This Week’s Retailer


Retailer of the Week: Costco

Issaquah, WA

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.


Retailer of the Week: Walmart

Bentonville, AR

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.


Retailer of the Week: Popeyes

Atlanta, GA

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.


Retailer of the Week: Nordstrom

Seattle, WA

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.


Retailer of the Week: Walgreens

Deerfield, IL

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.


Retailer of the Week: IKEA US

Conshocken, PA

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.


Retailer of the Week: Target

Minneapolis, MN

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.


Retailer of the Week: Magnolia Market at the Silos

Waco, TX

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.


Retailer of the Week: Zingerman’s
Ann Arbor, MI
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.



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