Joanna Rutter

Marketing, Dor
I run marketing point for Dor, a foot traffic counter changing the in-store analytics game for retailers of all sizes. My take on the so-called apocalypse? Retail is going through the painful but necessary process of shedding terrible practices and boring brands to make room for in-store experiences that are actually compelling. I say bring it on.

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  • Posted on: 07/11/2018

    Kroger shakes up own-brand fashion with one fell swoop

    Bold, interesting, a little awkward. We see some apparel in Whole Foods and plenty of it in Costco. You have to wonder where in the store the clothes will go? (Surely far away from seafood.) Whether there will be changing rooms? Whether the product itself will be good? After the recent news of Kroger shutting down 1,500 jobs here in the Raleigh/Durham area with no guarantee all those jobs will be absorbed into other local Harris Teeters over the coming months, I'm a bit wary of what Kroger leadership is up to. Experimentation and staying lean is usually worth celebrating, but I'm seeing the cost of that spirit at a local level.
  • Posted on: 07/10/2018

    Nordstrom opening more Local stores without inventory

    I can feel the keywords twitching in my typing fingers: "unsurprising," "retail experience," "Millennials," "smaller footprint," "showrooming." I'll restrain myself. Yes, this is a move in the direction we've been talking about almost every day. What's most concerning to me -- just as private equity was missing from most of the Toys "R" Us coverage -- is that Nordstrom had a similar public-to-private tango happening in its boardrooms in early March that's fizzled out for now. I don't think that story's over at all, and what happens there may impact the company (including its ability to snap up more retail ops startups and successfully integrate them into their tech stack) much more than a cool showroom concept can, in my opinion. Though: Showrooming is a neat play among Nordstrom's anchor store buddies, who are differentiating by buying up brainpower (STORY and Macy's) or curiously partnering traditionally "highbrow" and "lowbrow" retail (Walmart and Lord & Taylor). I think a lot of us are watching and waiting to see whether these retail behemoths can steer their ships to smoother seas -- or sink under the weight of financial mismanagement and trying too much too late.
  • Posted on: 07/06/2018

    Abercrombie & Fitch goes to college with a new store concept

    The first thing that came to mind is a lyric off of KYLE's new record making fun of someone whose lady "still wears Aeropostale." I agree with Phil from Hubba when he says A&F has "nondescript, non-unique product with a high price point" -- I am astounded that Abercrombie and their cardigan/khaki/polo amigos such as Gap, Banana Republic and Hollister have not all gone to the clutter drawer where I keep my old iPod nano stuffed with Switchfoot and Evanescence albums. You could put Abercrombie on the moon and I still don't think that'd fix its product problem. Smaller formats can be a good play when you're committed to listening to customers. I'll be watching to see if that's the case, or if this is just optics that will turn into rap lyrics later.
  • Posted on: 07/05/2018

    Target looks to build rep as ‘America’s easiest place to shop’

    I applaud any retailer this big playing the online/pickup game boldly and creatively! At least they're taking a risk and doing something interesting that's customer-centric. With deployment of a new intiative like this one, I think success will come down to internal communication with staff. I recently visited a chaotic under-renovation Target here in Durham, NC where two seasoned staff members told me they feel helpless and frustrated with all the change happening at their store, which hasn't been communicated to them well. We'll see the health of Target's internal communications very plainly as this rolls out.
  • Posted on: 07/05/2018

    WeWork doubles down on member-based retailing

    Resisting the urge to poke fun at the name (WeWork, WeLive -- WeMRKT? Why not WeShop? Sillies.) I see this concept best working as an incubator for members. We already see this working at The Wing, "Bulletin and other similar indie models mainly and *ahem* notably headed by women. It's certainly a draw for WeWork's retail members to invest in membership when opportunities for pop-up testing are right there! The overhead is so low. Marketing and staffing costs are next to nil. Plus, WeWork members are already used to purchasing items from unmanned snack bars. As usual, I hope WeWork uses tech to gather data on these shops (more foot traffic during afternoon pick-me-up rush? More likely to buy something crunchy with juice on weekends? etc.) and share it with their members so everyone can learn from that experience. I'd be excited to see a brand incubate in WeWork and then successfully scale to their own pop-ups and permanent stores. That'd be the true mark of success for this initiative.
  • Posted on: 07/03/2018

    Study claims positive plus-size clothing messages may have a downside

    You're hitting the nail right there, Bob. Media should not be a weapon used to manipulate women who, as you rightly say, do belong. Research is not neutral either. A great recent read on the topic is supermodel Tess Holliday's SELF Magazine cover story. Here's a quote from her interview: “In the beginning I used to say, ‘I’m healthy, my cholesterol’s fine, I don’t have high blood pressure, I don’t have diabetes,” [to concern trolls] she says. But now she takes a different approach. “By telling people that you see a doctor, and telling people that you're healthy, it's perpetuating the abuse against bigger bodies and the mindset that we owe it to people to be healthy. The reality is I don't owe you [****] and I don't have to prove that I'm healthy or not, because it is nobody's business.” I have a whole blog post worth of thoughts on this topic, but the plain truth is just like you say: Thinking plus-sized women are the problem is silly. It is undeniably better to have better size representation in media than the alternative.
  • Posted on: 07/02/2018

    Will California’s new privacy law set the standard for data protection?

    To me, as an action step for retail businesses, this legislation just calls out the importance of using anonymous/personally unidentifiable information to drive strategy alongside personally identifiable data. Don't put your eggs in one basket sort of thing. A healthy blend of different data gathering and usage strategies will mean that your business can adapt to announcements like these without getting whiplash. Not to mention that the insights you can gain from anonymous data (such as: Stores in the Midwest receive more foot traffic in the afternoons than in the Southeast, or, Staff generally respond to anonymous employee surveys as "Sad" after poor weather in their region) can often have bigger positive effect on your bottom line than a hyperpersonalized remarketing ad campaign.
  • Posted on: 06/20/2018

    IKEA says no to plastic

    Other retailers will follow (and have already been leading here) who place sustainability at the core of what they do. I'm having flashbacks to our thread on REI's sustainability standards and remember being utterly baffled that sustainability was a "maybe" for retail whatsoever. Cutting down on plastic use is an everybody problem. There is no question that other retailers must follow suit eventually. There will simply be retailers who are late, embarrassingly late, or business-sinking-ly late, to the table.
  • Posted on: 06/18/2018

    Kroger walks away from Raleigh-Durham

    What sad news to wake up to on Monday! I'm in Durham, NC and a loyal Kroger shopper. Their prices are so much better than Harris Teeter's ('round these parts we call the superstores the "Taj Mateets" for their palatial appearance and prices) but as someone who's based here locally, I can see oversaturation as a potential symptom of a greater problem. The region has exploded recently and has struggled to house everyone and keep highway congestion down. It's a competitive market, and I'd add that it's congested. Reporting here from the ground, the Triangle has a retail identity problem that reflects the region's clunky evolution -- a legacy especially in Durham of black entrepreneurship and a rich history of tobacco, textiles and healthcare, juxtaposed against a current lack of investment in urban infrastructure and a dearth of affordable housing in downtown areas that are booming without much regulation or thought to inclusivity. It's not surprising that FMCG brands are struggling to find their place in these NC cities who don't even know who they're going to be yet. I think Kroger is smart to step away from the area if this isn't their spot. That being said, I'm sad to think of what will happen to the cheerful and helpful staff at the stores I go to. I'll be watching the news to see if Kroger-Harris Teeter is able to place these employees in other stores in the region.
  • Posted on: 06/14/2018

    Retailers stand out by vetoing the ‘pink tax’

    Yes to everything here! I think about the Dove and Axe disparity within Unilever all the time. It's just two different ways to sell soap at the end of the day. Can't scrub away the toxicity of Axe's ads with a seemingly sweet Dove campaign. It's got to start at the top of Unilever's practices and trickle down to both brands.
  • Posted on: 06/14/2018

    Do retailers need RFID to do BOPIS right?

    I couldn't agree more! Accuracy equals trust. If you tell a customer a product's on your shelf, they drive across town and can't locate it (and neither can your team) that trust can be so difficult to recover.
  • Posted on: 06/14/2018

    Retailers stand out by vetoing the ‘pink tax’

    Thanks as always to Jasmine for propelling conversations about key issues like these in retail! I've been thinking about the field of service design a lot lately, and I think this falls under that label. Beyond being mere good PR (see: CVS's commitment to unretouched photos) eliminating the pink tax is an opportunity for businesses to amend what has not been adequately addressed by legislation or the market. Those absorbed cents add up for a business, but the long-term benefit of providing a better-designed experience for customers who consume products impacted by the pink tax far outweighs the expense. Now, for a real challenge to retailers considering absorbing the pink tax: I would exhort them to also consider reevaluating how the women who work for them are impacted by their healthcare benefits, maternity leave, wages and other internal practices. A business that considers and serves women well starts from the inside out.
  • Posted on: 06/12/2018

    Should retailers incentivize store staff to accept digital transformation?

    We know the top-down cliche: Upper management or capital-C Corporate is sold on a silver bullet, ships it to stores, and associates are left holding the bag of implementing a new CRM, new POS, new foot traffic analytics solution, new BOPIS workflow -- without adequate explanation from their leaders as to why it was considered, how it can benefit them, and the KPIs they can help to deliver using this new tool. It is absolutely all about communication. The corporate-to-store-chasm is often far too wide, and one all-staff email with an attached PDF explaining a complex new piece of tech is not enough to get crucial associate-level buy-in. Developing great internal communication -- including surveys and store visits to get feedback from different roles, so the deployment is not that top-down, one-off cliche -- is vital to ensuring that digital transformation is holistic and lasting.
  • Posted on: 06/07/2018

    Neiman Marcus results show the latest sign of department store life

    The second question is curious to me -- perhaps because I don't perceive "recasting the image of the department store" as retail's priority whatsoever. These brands are doing well because they have placed their customers' experience above preserving their footprint or preserving legacy for legacy's sake. That has very little to do with the format and everything to do with their reputation as authoritative curators.
  • Posted on: 05/31/2018

    Walmart looks to win talent war with new education benefit

    It'd be ideal for retailers to raise wages and for higher education to not be so financially impossible in the first place, but until then, of course this is a smart incentive and retention program. I'd love to see an academic study conducted on whether this type of incentive improves retention and productivity -- my guess is "of course it would!" but the official numbers would be fascinating.

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