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Jan Rogers Kniffen

Jan Rogers Kniffen is CEO of J Rogers Kniffen WWE, LLC, a retail consulting firm working with investors in retail companies and with retailers and suppliers to retails. He is also a CNBC contributor and functional area expert for retail. Kniffen was SVP Finance and Treasurer of The May Department Stores (now Macy) from 1985 through 2005.
  • Posted on: 09/09/2022

    Is ‘shrinkflation’ a better option than charging higher prices at retail?

    Sure shrinkflation works ... you really can fool some of the people some of the time.
  • Posted on: 06/08/2018

    Why did Bon-Ton fail while Macy’s did not? 

    Having been intimately involved in every deal that the May Department Stores did from the Associated Dry Goods acquisition through the sale to Federated (Macy's), I have a thought about why the Macy's/May deal worked and the Bon-Ton/Saks Northern deal did not. First and foremost, Bon-Ton took on way too much debt in their deal, Macy's did not. Second, we (May) looked at every one of those stores that became part of Saks Northern and we allowed ourselves to be outbid (by Brad Martin) on each and every one of them, because we thought, in general, that they were "bad businesses" that would require a lot of "rationalization" (store closures, etc) in order to be viable. So, Bon-Ton bought "problem children" and Macy did not. Finally, Macy's had a much stronger management team than Bon-Ton. And, the team Macy's bought was much stronger than the management team that Bon-Ton bought. So, in summary, other than both being department store deals, the two deals bore no resemblance to each other. No wonder the outcomes were different.
  • Posted on: 07/24/2017

    Why is Amazon paying full-price for third-party inventory?

    Amazon is reacting to inroads by Walmart with third-party sellers. So if you are Amazon you cut your third-party sellers (who generally hate you but feel like they have to use you) a better deal to keep them away from your number one competitor.
  • Posted on: 06/09/2017

    Will ‘Project Gigaton’ give Walmart a sustainable competitive edge?

    I applaud Walmart on their environmental efforts, but they have also made it very clear that they intend to save money through their "better packaging" and "green building" efforts, not just save the planet.
  • Posted on: 06/01/2017

    Should Amazon buy Macy’s?

    If anyone buys Macy's it should not be Amazon. Big box formats are not in Amazon's future and neither are retrofits. TJX should buy Macy's. After all, without a full price player in branded product what is off-price but a low-priced department store? And if anyone needs to control the brands it is TJX. What does a brand say when the biggest off-price chain and the biggest department store chain merge? "Yes, sir," that's what.
  • Posted on: 04/26/2017

    Can parking lots save the mall?

    If traffic to the mall is so bad that the mall does not need the parking lot for mall patrons, the game is over anyway. And apparently the malls that are doing this not only have room for "an event" and parking for that event, but enough parking for customers of the mall-based stores as well. Sounds like they are just trying to hold off the death rattle.
  • Posted on: 01/30/2017

    Should Macy’s have never gone national?

    For Macy's, going national and becoming first full line, truly national department store was not a mistake. When I got into the business there were 100 regional department store names. There is not one really successful regional department store left. Dillard's is the most successful, and it is a melting ice cube. Bon-ton is a shadow of its former self, and hardly a successful regional store. Boscov's has been bankrupt already, and is very likely heading for another round. Belk's has been bought out by private equity, is now levered up, and unlikely to grow again. Saks, Neiman's, Lord & Taylor, and Nordstrom are not regional department stores. They are specialty stores and always have been. If being a regional department store in the current environment is such a great idea, why are there no successful ones left? When regional department stores were still successful and viable, the off-price players were still "children." When department stores were winning, Walmart was a "teenager." When department stores were winning, Amazon was not even a twinkle in Jeff Bezos's eye. Terry Lundgren has done an amazing job, and yet Macy's is still in a battle to the death with all of the above. Oh, and I do have some knowledge of all this. I left the Icahn organization to go to May Company in 1984 to do the largest transaction in the department store space that had ever been done at the time, the acquisition of Associated Dry Goods. I was still there to sell the business to Macy's ... hmmm ... and years before I stocked shelves in Walmart store number 26, the first one opened outside Arkansas. Take it from me, the decision to be a national department store was not why Macy's is fighting a fierce battle today. It is what is allowing them to still fight the battle.
  • Posted on: 11/07/2016

    Ode to retail: Death of the traditional mall

    "Malls will survive but not in the traditional sense. They will be community gathering places first, and places for commerce second." If this quote from the article is true, then most malls will have to go through "reorganization" in order to survive, because "community gathering places" are great, but it is really hard to pay the debt service on a mall with the revenue generated by a "community gathering place." If my prediction, that we will see online penetration of non-bar, non-restaurant sales rise from 11% at the end of last year to 50% by 2030, then about half of the 1100 enclosed, regional and super regional malls probably have to demolished or repurposed over that 13 year period. Perhaps that repurposing will include a lot of malls becoming "community centers," but it will not be pretty for mall developers/owners if that is true.
  • Posted on: 11/03/2016

    Can anyone fix Target’s grocery business?

    I attended the big unveiling of PFresh grocery at Target. I told the management that day that PFresh would have the worst ROI of any major investment they had ever made. I would have been right had it not been for their foray into Canada, which I also opposed since I had looked at owning all those locations that they bought. They are not a grocery store that can compete with the best major player in the space, Kroger. They cannot be as cheap as Walmart, or offer the breadth of Walmart, so what are they? There is no evidence that they get crossover traffic from what should be the higher-traffic grocery part of the store to the lower-traffic (in theory) apparel and consumables part of the store. Grocery, as done by Target does not work. It never will. Walmart owns price, Kroger owns service and no one wants to go for specialty grocery at Target vss say Wegmans, or Stew Leonard's, or Trader Joe's or ... I have said, only half in jest, that Target could not run pharmacy so they turned it over to CVS. They cannot run grocery, so they should turn it over to Kroger. General merchandise could go to Walmart. Apparel can go to Primark ... well, you get the idea.
  • Posted on: 09/02/2016

    Can edible packaging help solve retail’s eco problem?

    Boy, it is hard enough to keep the dogs out of the cupboard now. They are going to love the idea of edible packaging ... mice anyone?
  • Posted on: 08/22/2016

    Will Amazon drive-up grocery stores disrupt food retailing?

    Will Amazon enter online/pickup grocery in a big way? Yes. Will it be successful? If successful means taking share and disrupting the grocery status quo, yes. Despite my wife being a serious cook, we get virtually all of our groceries via Fresh Direct, including meat and produce. It works incredibly well, and is, on average, 4% cheaper than my nearby chain supermarket. If online grocery can work, online/pickup at store can work, especially for the working mom or dad who has no one at home to take delivery, but wants to save the hour in the store. I remember when shoes could not go online because you "have to try them on," and when fashion apparel could not go online because you "have to see the true color and feel the fabric." Grocery can go online even if you cannot see the meat or feel the melon. And for a significant part of the population, pickup is easier than delivery.
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