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Karen McNeely

Director of Retail, Milwaukee Art Museum
  • Posted on: 01/10/2019

    Is it now or never for J.C. Penney?

    Full disclosure, I worked with Jill at Carson Pirie Scott, probably about 20 years ago back when she was a relatively new buyer. She took what was a sleepy little knits and sweater department and transformed it into a powerhouse. Clearly, turning around J.C. Penney is a much bigger job than turning around a department, but she is a strong, smart and determined woman. Her thoughtful approach to analyzing the situation and acting on the data, rather than making knee-jerk decisions, is the right one. It won't be an easy task, but my money is on her.
  • Posted on: 11/07/2018

    The RetailWire Christmas Commercial Challenge: Kohl’s vs. Macy’s

    I can't say I'm overly fond of either of these ads. The Kohl's ad is just a remake of last year's ad. The format must have performed well for them if they are revisiting it. While the Macy's piece has the sentimental slant somehow it falls flat. The female astronaut was almost a distraction. In theory it seems like a good story, but I thought it was confusing and un-relatable.
  • Posted on: 09/05/2018

    Can Bon Ton Stores return from the dead?

    Their private brands weren't necessarily a strength, but their community nameplates definitely are. Most people in the Midwest couldn't care less what happens to Macy's, but Chicago still mourns Marshall Fields, and Minneapolis misses Daytons. Carson's, Younkers and Boston Store may not mean much to you, but they have a rich history in the communities they serve since 1854, 1856 and 1897 respectively. That is where their opportunity lies if they can bring back a streamlined operation not overly burdened by debt.
  • Posted on: 09/04/2018

    Can Bon Ton Stores return from the dead?

    The pros for it working is that they've got "home town" name plates in each of the markets that they serve, making it more nostalgic to their customers, they aren't saddled with huge debt, and they will have a nimble infrastructure that they can make whatever they imagine it to be. The down side is they currently have zero infrastructure, so it will have to be built from scratch. Depending on the financial support and the leadership behind this movement, I think they have a shot.
  • Posted on: 06/13/2018

    Will IHOP’s burger buzz translate into sales?

    Oh, I guess some folks thought they were actually going to change the name. It never even dawned on me that they were seriously changing it.
  • Posted on: 06/13/2018

    Will IHOP’s burger buzz translate into sales?

    Realistically, I can't see them alienating their breakfast base with a marketing campaign. Is anybody going to say, "I used to love their breakfast, but now that they're serving burgers there's no way I'm going back!"? They are trying to expand their customer base and I applaud their bold approach to marketing it. I'm assuming they will continue to serve breakfast all day, so it's also a strong option for a group divided on whether they want breakfast or burgers.
  • Posted on: 06/08/2018

    Why did Bon-Ton fail while Macy’s did not? 

    Many of the "stores in the sticks" had very little overhead. So in reality, while they may have been over spaced, they may have also have been profitable, although not worthy of a remodel or what it took to be "well run." Regardless, these were often mainstays in these communities.
  • Posted on: 06/08/2018

    Why did Bon-Ton fail while Macy’s did not? 

    Absolutely! I'm incredulous that excessive debt was not even one of the options.
  • Posted on: 06/08/2018

    Why did Bon-Ton fail while Macy’s did not? 

    I'm shocked that one of the options wasn't that they had an overleveraged buyout. Pure and simple. Bon-Ton had good merchants. They had many excellent locations. They had brand loyalty in their markets due to retaining the home town retailer's name. When your interest payments are overwhelming in a weak market, there's no way to battle your way out of the paper bag. Plain and simple. For transparency sake, I was a 19 year employee, gone for 15. I'm still devastated by the loss of jobs for so many of my former co-workers.
  • Posted on: 03/02/2018

    Aldi to open grocery stores next to Kohl’s

    This Milwaukee girl is chuckling and thinking, why don't they just open their own grocery store and call it Kohl's? Sorry, I'm showing both my age and my geographical bias. Kohl's originally started as a grocery store back in 1927 (OK, I'm not THAT old) and the department store didn't open until 1962. Obviously, the department store has withstood the test of time and the grocery store did not. The history lesson aside, I think this is a great move for Kohl's. They've recognized the need to right-size their stores, encouraging additional traffic, and are getting financial gain from it as well.
  • Posted on: 01/03/2018

    What will The Company Store do for Home Depot?

    I'm confused. There's no mention of Home Depot's Home Decorator's Collection division. I agree Home Depot has potential growth in this category. Why not just used the Home Decorator's Collection to achieve it?
  • Posted on: 11/27/2017

    Did Macy’s Black Friday credit card fail cost it the holidays?

    I'm speechless. In a season where they could not afford any mistakes, this is a big one. I'm the director of a museum store which does under $2 million a year. We have a failsafe for if our credit card processing goes down, so it's transparent to our visitors. That Macy's does not is inexcusable and the timing couldn't be worse.
  • Posted on: 11/21/2017

    The RetailWire Christmas Commercial Challenge: Big Lots vs. Kohl’s

    I was seriously concerned with the Big Lots spot in the beginning, but it quickly won me over. It definitely put in in the holiday spirit. On the other hand the Kohl's ad started promising and ended up as a huge slap in the face to moms. Yep, you do all the work and what you get is the Kohl's cash? Making a key component of your target audience feel unappreciated is never a smart move. For me the Kohl's ad is a big loser.
  • Posted on: 11/15/2017

    The RetailWire Christmas Commercial Challenge: Macy’s vs. Nordstrom

    The Macy's spot seemed like it was trying too hard. I didn't get the story and frankly it wasn't that heartwarming. At first, I honestly thought his mom had passed away. I loved the Nordstrom's spot. As others have said it's a lot more upbeat and it put a smile on my face. Seeing the office staff and store employees created a connection with Nordstrom's instead of making it seem like just a big faceless corporation. Macy's created no such connection and definitely just seemed like an ad man's failed attempt to create something "that will read" heartfelt.
  • Posted on: 06/14/2017

    Can fitness centers save malls?

    Heck, some people even visit a fitness center multiple times a week! I don't go near the place, but my Millennial children go about five times a week.
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