Baker and his colleagues have been coming up with bizarre ideas to "reinvigorate" retail since their initial acquisition of Lord & Taylor over fifteen years ago. They have consistently overpromised and underdelivered. They seem to repeatedly choose to find avenues for short-term profits (an IPO, acquisition, new locations in questionable locations, selling off divisions, etc.), rather than invest in the company to achieve long-term, sustainable growth. Perhaps their view is that there is no long game to play here.
My view is that this is yet another scheme that will generate short term profits, and maximize major long-term headaches. These companies will not ultimately share operational goals.
People say the value for Baker is in all the real estate. That is true for some locations, but even in many A class malls, I don't see a major opportunity or value for the real estate.
This year was a year filled with unknowns. Customers and stores were navigating the tensions around coming into stores and staying home. Some jurisdictions had capacity controls. Stores were also unsure would shoppers come or not, and so inventory was much lower, and stores also pushed great deals and prices, which may have also reduced spending.
Consumers were dealing with conflicting messages about stimulus being extended or not, and with that uncertainty may have decided to hold back. While they may have not spent that money on travel, it doesn’t sound like that necessarily translated to the customer taking that savings to buy extra nice gifts.
To me the biggest question is where will margins hit, and for those stores that had lower margins, is it the continuation of eroding margins (for example in the Department/Specialty store sector). The margins, I believe, will tell the story about long-term viability.
Luxury in 2020 is dominated by a few major players. Will they go along with this distribution scheme or will they resist? Many of the luxury companies have been moving to move away from third party distribution. Perhaps if Amazon is patient and willing to play a long game, they will succeed. Will the Amazon site be a truly distinct luxury offering? Or will it be a place for tired luxury brands looking to increase distribution or make up for losing contracts or volume at department stores? Time will tell....
Who is the core ABG customer? Is there significant overlap with J.C. Penney’s consumer? With many of the brands, I don’t think so. While ABG may be able to offer some suggestions with logistics, and perhaps data as well, I find it unlikely that J.C. Penney will ever be the place to buy Frye, Hickey Freeman, or Barneys to mention a few of their existing stable. There may be some interesting store-in-store opportunities with brands such as Forever 21, but many malls already have both of these properties in the existing store.
Many Bloomingdale’s locations I have visited throughout the years continue to appear tired and dated. Service is hard to find. I have strolled through the entire men’s section of their Palm Beach Gardens store on numerous occasions with not a single associate present on the selling floor.
Outside of NYC more like a mix between Macy’s and Nordstrom than a true luxury player, similar to the Jane Elfers iteration of Lord & Taylor. We all see how Lord & Taylor has played out, my suspicion is that Bloomingdale’s will not be far behind. They have better merchandising than Lord & Taylor did by the end, but if there is to be one survivor in the upscale/luxury retail space, I doubt it is going to be Bloomingdale’s.