This Week’s Retailer

6/14/21

Retailer of the Week: Klarna

Stockholm, Sweden

klarna.com

Category: Retail services

Once again, we’re moving a bit out of the center with this week’s selection of Klarna, the buy-now-pay-over-time service that just raised another shitload of money and is now valued at about $45 billion. We have to admit we were skeptical when we first heard about services like Klarna, Afterpay and Affirm that offer an alternative to credit cards for shoppers looking to spread out payment terms. But with increasing acceptance by a wide swath of retailers in the U.S. and around the world, Klarna and its competitors seem to have found a niche in the marketplace, especially as e-commerce gained enormous market share during the pandemic. It still sounds a bit like layaway on steroids but Klarna just proves that variations on a theme can work with the right new twist.

6/7/21

Retailer of the Week: Harry Potter New York

New York, NY

harrypotterstore.com

Category: Specialty Store

If you want to know what it takes to get shoppers off their screens and back in to a physical store, then you have to see this brand new retailer, which seems to have all the pieces necessary to make that happen. At 21,000 square feet spread out over three levels (it’s the former RH space in the Flatiron district), it contains 15 different themed areas, virtual reality experiences, movie props, an art gallery, a candy stores and, of course, a bar to get a bottle of Butterbeer. In reading about it — full disclosure, haven’t seen it in person yet — it is exactly the kind of store that retailers need to be creating in this new shopping environment. I’m not even a big Potter fan but I’m dying to get to it.

6/1/21

Retailer of the Week: Williams Sonoma

San Francisco, CA

williamssonoma.com

Category: Specialty Chain

On the theory that you shouldn’t punish a company just because they do good things over and over again, this week’s selection is a repeat, Williams Sonoma. Last week it turned in another stellar quarter but more importantly it was how they got there: great merchandising, working the supply chain and logistics mess as well as anybody and having a smart overall strategy that serves them so well. Even more, they took the bold step to say they expect the good times to continue, unlike some other retail businesses that are still tip-toeing around making forecasts. Said it before and saying it again: Is there any other retailer handling the current business climate as well as Williams Sonoma?

5/24/21

Retailer of the Week: Warby Parker

New York, NY

Warbyparker.com

Category: Specialty Retailer

If there was ever a poster child for direct-to-consumer retailing, it would be Warby Parker, the eyewear company that launched in 2010 and has been the role model for countless other retail operations ever since. It realized early on it needed physical stores to be a successful business and now it has 125 with plans to open more. And it will be opening more because as co-CEO Dave Gilboa recently told Modern Retail, “We’re still big believers in physical retail because many customers are still drawn to a fun, seamless customer experience.” Let that sink in: “a fun, seamless customer experience.” Any retailer looking to define their physical stores has to understand this. Warby Parker sees it quite clearly.

5/17/21

Retailer of the Week: Selfridges

London, UK

Selfridges.com

Category: Department Store

Whenever a struggling department store retailer — particularly in the U.S. — talks about trying to fix its problems and re-strategize its business, the conversation invariably resorts to talking about Selfridges, the British operation that very well could be the best in the world. Its mix of leased departments, special events, food-focus and exciting presentation has made it the poster child for every department store in the world. And whenever there’s a new thing in the field — resale or rental or whatever — it seems to be one of the first to adapt. For American department stores from Nordstrom to Macy’s, the irony can’t be lost that Selfridges was started by Henry Gordon Selfridge…an American.

5/10/21

Retailer of the Week: Food52

New York, NY

Food52.com

Category: Online Direct Seller

Here’s an online operation that started life giving recipes and cooking advice but has expanded into e-commerce with a very sharp, focused approach that makes it a standout on the web. Food52 enhanced that last week with its purchase of the Dansk brand, one of the most well-known — and underdeveloped — names in tabletop and cookware. Owned by Lenox for the past few decades it was never able to find its rightful place in the retail hierarchy, which is a shame because its designs and approach were so perfectly suited to these times. I can’t wait to see what Food52 does with this iconic brand, it’s going to be a feast for the eyes.

5/3/21

Retailer of the Week: Tractor Supply Co.

Brentwood, TN

Tractorsupply.com

Category: Specialty Chain

If there’s been any single retailer that seems to be best positioned for the pandemic era it probably has to be Tractor Supply Co. Its “Out Here” merchandising strategy combining actual real commercial farming products with a heavy dose of Green Acres Gentleman Farmer goods is the right combination as all those Millennials flee the city and head out to the burbs, planting vegetables in their backyards and setting up bird baths. A heavy focus on pets is only a plus. With 2,000 stores and another 80 planned for this year, TS is the right store at the right time in the right place. How many other retailers can make that claim?

4/26/21

Retailer of the Week: Lowe’s

Mooresville, NC

Lowes.com

Category: Specialty Chain

It’s not easy being the Number Two in any field. Ask Avis…or Gimbels. It’s been the challenge for Lowe’s, a good retailer that is getting to be a very good retailer — but has the disadvantage of competing against a great retailer, Home Depot. This past week, though, Lowe’s took a big step towards closing that gap with its acquisition of the Stainmaster label, the most important brand in the soft floor coverings business. As part of its overall efforts to assemble a stable of well-known brands in the home space, it’s a big piece of that strategy. With its annual revenue only about two-thirds of Depot, Lowe’s still has a long way to go but this was a very smart move.

4/19/21

Retailer of the Week: Nike

Beaverton, OR

Nike.com

Category: Specialty Chain

The obvious question is what took us so long to recognize Nike? They are perhaps the most strategic, progressive vertical brand — manufacturing straight through to its own retailing — in the marketplace today and their ongoing efforts to control their distribution are on the cutting edge of the business. By pulling their products from third-party retailers who are not sticking with the Nike program — pricing and presentation primarily — they are setting the new business model for brands that want to meet the consumer with a consistent facing in-store and online. They will be the poster child for many others going forward who will find they must adapt a similar strategy.

4/12/21

Retailer of the Week: Shopify

Ottawa, Canada

Shopify.com

Category: Retail Service Provider

Sometimes the retailer doing the best things out there is not even a retailer. Case in point, this week’s choice, Shopify, the digital service provider that is allowing thousands — or is that millions? — of smaller, independent and tech-challenged retailers to compete in the world of e-commerce. Everytime I hear a specialty store say they can’t sell online because of the cost of setting up the digital services they need, Shopify comes to mind as the answer to their problem. Yes, it doesn’t solve all the pieces of e-comm and yes, it takes a cut hitting the retailer’s margins but these are small quibbles in the bigger picture of any retailer that’s not online is going to go out of business. There’s no other way to put it…and nobody better than Shopify for helping small retailers to prevent that from happening.

4/5/21

Retailer of the Week: Whataburger

San Antonio, TX

Whataburger.com

Category: Fast Food Restaurant

Many retailers rewarded their employees during the early stages of the pandemic with efforts above and beyond but that movement seems to have died down as the crisis drags on and maybe starts to subside. Not Whataburger, a regional fast fooder, that announced last week it was rewarding its 45,000 workers with a $90 million pot of bonuses for their efforts this past year. It also recognizes efforts during the recent blizzard conditions in Texas and is being supplemented by added contributions to 401K plans as well. Too many companies — especially retailers — have moved on from understanding the role their front line workers play in their success and overall customer satisfaction. Not Whataburger…which, by the way, makes a damn fine burger too.

3/29/21

Retailer of the Week: RH

Corte Madera, CA

rh.com

Category: Specialty Chain

If there was ever a retailing company that proved going against the rules and relying on the out-and-out entrepreneurial and merchant skills of its leadership works, it is RH. Under Gary Friedman it has zagged while others have zigged and created one of the most successful and special operations, not just in the home furnishings sector but in all retailing. For every retailer that believes operations, finance and real estate are the only keys to a good company, I give you RH which has done it through its merchandising, product development, marketing and sheer guts. The retail business — not to mention — consumers — need more companies like this…and fewer algorithm-only robot-retailers.

3/22/21

Retailer of the Week: Williams Sonoma

San Francisco, CA

williamssonoma.com

Category: Specialty Chain

Is there any retailer in the home furnishings space — or in the entire retailing business for that matter — that has nailed this online/in-store balance and integration better than Williams Sonoma? With all its nameplates — especially its namesake kitchenware brand — excelling, it has ridden out the pandemic era with strong e-commerce sales (70% of its overall revenue in its fourth quarter), aggressive adaption of omnichannel capabilities and excellent back room operations and logistics. It says it expects the home business to continue to do well even as Americans start to venture out of their homes again later in the year. Based on how they’ve performed recently we have no reason to doubt them.

3/15/21

Retailer of the Week: Dick’s Sporting Goods

Pittsburgh, PA

Dickssportinggoods.com

Category: Specialty Chain

There’s something to that old saying about being in the right place at the right time…but you’ve got to know what to do once you get there. Dick’s was certainly in the sweet spot of retailing this past year as people looked for activity gear to get them through the pandemic conditions. The retailer, however, ran with the opportunity and took advantage of all that it offered, putting up stellar numbers while stepping up its omnichannel capabilities. It is also experimenting with two new formats — a close-out concept and an oversized superstore that will open soon. While the sporting goods category has been cruel to some of its long-time players — Modell’s and Sports Authority to name two — Dick’s has prospered and learned it has more than a sporting chance of keeping up the good work, even as we start to return to more normal behavior patterns.

3/8/21

Retailer of the Week: Target

Minneapolis, MN

Target.com

Category: Mass Merchant

Our first repeat winner in this weekly report on retailing, Target continues to outperform, out-produce and outshine every other big retailer in the country. Its fourth quarter results, announced last week, confirm that both in its stores and online the Big Boxer is making virtually every part of its business work. But the most valuable lesson to be learned from Target’s success is its long-term gameplan. While other retailers continue to pander to Wall Street and quarterly results, Target’s long-range strategy should be the role model for every other retailer — hell, every other business — out there. To CEO Brian Cornell, the patient and understanding board of directors and its employees (sorry, still will never call them team members just as I will never call their customers guests), congratulations on excellent work.

3/1/21

Retailer of the Week: Costco

Issaquah, WA

Costco.com

Category: Warehouse Club

Perhaps no other retailing corporation in America has been on the right side of social issues and treating its workers well as often as Costco. The membership warehouse club seems to be a favorite on just about every level: a good investment, a good place to shop and, perhaps the cause of the first two factors, a good place to work. Last week the company said it will start paying its employees a minimum wage of $16 an hour, up from its current $15 an hour. In doing so it continues to prove that retaining good workers by paying them a little more helps avoid the infernal turnover rate that inflicts most of the rest of the retailing world.

2/22/21

Retailer of the Week: Walmart

Bentonville, AR

Walmart.com

Category: Mass Merchant

It wasn’t all that long ago that Walmart was the poster boy for abuse when it came to politically incorrect, insensitive and often abusive retailers in the U.S. That mantle seems to be worn by Amazon now as the Big Box from Bentonville has made a remarkable transformation to a corporation that is doing more good things than bad when it comes to it workers, social issues and the environment. Its latest initiative, announced last week, is a raise for its 425,000 workers that will bring average pay up to $15 an hour. Even though it still isn’t raising its minimum wage and there are other areas where it needs to get its political and social act together, Walmart has shown big companies can change. CEO Doug McMillon deserves much of the credit for leading this effort…and showing that doing the right thing is not only good for the planet, but also good for business.

2/15/21

Retailer of the Week: Popeyes

Atlanta, GA

Popeyes.com

Category: Fast Food Restaurant

It’s not easy to come up with a new promotional twist to product introductions these days, so congrats to the folks at Popeyes who rolled out their new Cajun Flounder Sandwich last week with a 15 cent insurance policy: Customers unsure about a fishy choice could pay an extra 15 cent premium and if they didn’t like their choice they got a free chicken sandwich instead. Following the success of that chicken introduction in 2019 the fast fooder has been shaking up the business and this marketing gimmick is just one more example of a fresh take on getting consumers to try something new. A delicious idea.

2/8/21

Retailer of the Week: Nordstrom

Seattle, WA

Nordstrom.com

Category: Department Store

This week’s winner is a tough call. Nordstrom certainly hasn’t figured out all the answers on how to reinvent the department store model. But here’s the thing: at least it knows the questions. With its new “Closer to You” program unveiled last week it showed it understands what its customers want and need. It’s localization program, integration of its off-price unit into the mothership and other initiatives on operations and logistics all address its core business. Competitors are either off working on tangential businesses or just trying to get away with the same old thing. Neither will work. Nordstrom ultimately may not make all of this work. But they’ve got the best shot of any department store in the country to be successful.

2/1/21

Retailer of the Week: Walgreens

Deerfield, IL

Walgreens.com

Category: Drug Chain

In an industry where women are everywhere on the sales floor and in the merchandising offices too, but hardly ever in the corner office where the president sits, congratulations to Walgreens for picking Roz Brewer as its new CEO, taking over next month. Brewer comes most recently from Starbucks but before that headed up Sam’s Club, the Walmart warehouse club division. What makes Brewer’s appointment all the more special is that not only is she a woman, but she is a black woman. And a black woman with an excellent track record too. It’s a big deal…but it shouldn’t be.

1/25/21

Retailer of the Week: IKEA US

Conshocken, PA

Ikea.com/us

Category: Home Furnishings Specialty Chain

It’s very often the biggest retailer that people in the home furnishings business choose to ignore when it comes to understanding their competition but that is a big mistake. A powerhouse with its big stores, Ikea is now moving into a-little-less-big urban locations and even smaller stores for design planning and order pick-ups. This one-size-doesn’t-fit-all strategy is brilliant and a marked contrast to most national retailers who have limited format options. The retailer’s initiatives in sustainability and eco-awareness are also world class, one more component others choose not to address. Ikea is a very good retailer getting even better every day.

1/18/21

Retailer of the Week: Target

Minneapolis, MN

Target.com

Category: Mass merchant

What can you say about Target…except that it is doing virtually everything right these days. Its 17% jump in sales in November and December was driven across the board: strong in-store merchandising, an excellent e-commerce effort, terrific omnichannel integration, well-developed private brand programs, creative marketing and advertising and continued development of its multi-format physical store strategy. And remember, this was a company that rebuilt itself just a few short years ago, playing the long game and not worrying about short-term quarterly results. Forget the cliches about hitting the bullseye, target marketing or any other obvious gags: Target is the best large retailer in America right now.

1/11/21

Retailer of the Week: Magnolia Market at the Silos

Waco, TX

Magnolia.com

Category: Home, gift, food & fashion

Building on the foundation of their successful TV home remodeling and decorating show, Joanna and Chip Gaines have created a retail business that is a total experience from its original Market store to the just added Magnolia Home outpost, six specialty “cottages,” food trucks, a bakery and a coffee shop, plus plenty of outdoor gathering spaces. There’s even a church. Taking inspiration from Disney it’s a fully integrated, full-on branding complex that can be the role model for specialty retailing in this age of dominant Big Boxes. And well worth the 1-1/2-hour drive from Dallas.

1/4/21

Retailer of the Week: Zingerman’s
Ann Arbor, MI
Zingermans.com
Category: Food, grocery & gifts
As giant retailers continue to gain market share this group of physical and online food and gift retailers proves that there is a place for independent specialty retail in the marketplace. From their carefully selected merchandise assortment (please don’t say curated anymore in 2021) to their clever and whimsical presentation in print and online to their personal, amazing customer service Zingerman’s is the role model for any specialty business trying to find its way in the retail world today. And their food is delicious, too…trust me, I know.

 

 


Follow My Blog

Get new content delivered directly to your inbox.

%d bloggers like this: