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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Besides the reality that there probably isn't a sustainable business in meal kits for any firm (anyone remember the brief trend of "meal assembly stores" in the early 2000s?), merely a line of business within grocery, that is best able to be offered by grocery stores where the cost to prepare and distribute is much cheaper compared to home delivered meals, this makes sense for Blue Apron. But only if the WW relationship isn't one-off; if they can create similar relationships. That being said, there are few such opportunities. (I say this having worked at one time for the nation's largest consumer group concerned with food and nutrition.)