lord $ taylor

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As someone who watches brands and markets I love inflection points. Consumer inflection points are most obvious in the retail landscape. One result of the financial crisis and bail out of Detroit was a reduction in car dealerships. Were you to drive down any long commercial highway 20 years ago and compare it to today you will see brand new banks on the sites once reserved for shiny new cars.  And as we legislate more fuel efficient car standards, those same streets have more eateries where gas stations once stood.

Today in the news, Lord & Taylor in NYC is selling its block long retail space to WeWork. The supply-side driver? eCommernce and Amazon.  For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  WeWork, most know, started out as a low-cost office space solution — one where infrastructure, e.g., phones, cabling, office maintenance, coffee, is taken care of and asses in seats are rented for the day, week, month or year. They are now growing like wild fire. And the price points are increasing, as the amenities and addresses become more plush. The other inflection point driving WeWork growth is what’s happening on the demand-side: the freelance economy.

The work force is changing. The nature of companies is changing.  Google “logged and tagged workforce.” Or write me (Steve@WhatsTheIdea.com).  Those who are ready for the logged and tagged economy shall winners be.



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I wrote an article for Newsday a year ago cautioning Lord and Taylor about their take-over of The Fortunoff Company. Today, for posterity, because Fortunoff recently filed for bankruptcy,  I visited Newsday to buy a PDF of the article.  (News should always be free in my book, but that’s a story for another day.) With a few extra minutes to play around thanks to my newly repaired Achilles tendon, I ventured into the Terms of Service section of Newsday.com.  OMG.  It contained 33 paragraphs, 262 lines of text and 2690 words — just about guaranteeing nobody will read it but corporate lawyers and people cloning TOS language for their start-ups.


Here’s the paragraph that floored me:


“You also grant TI (Tribune Interactive) the right to use any material, information, ideas, concepts, know-how or techniques contained in any communication you send to us for any purpose whatsoever, including but not limited to developing, manufacturing and marketing products using such information. All rights in this paragraph are granted without the need for additional compensation of any sort to you.”


Having been involved in a social media start-up and partially responsible for the Terms of Service and lawyer budget, I can tell you first hand this stuff gets very boggy. It’s a legal sink hole.  Had Newsday or Fortunoff taken something from my article and turned it into creative or operationalized it at their stores, do you think my check box TOS agreement would hold up in court?  Not likely. You can drive a truck through most Terms of Service mumbo.


Larry Lessig, an amazing mind and founding board member of Creative Commons, has the right idea about this stuff.  Were I Barack Obama, I’d take some of that AIG and GM money and appoint Mr. Lessig Digital Rights Management Czar — then I’d give him some serious legislative firepower and charge him with getting digital rights management right.  A good law in place, protecting all parties, will save the country billions in legal fees. (Don’t tell the lawyers.) Peace!


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Shiny or not?

Fortunoff (or as we say in NY, Fortunoff’s) needs help to bring it back from the brink of bankruptcy. Lord & Taylor is reported to be ready to scoff it up and incorporate it into their larger, upscale retail stores. Here’s the rub — and for the record, I think Lord and Taylor’s new management company NDRC Equity Partners has done a great job reviving that wonderful old brand – Fortunoff sells expensive things that shine. Lord and Taylor’s sells expensive things that don’t.

Combining these two stores under one roof, even maintaining separate branded names, is a recipe for lagging sales – at both stores.   I’m all for consolidating real estate to make better use of available money, but not at the expense of diminishing each brand’s gestalt.  

Keep both stores on one retail footprint but separate them. Make them accessible through different doors, play different music, have different lighting, different merchandising and have sales associates wear different sweaters (you know what I mean.)

Shiny and not shiny don’t mix.

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