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Richard Layman

Urban Planner
commercial district revitalization planner
  • Posted on: 10/05/2019

    Will consumers go for Kroger’s food hall concept?

    Instead of Reading Terminal Market in Beverly Hills, you have Grand Central Market in LA, which a few years ago Bon Appetit said was "one of the best restaurants in America" and an explosion of food halls across Southern California.
  • Posted on: 10/05/2019

    Will consumers go for Kroger’s food hall concept?

    FWIW, in the mid 1970s, an early food hall concept was called Tally Hall, at a shopping center in Farmington Hills, Oakland County, Michigan, People flocked to it for awhile, but then it failed eventually because artificial shopping environments need to be constantly refreshed. (The same thing happened with Greektown as a destination in Detroit at that time. Eventually "everybody" who wanted to go went and they didn't feel a pressing need to return.) The success of food halls "in the suburbs" is dependent on the particular location's level of "urban-ness" which wasn't possessed by Tally Hall. Suburban business districts and town centers can support food halls, but any old location where a real estate developer is more focused on "activation" without the necessary preconditions won't. I haven't seen the new Kroger store, but the physical design reminds me of Harmon's City Creek store in Salt Lake. It is a two floor store with different ground entrances for each floor at different levels because of the grade of the site. The upper floor is not quite food hall but it's where Harmon's has a cafe/deli/grab and go operation, plus their demonstration kitchen, post office space, etc. Not sure that the location could support a full blown food hall, but grocers have the opportunity to be creative with such sites and in urban locations, as more companies are demonstrating with these kind of one off stores (many other examples end up being featured as "store of the month" in the Progressive Grocer trade magazine.
  • Posted on: 10/04/2019

    Kroger makes unusual donation to prevent a food desert

    Kroger is a reasonably intelligent company, even if in my writings I argue they have a lot of what I call "stranded" best practice across the company, great things that are done here and there across the banners, but not codified in one master set of SOP best practices that are introduced and effectuated in a systematic way across the banners. That being said, they are smart enough to figure out whether they could ever make money with this store, and they figured not. It's cheaper for them to give away an asset that they valued at $500,000 (and clearly it's worth less if they couldn't sell it as part of a viable business plan for another business), than to continue to lose more money. Plus they get lots of publicity etc. (Although they will now have to field more such requests going forward). What is equally interesting, not mentioned by anyone is how in the past it was pretty typical for supermarkets to close stores but put restrictive covenants on the use of these spaces with the property owner, often continuing to pay the rent, to prevent other supermarkets from turning around and opening a store in that location. Both DC and Chicago have passed laws making such a practice illegal. Likely in current business conditions, paying to maintain restrictive covenants is not something even the nation's largest grocery company can afford.
  • Posted on: 08/27/2019

    How to make a big deal out of a chicken sandwich

    Many years ago there was an article in the NYT Business section about "what should McDonald's do wrt significant drop in sales?" Since then, they've gone discount, but one of the respondents said they should double down on burgers, but make them totally awesome. I've felt the same about KFC. It should be totally awesome chicken. Anyway, irrespective of the anti-gay stuff, I've never understood the appeal of Chick-fil-A. The food is average at best, just like most fast food, which is acceptable in a pinch. Except for me, Chick-fil-A isn't acceptable in a pinch. So there is plenty of opportunity in the chicken segment of the fast food industry to offer great food, since most of the operators don't. All the social media in the world wouldn't have mattered if Popeyes didn't commit to creating a superior product.
  • Posted on: 08/15/2019

    New site wants to make independent grocery jobs into careers

    The National Hardware Retailing Association has an extensive online training program and other training resources that can be made available to the staff of member stores. It's a good model for what could be done. But the stores have to incentivize employees and care about them for this to work. E.g., a few weeks ago I shopped at two different (high end as opposed to their "normal" stores) Harmon's Supermarkets in Salt Lake City (City Creek, and Emigration Market stores) and I was struck with how engaged the employees were, how friendly, how the bread person offered me samples while I was waiting for the bread to be packaged, etc. This is not the kind of experience I am accustomed to at traditional supermarkets (Safeway, Giant, Harris-Teeter), although now, when you ask someone where something is, they usually will escort you to the location. WRT some of the "negative" comments ... the fact is, many of the leaders in the supermarket business got their start as bag boys, etc., so they can build credibility for the training program by finding and promoting those kinds of stories.
  • Posted on: 08/15/2019

    Is it time for retailers to tier up their loyalty/reward programs?

    Buy 9/10 get 1 free can be part of a premium or tiered loyalty program. I have read about Dorothy Lane Markets, which promotes loyalty not through price discounts but by rewarding "greater spend," such as providing a cheese board for free based on how much cheese you buy etc. Harmon's Supermarket in Salt Lake (and actually now Safeway) rewards people with free items depending on how much they spend in a given period, in addition to the various buy 10 get 1 free aspects for coffee, sandwiches, bread, etc., built into their loyalty card program. They are set up to provide more reward based on how much you buy, which is different from typical price based specials, which they do too.
  • Posted on: 06/07/2019

    Will urgent care centers put a hurt on retail health clinics?

    Retail clinics have limited capacity to act given how they are staffed. They don't have MDs. Urgent care centers have MDs on staff. It's like car buying. People buy a vehicle to accomplish all types of trips they may take, even if they take some kinds of trips hyper rarely. So they end up buying an SUV instead of a sedan. Or a bigger vehicle instead of a smaller car. E.g., in cities having a small car makes sense, but since people tend to own fewer vehicles in the city, they buy one "bulked up" vehicle. Hence there are a lot of SUVs, way more than you would think given the typical trip.
  • Posted on: 06/07/2019

    Stores have cut out-of-stocks. Why don’t consumers know that?

    WRT the headline, all I can think of is Herzberg's Motivation Theories and how elements contributing to dissatisfaction dissatisfy when they aren't provided, and aren't noticed when they are. Retailers shouldn't be expecting accolades for reducing out of stocks, that should be a basic metric of capability. In Herzberg's theory (albeit focused on work), satisfaction and dissatisfaction aren't a continuum, they are separate elements. PS, reading a book years ago about Panasonic, one of the founder's sayings was "to be out of stock is a sign of carelessness."
  • Posted on: 05/07/2019

    Will a buyer step up for Lord & Taylor?

    1. I don't see how Walmart would get much value in purchasing L&T, even as a repositioned digital brand. They'd be far smarter to develop Jet as a standalone brand (which they are already doing), and like with primarily digital companies like Warby & Parker or the special kinds of special stores by brands like REI or Nike, create a small set of stores in the markets where it makes sense. Jet is new, the future. L&T is decidedly the past.
    2. Regarding this discussion, and what Mr. Amer said about private equity being motivated about making big bucks and there not being much of that kind of opportunity here, I guess what's more likely is that it will go the way of the various O&O supermarket divisions of Supervalu which are now being sold off/dissolved by Unfi. E.g., before the acquisition, Supervalu dissolved Farm Fresh in Hampton Roads (like how Safeway destroyed the value of Dominick's and Genuardi's and eventually shut them down). And so yes, like the point made about selective acquisition of stores by companies like Von Maur and Dillard's or maybe Boscovs, L&T is destined to be dissolved.
  • Posted on: 02/14/2019

    Will CVS’s HealthHUB concept change what consumers expect of drugstores?

    My first job in DC was with a health-oriented consumer group. In an argument with people from there after I had left, we were discussing the then C. Everett Koop video project, done with a pharmacy chain maybe, I don't remember which one. The guy I was arguing with about the failure of the videos said "it was because there was too much Koop." I said "no, it is because the way chain drug stores are set up, they aren't points for health information learning and dissemination, they are places to pick up drug prescriptions and sundries. So a pharmacy chain was the wrong partner and the wrong place to expect successful POS of such items." Now, CVS has the opportunity to change this. (Another example is the HyVee small supermarket format that mixes food + certain health categories, not just HBC, but senior care, maybe optical, etc.)
  • Posted on: 02/13/2019

    Can Whole Foods’ business afford higher prices?

    For WF's core customer, I don't think price is the issue. I don't shop there except for specialty items, because I can't afford it. But I see plenty of people shopping there with full baskets. By building the "membership" base with Amazon Prime and the very good discounts that are specially offered to Prime members, that's probably enough. They might not be able to expand beyond the core customer base in a substantive way, but with the Amazon Prime connection, maybe that doesn't matter.
  • Posted on: 02/13/2019

    Will the new plan for Sears work any better than the previous ones?

    Changing the name ... when I was young, there was a regional department store called Federal's. (If you google it, it was part of a larger company that was one of the consolidators in the Midwest, but all those stores eventually went under.) They owned some other stores like Shiffrin Williams, which survived for a time afterwards. Anyway, going through bankruptcy they were bought up (but still ended up failing), and they changed the name to Deral's, because it was cheaper to take the F and the E off the signs.
  • Posted on: 02/13/2019

    Will the new plan for Sears work any better than the previous ones?

    I am originally from the Detroit area and remember the days of KMART dominance. They had maybe two dozen or more stores in the Detroit area. Partly they overstored to box out competitors. Even so ... I was looking at the list of stores in all of Michigan of Sears and Kmart and there is something like one KMART store left. None in the Detroit area.
  • Posted on: 02/08/2019

    J.C. Penney dumps appliances

    Not that they had it in them, but what if J.C. Penney had introduced appliances along the lines of PIRCH? It could have been a redefining move. Plus for those of us who remember the J.C. Penney catalog, our memories of what the store was/is/can be go beyond softlines. Plus the stores were completely different in locations outside of the suburban setting.
  • Posted on: 02/08/2019

    Product and promo knowledge won’t make the sale

    With regard to Apple, it's a bit disingenuous to talk about their stratospheric sales per square foot numbers as the result of some special sauce. Yes, special sauce is involved. So is selling very highly priced products. Try generating high sales per square foot selling 100 packages of underwear versus selling one iPhone.
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