This Week’s Retailer

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.

 

 


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