting the health-conscious audience.So I think this could blow over more quickly than a Whole Foods scandal or a Chipotle scandal because customers think of Subway as being on the lower fast-food rungs these days. News of fillers in chicken is a little alarming, but not as hugely off-brand as if you found out it was happening at chain that is branded as "natural." Such a scandal produces momentary viral outrage and demands a response, but it doesn't turn people off the brand for good.
  • Posted on: 09/14/2016

    Will the Galaxy Note 7 snafu send Samsung up in flames?

    When a device you keep in your pocket has the potential to burst into flames, that's when consumers start paying attention to the alerts. I can only imagine (or hope) that when word broke a few months back that those "hoverboard" things were prone to exploding quite dramatically, that it impacted sales. However I think because people buy smartphones relatively rarely compared to other items, this incident will have dissipated from the public mind long before most consumers take their next trip to pick up a Samsung.The company handled it well by dealing with the situation quickly. Assuming they don't have any further problems with their phones exploding they should be OK. If it starts to look like a trend and the press picks it up accordingly, that's a different story. As others have noted, it is fortuitous for Apple right this second, but probably not a huge deal in the long run.
  • Posted on: 07/18/2016

    Pokémon Go showcases potential of augmented reality in retail

    As the game currently functions, I could see partnerships developing in which particularly valuable Pokémon are placed in a store location and maybe require an IRL purchase to get, but I think things really change when the rare Pokémon becomes the "Buy Button." Maybe users will find themselves stumbling onto pop-up shops, rewards and such throughout the Pokéverse, or even find themselves on day-long multi-retailer quests.And further into the future, it seems as though there could very well be games in which AR characters mapped to different geographical locations collect and remember information about the people who interact with them. Want to know if your friend was in the store earlier? Talk to the extra-spatial wizard over by the pharmacy.I also wonder if Nintendo's first-mover advantage (besides Ingress) will position it to be the AR go-to environment for a while, or if this one will atrophy and give way to the next shared universe. It seems that just as with social networks, we don't really have a clue what determines the lifecycle of one of these games. Will there be one shared universe everyone uses, or will retailers each develop their own? Will retailer-developed ARs “crossover” with one central one? I’ve also spent a lot of time this past week wondering if a developer creates, for instance, an in-game character that physically chases users, if that will cause an epidemic of people running out into traffic. So many questions. This could be flash-in-the-pan, or it could be a whole new chapter in the history of the madness of crowds, but either way it’s fascinating.
  • Posted on: 07/07/2016

    Yes! McD’s McGriddles all-day, every day

    While I've never had a McGriddle (they sort of scare me), I remember when the product was first released, or at least when it became more widely available, it was a story unto itself. It had a funny name, a funny concept and an absolute throwing of caution to the wind on calorie count, which got the hivemind buzzing. Because of that, I think virality plays a role in getting people in the door for something like the McGriddle at any time of the day. In fact, when you think about it, in earlier eras McDonald's had successes with menu items that had a proto-viral appeal. Both the McRib and the Shamrock Shake developed cult following due as much to being curios for people to talk about as their scarcity and taste (the McRib even managing to get parodied on The Simpsons).So if the McGriddle succeeds as an all-day-breakfast menu item, it might be worth considering that McDonald's is doing, perhaps somewhat unknowingly, what Burger King has been doing quite intentionally; getting surprising, viral products (hot dogs, those macaroni-filled Cheetos cheese stick things) on the menu with their appearance doubling as a media event. Perhaps the next step should be another breakfast item that boosts buzz similarly -- an Egg McMuffin/hamburger hybrid, or something pulled from the memetic "secret menu," maybe?
  • Posted on: 06/17/2016

    ‘Got Cycling?’

    I am surprised to hear that the numbers for bicycling are down. A few big cities have had pushes and initiatives over the last few years to make the streets more bike-able, and bike share kiosks appear regularly throughout Chicago and NYC (though perhaps the advent of bike shares has led to a corresponding decrease in casual riders buying their own bikes). The amount of bike riding and the demographics of people riding bikes would seem to vary drastically from location to location. And as Bill Hanifin mentioned, the safety concerns may stop people from biking, and I wonder if trends in parenting have not led to fewer kids riding bikes, even as more adults in cities bike as part of their commute.So perhaps a couple different advertising campaigns, targeted to parents about bike safety, to suburban or rural audiences about mountain biking and to city-based commuters and so on, would have more traction than a single push or slogan. Get industry-wide support, but localize the message.

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