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Richard Layman

Urban Planner
commercial district revitalization planner
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  • Posted on: 05/18/2020

    What’s J.C. Penney’s next move?

    Word. I am from Michigan, and among others, remember Kresge. During my high school years I lived in Troy, where Kmart was located (Ironically, Taubman Centers HQ was located close by). Kmart had something like 2,100 stores at their peak. Now they have 34. Meanwhile Target and Walmart are thriving by comparison. Target shows a way to differentiate. I guess JCP hasn't learned yet.
  • Posted on: 05/18/2020

    What’s J.C. Penney’s next move?

    Splitting off the real estate didn't help Mervyns, Sears, or any of the other retailers where this occurred.
  • Posted on: 05/18/2020

    What’s J.C. Penney’s next move?

    To me, department stores were optimized for city centers/downtowns and major centers. As they moved to malls and as more specialized retailers developed, they lost their verve. You can see this difference looking at department stores in European cities. Given the hollowing out of the country, could department stores work better still in more rural or exurban locations? That being said, the failure of Shopko (was it all the fault of private equity or were there other issues) and the possible closure of Stage Stores makes me wonder if there is even such an opportunity in exurban areas.
  • Posted on: 04/21/2020

    Does anybody remember Earth Day?

    CBA taking the lead is like Shake Shack and others taking money from the stimulus that was intended for small businesses. Last month PBS/NPR released a Frontline documentary on the bag job that the packaging industry did in the 1970s around recycling, to deflate popular sentiment for packaging and recycling laws. The show is brutal. Maybe Patagonia and Goretex and REI are brands that could take a lead on this. Not most of the companies that are likely to be members of the CBA. Anyway, after learning about the EU Green Capital program years ago, because I had been commissioned to write a series of articles on EU cities for a project in the US, my thought has been that the US should develop a similar program, but rather than just designate one city each year, it could have three: a big city; a smaller city; and a rural community; as a way to model and diffuse best practices.
  • Posted on: 03/07/2020

    Are strip centers where it’s at for Macy’s and Sephora?

    The sad thing is that Sears had this idea/realization not quite 20 years ago (Sears Grand), but didn't stick with it. Doing it now is probably not quite too late, but probably too late to make a lot of difference.
  • Posted on: 03/07/2020

    What makes Trader Joe’s, Trader Joe’s?

    Good point. Just think what Steve Burd could have learned from the Albrechts with regard to their hands-off ownership. It's amazing that billions of dollars of value in store chains in Chicago, Philadelphia, and Texas was destroyed by the wrong kind of hands-on management.
  • Posted on: 03/07/2020

    What makes Trader Joe’s, Trader Joe’s?

    That's part of it. But I once had a conversation with Herbert Haft, one of the earliest creators of discounting in the US (Dart Drug, etc.) and as he said, "it's the people with money who are motivated to spend the least." Given the RTA household income numbers for a typical TJ store, I think Herbert Haft must be right.
  • Posted on: 03/07/2020

    What makes Trader Joe’s, Trader Joe’s?

    A lot of the coverage about the ownership of TJ's is facile, blurring the relationship with Aldi, and that includes this piece. The Albrecht Family branch that owns Aldi Nord separately owns TJ's, "as an investment." There isn't shared corporate control. Except for Germany, Aldi Nord and Aldi Sud operate in separate countries, Aldi Nord mostly in Europe, Aldi Sud in some European countries but mostly overseas. Aldi Sud has the territorial rights for and operates in the US. And if you want to save money, Aldi (Sud) in the US is a far better place to shop than TJ's. But it's not a specialty store in the same way, it's a hard discounter.
  • Posted on: 02/19/2020

    Does Peapod’s retreat from the Midwest spell trouble for e-grocery?

    One of the most important marketing books I ever read c. 1989, was _Maximarketing_. It promoted omnichannel before that was a term, and it was a few years before the graphical web was "invented." Amazon, yes, can get away without having stores. They built the platform around books and CDs, which are pretty straightforward, and then as people built their familiarity, Amazon kept growing the platform, and you're right, probably there is only room for them (as Jet/Walmart is discovering). WRT "brands" like Warby Parker opening stores, to me it's merely an example of maximarketing or omnichannel. (Just like Lands' End has some stores, or REI or L.L.Bean's store in Maine.) It's especially difficult to build brand awareness these days given the decline of mass media (network tv and mass delivered magazines in particular, and national advertising in newspapers, and newspapers generally). Landmark or flagship stores in highly visible and trafficed areas ought to be a key element in the marketing mix for just about every major brand outside of Amazon.
  • Posted on: 02/18/2020

    Does Peapod’s retreat from the Midwest spell trouble for e-grocery?

    Not exactly the case. It depends on the retail category. Obviously, Amazon's general e-commerce success isn't tied to stores--even categories like apparel are proving susceptible to non-store linked e-commerce. Food is a category with different characteristics and conditions. Not only do many consumers like to pick the products, the margins are abysmal and only helped by the fact that in supermarkets, customers do picking and delivery. If you take on picking and delivery, have to worry about product safety in the supply chain (refrigeration) and the margins are abysmal anyway, how can you make any money?
  • Posted on: 02/18/2020

    Does Peapod’s retreat from the Midwest spell trouble for e-grocery?

    Yep. This is in my feed.
  • Posted on: 02/18/2020

    Does Peapod’s retreat from the Midwest spell trouble for e-grocery?

    Peapod does just fine in Ahold markets.
  • Posted on: 02/18/2020

    Does Peapod’s retreat from the Midwest spell trouble for e-grocery?

    It's not so much adapting as it is recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of the business model. 1) It needs to be linked with stores. They don't have stores in the Midwest. 2) It was too late for them to work with other stores, who already developed other arrangements. 3) In markets with Ahold stores, it was branded separately as Peapod, but now in those various markets, the Peapod brand is being deemphasized in favor of the store banner.
  • Posted on: 02/10/2020

    Why are so many organic grocers landing in bankruptcy court?

    One difference is strong grocery business cooperatives. To me, Shoprite stores aren't all that special, but the individual operators can succeed because of the support they get "from the buying group." Similarly, here in the Intermountain West, Associated Food Stores enables independents to succeed in the face of Smith's, a successful Kroger banner. In Greater Salt Lake, the cooperative operates some stores and supplies others. Harmons is truly distinctive in its positioning as a specialty grocer. That they are growing in the face of Smiths is remarkable. But part of it is that they are willing to deploy a variety of store sizes and locate in places that are differentiated, whereas Smiths only opens stores that are their standard 65,000 s.f. or greater. The DC area where I lived for 30+ years, doesn't have an independent small regional chain comparable to Harmons. While there are wholesalers, it doesn't have an independent grocery cooperative.
  • Posted on: 02/10/2020

    Why are so many organic grocers landing in bankruptcy court?

    Whole Foods differentiation is super high quality prepared foods and higher quality perimeter departments -- seafood, deli, produce -- and also restaurant style food options. I haven't been to Central Market (H-E-B) or Market District (Giant-Eagle), but outside of small independents (like Harmon's in the Salt Lake City region), I haven't seen a mainline supermarket, including various Kroger banners, compete at anywhere near that level (haven't been to Mariano's, Harris-Teeter is good, but nowhere near as good as Whole Foods). (I haven't been to the new Market Street Albertsons stores in Idaho and I don't know if the United Supermarkets versions in Texas are comparable.) Wegmans stores are good. But in my experience they don't compare to Whole Foods either on that dimension. (Haven't been to one of the stores that has German bakery ovens and grinds its own grains...)
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