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Richard Layman

Urban Planner
commercial district revitalization planner
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  • 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.
  • Posted on: 02/07/2019

    J.C. Penney dumps appliances

    Very good point. That's why so much of business is running in circles as new players push their approach, rather than looking at the overall piece. I agree with the point made by someone else about "department stores" having departments. Probably in the portfolio there are a bunch of stores where having a hardware/appliance offering makes a lot of sense, even if this isn't true for every store. Rather than making a one size fits all decision, I'd make differentiated decisions based on a categorization of the store portfolio for various elements. For some reason I was looking at an H-E-B store locator, and you could get a return based on various choice criteria. Who knew that some stores have eye care centers, certain stores have cooking schools, some have in-house roasted meats, and some pharmacies have compounding capabilities, etc.? Why J.C. Penney and Sears didn't do a similar reset long ago is beyond me.
  • Posted on: 01/10/2019

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

    Or Macy's. But yes, it was a fish out of water concept for JCP. Still, there are ways to bring excitement back to these stores, even if not at Selfridges level. E.g. I was only able to run through the store briefly. Their book department was focused on art books. They had a special section on city bikes (I am a transportational cyclist), a food court on the top floor and of course, a "typical" outstanding department store food department on the ground floor. And the restrooms, like restrooms in other stores and Heathrow Airport, were fabulous. Etc. I'd say that with JCP, the model would not be Selfridges, but the signature Canadian Tire store in Edmonton. Or even, with appliances, PIRCH. You think that's a stretch, but in smaller towns where you still have appliance + home stores (which tended to grow out of hardware stores), when I did a planning study in Brunswick, GA, that store equivalent there had demonstrations with the stoves, etc. -- no different from PIRCH.
  • Posted on: 01/10/2019

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

    While I don't know if this would work/would resonate with most of the locations in suburban malls, there is no question that U.K. department stores like Selfridges on Oxford Street wow the customer. Johnson's initiative was flawed in two ways: 1.) people need "sales" to remind and push them to buy, because so much of what they purchase is discretionary and not necessarily needed; 2.) he needed to come up with a system defining tranches of stores, roll out the changes he made to the stores where that would make sense, and come up with other changes that fit better for different tranches. In short, he should have picked 10 or more stores depending on how the classification process went, and made them over as landmark or signature stores, like the REI or Walgreens examples, based on the likelihood of success, and worked from there.
  • Posted on: 01/08/2019

    Sears likely headed for liquidation

    Maybe he can join with the group that is selectively reopening stores of various Bon Ton banners. A Carsons opened up in a Chicago suburb in November. It's open Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and sells other stuff, too. (Insurance? Art?)
  • Posted on: 01/08/2019

    Sears likely headed for liquidation

    The Washington Post had an article about the impact of private equity purchases of retail businesses on pension funds when the business goes under. They used the Sun Capital acquisition of Marsh Supermarkets as the prime example. But yes, this isn't a particularly new process. Plenty of regional department stores died this way already (e.g., Wieboldts and many others) over the past few decades, let alone supermarkets, and other retailers like Toys "R" Us. But I'd say it's not so much "activist investor" as it is private equity/hedge funds with limited motivation to run the companies as going concerns.
  • Posted on: 01/08/2019

    Sears likely headed for liquidation

    I think this is the key point. 1.) Sears had tremendous brand equity and sub-brands/product lines with great strength. 2.) Could they have repositioned/pivoted? Maybe. 3.) But ESL wasn't the person or approach to do it. Like Nokia, Blackberry, Motorola and others, Sears did some experiments along the way that did show a way forward. But like those companies, they couldn't or wouldn't commit out of a fear of cannibalizing a business model that had been working. E.g., I think one called Sears Grand, moving away from the mall, and having more fast moving categories (a mix of Sears and KMart) predating ESL, could have helped. The various hardware and appliance initiatives could have worked because of the equity in Kenmore, Craftsman, the Auto Centers and the home repair businesses. But we'll never know. Because those initiatives didn't move forward in the way they needed to and merchandising was never part of the ESL business model.
  • Posted on: 01/02/2019

    Are dollar stores bad for cities?

    True but in my community history/commercial district revitalization days, I was surprised to learn that in the 1950s, S.S.Kresge had a "lower income market" brand called "Jupiter" for where Kresge stores were no longer the right fit.
  • Posted on: 01/02/2019

    Is Blue Apron smart to pin turnaround hopes on Weight Watchers alliance?

    Yep. The cost per portion is at least twice the cost of buying and preparing food yourself. It seems cheaper though compared to buying a restaurant meal, where it is one-third to half the cost. E-commerce isn't just about reducing item cost. It can be about getting people to pay more for items too.
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