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President, Baron Enterprises, Inc.
  • Posted on: 07/06/2022

    H&M discovers it’s not easy being green

    Brands like H&M rely on constant consumption of fashion. Most consumers recognize this, and if they were truly eco-conscious would likely be shopping elsewhere (thrift store, church rummage sale, or from a clothing brand that creates clothing that will hold up longer over time). As Nikki said, these companies cannot self-police their environmental impact. When I hear of companies like H&M talk about ESG, I just find it hard to wrap my head around it. Their business model is so antithetical to those types of initiatives. Yes using less water, reducing shipping costs, and removing certain chemicals may make a positive difference, but these are a small fraction of the energy required to be constantly replacing an entire wardrobe.
  • Posted on: 07/06/2022

    Will new perks add to Amazon’s Prime numbers?

    Inflation is making consumers question purchases, and whether they are “nice to have” or “need to have.” Many Amazon Prime customers may already have another membership with Sam’s Club, Costco, etc. The more that Amazon can prove the value of the membership and benefits of Prime, the better, especially with continued price increases. I question whether a time-limited subscription (complete with the need to remember to cancel on the part of the customer) will really move the needle one way or another, especially when GrubHub is exactly the type of expenditure consumers are most likely to cut in an inflationary environment (food away from home where you have to pay a tip). This perk seems to benefit GrubHub far more than Prime.
  • Posted on: 06/29/2022

    What worked at Target didn’t work for Mark Tritton at Bed Bath & Beyond

    Bed Bath & Beyond has not been relevant as a retailer for nearly the past decade. And as they became more irrelevant they started making decisions that limited their reach even further. By decreasing their assortment and emphasizing limited options and product that could get even more promotional was a mistake. The store used to straddle the line of a department store home goods section and a big box retailer’s selection, but lately they have eschewed those higher-end products and only focused on the lower end. Fewer options limit your reach dramatically, and also take away that sense of excitement of “what else is here.” I see a lot of similarities in their demise and the demise of Lord & Taylor. Both couldn’t figure out how to get their consumers off of coupons, and both couldn’t get the right mix of product and consumer. I’m not sure anyone can turn this around. Most people have just forgotten that this store even exists.
  • Posted on: 01/05/2022

    Walmart says it’s ready to deliver groceries inside 30 million American homes

    For a certain customer, I can see this being wonderful. I think most consumers will not be comfortable with people entering their homes and rearranging their refrigerators (and who knows what else). I can see how it would be relatively successful in Vero Beach (think seasonal residents that don’t keep much in their home or are long-term renters, elderly that are homebound, etc.) but for the typical customer I doubt they would be willing to let go of the privacy. I know I would not. I do wonder if a “locked” cooler of some sort at the doorstep could be an intermediary step. I do think that once customers sign up for a service like this, they must be insanely loyal (profitable) clients.
  • Posted on: 12/13/2021

    Is the BOPIS experience getting any better?

    To the consumer, BOPIS is a major and important feature, especially when there are time-sensitive needs that exceed even the timeframe of Amazon, for example. With shipping and logistical challenges accelerating (one retailer shared recently their warehouse shipping lead time is taking one week instead of one day), BOPIS can increase market share. To me, the best example has been my local Target store. The inventory in my experience shows up well, it can easily process multiple orders, and has been extremely efficient. If you need to run in the store, they can grab your item at customer service when you’re in there shopping for the extra items. It is a pleasant shopping experience that you feel really does save time and energy. I cannot say I have had the same experience with other stores. In most other stores, the process seems fractured, clunky, and uncertain. Often just shopping the store would be easier. That has to change.
  • Posted on: 11/29/2021

    Will lean inventories derail off-pricers?

    Off-price has had a great run since the last recession. I am skeptical that will continue. Off-price has lagged behind in the online space and is overstored. Their product is going to have to become more and more differentiated between full-price offerings, and sadly their only real differentiator is price. That, coupled with a push towards sustainability/less consumption will challenge this industry. The lesson of the last recession was sales. Full-line Stores finally have more leverage to reset and increase their margins and percent of full price purchases. They’d be mad to give that up!
  • Posted on: 03/09/2021

    Does make sense as a separate business?

    Baker and his colleagues have been coming up with bizarre ideas to "reinvigorate" retail since their initial acquisition of Lord & Taylor over fifteen years ago. They have consistently overpromised and underdelivered. They seem to repeatedly choose to find avenues for short-term profits (an IPO, acquisition, new locations in questionable locations, selling off divisions, etc.), rather than invest in the company to achieve long-term, sustainable growth. Perhaps their view is that there is no long game to play here. My view is that this is yet another scheme that will generate short term profits, and maximize major long-term headaches. These companies will not ultimately share operational goals. People say the value for Baker is in all the real estate. That is true for some locations, but even in many A class malls, I don't see a major opportunity or value for the real estate.
  • Posted on: 12/28/2020

    What happened this holiday selling season?

    This year was a year filled with unknowns. Customers and stores were navigating the tensions around coming into stores and staying home. Some jurisdictions had capacity controls. Stores were also unsure would shoppers come or not, and so inventory was much lower, and stores also pushed great deals and prices, which may have also reduced spending. Consumers were dealing with conflicting messages about stimulus being extended or not, and with that uncertainty may have decided to hold back. While they may have not spent that money on travel, it doesn’t sound like that necessarily translated to the customer taking that savings to buy extra nice gifts. To me the biggest question is where will margins hit, and for those stores that had lower margins, is it the continuation of eroding margins (for example in the Department/Specialty store sector). The margins, I believe, will tell the story about long-term viability.
  • Posted on: 09/16/2020

    Will Amazon’s new online store disrupt the luxury fashion and beauty business?

    Luxury in 2020 is dominated by a few major players. Will they go along with this distribution scheme or will they resist? Many of the luxury companies have been moving to move away from third party distribution. Perhaps if Amazon is patient and willing to play a long game, they will succeed. Will the Amazon site be a truly distinct luxury offering? Or will it be a place for tired luxury brands looking to increase distribution or make up for losing contracts or volume at department stores? Time will tell....
  • Posted on: 09/15/2020

    Could Authentic Brands be the lynchpin in J.C. Penney’s turnaround?

    Who is the core ABG customer? Is there significant overlap with J.C. Penney’s consumer? With many of the brands, I don’t think so. While ABG may be able to offer some suggestions with logistics, and perhaps data as well, I find it unlikely that J.C. Penney will ever be the place to buy Frye, Hickey Freeman, or Barneys to mention a few of their existing stable. There may be some interesting store-in-store opportunities with brands such as Forever 21, but many malls already have both of these properties in the existing store.
  • Posted on: 09/05/2020

    Will Bloomingdale’s grab hold of the luxury products market?

    Many Bloomingdale’s locations I have visited throughout the years continue to appear tired and dated. Service is hard to find. I have strolled through the entire men’s section of their Palm Beach Gardens store on numerous occasions with not a single associate present on the selling floor. Outside of NYC more like a mix between Macy’s and Nordstrom than a true luxury player, similar to the Jane Elfers iteration of Lord & Taylor. We all see how Lord & Taylor has played out, my suspicion is that Bloomingdale’s will not be far behind. They have better merchandising than Lord & Taylor did by the end, but if there is to be one survivor in the upscale/luxury retail space, I doubt it is going to be Bloomingdale’s.
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