The key is to invest both in people and in the right technology. The retailers that are doing that are the ones that are setting themselves up for success. Cutting store staff to the bone (or waiting for robots to replace them) is a failed strategy. Some retailers have recognized that their people are the critical link between the customer and the digital experience and are making that the focus of their digital transformation efforts.
I think more retailers ARE trying to serve the plus-size customer, but it isn’t easy which is why you don’t see clear leaders emerging. I’ve done extensive customer and competitive research in the space. The challenges are significant and not anywhere near the same as the petites business.
I get that people may be underwhelmed by APlus being in only 10 stores out of 225, but best practices for new initiatives would be to test & learn not assume you nailed the concept and go straight to a chain-wide rollout. I will be watching closely to see what Anthropologie learns and the changes they make.
C-stores get very little attention in retail. They have been steadily taking strides to move into other categories given the long-term declines in fuel and tobacco. They have been making major upgrades to the quality of the food and beverage offer as well as the store experience. Wawa, Sheetz, GetGo, 7-Eleven (Laredo Taco) and Casey's all have food offers that are approaching/rivaling fast casual. Look for this to spread to other c-stores and continue overall.
This "blurring of the lines" is all around. Look at Dollar General's evolution. Fresh produce? Sushi at Walgreens? Progressive retailers will continue to ask their customers for permission to evolve their brands. Not everything will work, but some things will and the things that do will drive the new definitions of these retailers.
We are simultaneously in a major upgrade cycle for many existing retail applications and in the adoption phase for many new ones. Old tech has held up these cycles longer than necessary and still remains a headwind depending on the retailer. Many retailers have customized their solutions so significantly that it has become expensive to support and much harder to move away from. Business sense aside, these legacy systems and the IT resources that they tie up coupled with the lessons of the past are contributing to the lack of appetite for large-scale solutions. Less intrusive solutions are gaining appeal simply because IT can support them without adding resources.
We are seeing instances of point solutions being poorly scoped and ultimately underutilized. The implementations that go well have senior-level support, cross-functionally designed and approved requirements and the project management resources to keep everything on track.
J.C. Penney continues to scramble for relevancy. Maybe they are in better shape than Sears, but once Sears goes away the focus will turn to J.C. Penney. The brand could be salvageable, but other subscription services or Big & Tall are not going to save it.
It will take a while, but at some point cannabis will be sold through multiple channels just like alcohol is. The consumer will drive this as far a regulation will allow. You will have high-end experiences, perhaps some category killers and those that sell a convenience assortment. Companies throughout the value chain are watching this space ready to take action when their own risk/reward triggers are met. I have heard firsthand that some logistics companies are not willing to take the risk yet. Meanwhile, some like ACT (Circle K in most places) are leading the charge in c-stores. Green Growth Brands playing the specialty angle.
Several good points made above. One survey doesn’t indicate the end of a trend and it’s not an either/or proposition. There will always be segments of the population (no matter what the age) that want inexpensive, fashion forward clothing, while others are willing to invest in higher quality. Younger consumers have much more access to information and clothing options than previous generations. As a result, they are much savvier and more actively think about the value equation before making purchases. “Am I willing to spend more or less on this and what am I giving up by buying it?” For most people, that value equation changes by product and/or occasion.
What we are seeing is that the elements in the value equation are changing. It’s not just about price, style and quality anymore. It now includes some of things that Nikki mentions above - experiences, small-scale living, social and environmental awareness. Companies like Patagonia (incumbent), United By Blue, Marine Layer and Wolford are focusing on at least one or more of these elements and having an impact.
Cheap, self-service footwear worked for a long time. But then everybody else caught up to and then surpassed Payless. The competition offered stronger fashion, similar or slightly higher prices for much better quality and/or the convenience of other categories during the same shopping trip (online or in stores).
As Steve Dennis mentions, Sears has a customer relevance problem. The brand is dead except for the reminiscing. Consumers have moved on and regardless of Mr. Lampert's intentions, they haven't yet seen a reason to return. Smaller irrelevant stores aren't any better than the large ones they have now.
As for a CEO, why not give it a shot? Everybody expects it to be a losing proposition, so I think the risk to one's career is much smaller than others suggest. If you can magically get a bump in performance, other companies will come calling.
Even though we have been talking about it for a while now, legal marijuana and CBD are still in the very early innings of a huge growth phase. The early movers are not retail operators and the experience, or lack thereof, reflects that. Ultimately, they will be pushed to the wayside.
While it certain seems inevitable that these categories go mainstream, it will be “retailization” that will get us there. To do that, store and online experiences must improve, education must be better, hubris must be pushed aside.
With a track record of excellent store experiences, Barneys absolutely should be looking into this. Do I expect it to be a serious growth vehicle for the company? No. Will other mainstream retailers try it? Yes. Green Growth Brands opened a store last week and signed a deal for 100+ more. It will be exciting to watch.
Apps and voice assistants may help in the long run but there are more fundamental issues that need to be solved. In an effort to "force" online adoption, many grocers are making the in-store experience worse. The store is still where the shoppers and profits are and will be for a while. Meanwhile, grocers have now added the following challenges to an already arduous and lackluster store experience. Reduced parking spaces due to premium parking spaces being reserved for pick-up orders, coupons that only work for online orders and fulfillment carts and associates that are often blocking the merchandise.