sears

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I don’t begin to know the complicated ins and outs of Walmart.com’s business model. Jet’s or Amazon’s either for that matter. But I do know a thing about brands and brand focus.  And it is my opinion that Walmart’s purchase of Jet.com was a smart, smart move, however, the idea to keep the two brands separate is a colossal mistake. Jet CEO Marc Lore will now run both companies, offering him economies of scale and scope which will improve supply chain performance.  But he’ll be doing double duty in his customer facing job. Way too much work.

Walmart.com has to go away and Jet.com needs to be the face of the single entity. The Walton family needs to let go and allow Jet to really ramp up. Mr. Lore will sleep better at night, he’ll dream better on weekends and his employees will have one team to play and root for.  One of the stupidest things I did as a parent was to think my two teenagers could share a car.  Two brands can’t share a business.

Rip off the Band-Aid Mr. Lore and Walton family. This is Amazon you’re trying to take share from. This ain’t no Mudd Club, no Sears or Macy’s.

Peace.                                              

 

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Who is the Mark Zuckerberg of retail?  Who is the David Droga of retail? (You never heard Mr. Droga ask the question “How big can we get before we suck?)  Is it Jeff Bezos? Where is the vision in retail?  Who is going to makeover Sears as the first national Spanish language seller of goods and services?

Radio Shack lost $120M last quarter. Sears, J.C. Penny, Best Buy are hemorrhaging or are under pressure. Penny’s brought in a visionary retail guy — from Apple. Off the shelf vision?  Didn’t work.  

All those marketing folk with their PowerPoints talking about “disruption” and “market discontinuities” aren’t making any money by changing retail, they are getting honorariums and speaking in front of pop-up tables topped with water cruets and note pads. The seminar circuit.

Where’s the vision?

Some kid is going to have an epiphany while in a college books store and it is going to lead to real idea.  That kid just might have the huevos to turn things upside down.  Perhaps a free retail channel powered by advertising. Or the opposite — a high cost, high touch, high value, all-in subscription approach.

This is one ripe category. And there are a few dollars at stake.

Peace.

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sears

“All Spanish all the time” is the business strategy I have recommended to Sears in this blog a number of times. Once again, quarterly earnings are out for the Sears Holding Company (owner of Kmart) showing it is hemorrhaging money. You can’t continue to lose a billion plus a year and stay a viable business (listening Blackberry?).

Think about the country. Think about the state of retailing…with more and more sales conducted online and delivered via the mail and package carriers. Where does this leave Sears? And all retailers, for that matter.  In need of bold moves. All Spanish speaking today, is a first-mover strategy. And frankly a no-brainer. If it doesn’t happen in 2014 it will happen at some point. If not Sears or Kmart, someone. The purchasing power of Spanish speaking Americans is too great. The growth rate of this segment of the pop. too great. 

Sure stores will have to close. But the idea is solid. The market is solid and the move will have unexpected positive impact not only on the expense side of the ledge, but also the growth side…with new opportunities for other services hitting this massive part of the economy.

Edward S. Lampert, CEO, pull that Band Aid off right now. I smell a Fortune (cover) in it for you. Peace.   

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El Sears.

sears

The saying “go big or go home” is easy to use when you’re a consultant, coach or pundit, but it often has negative repercussions.  My “go big” recommendation made to hemorrhaging Sears Holding Company nearly two years ago was to become the nation’s first Spanish language store chain.  Easy for me to say, I’m not trying to keep this huge, venerable one-time national treasure alive.  But this store is taking a pasting. All the new inventory systems, cash registers and ad campaigns in the world aren’t going to turn this brigantine ship around.

Huge brick and mortar stores are buggy whipping. “If we take price off the table and make service our differentiator we should be okay,” say the c-level execs at most of the behemoths.  Well you can’t take price off the table when web commerce can undercut everyone for price…and convenience.

This suggestion is a huge move and a no-brainer.  Look at the demographics. I’m no economist, but becoming the first all-Spanish language (first) national chain, catering to 55M people (projected to be 128M by 2060) is more than viable, especially based when you look at the composition of employees and customers.  With new color palettes, cultural conveniences, food courts, and technology departments in densely populated Spanish/Latin zip codes, business will hockey stick. Roll in K-Mart, rename it El Sears or something, close a number of stores, and you will be profitable, albeit smaller, in a number of quarters. Como se darlings of business press?  Sears Holding Company, can you see beyond the dashboard?  Peace.  

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Demand generation is the key to marketing.  Say what you will about branding, design, user experience, promotion, engagement, flah, flah, flah..if you can consistently create demand for your product or service, you’ve done your job.

Target created demand for its new Missoni line of low-cost clothing and other things (patio furniture, vases, etc.),getting it right from the get-go.  The products were superb, the promotional mix perfect, the price come hither, but the place – the web – was a disaster.  Like www.pearljam.com during a presale, the Target website went down faster than a Sears radial. Target generated demand but not only didn’t deliver online, they pissed off lots of loyal customers.  They also took a number of first-time Luddite customers and taught them the web is no place for commerce. Black eyes all around. (Nice move letting Amazon hosting services go 3 weeks before sales day.)

In Anaheim, CA yesterday at the Microsoft Build Conference Windows 8 was unveiled during a live and web broadcasted demo. It is a game-changing new operating system. (The product should be called “Tiles” not Windows because it slides and shimmies across the screen but that’s a story for a different post.) It will have mad impact on sales when released but the demo was only 90% there. As is the case with live demos and Microsoft products in “pre-release,” there were a couple of moments of machine freeze.  With 12 back-up machines for quick cut-overs (good boy scouts) there were no real long pauses.  That said, the demo would have better had there been no hiccups at all.

The two cities referred to in the headline are marketing (demand creation) and technology (delivery).  It’s a rarity when marketing hits on all cylinders, but when it does, the tech has to be ready. Tis a far, far greater thing I do… Peace! 

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J.C. Penny has hired Ron Johnson, Apple’s head of retail, as its new CEO. The goal is to capture some or Apple’s retail magic in s bottle and pour it on the top floor of J.C. Penny stores and hope it dribbles down the escalators to the main floor. Past the jewelry counters, bread mixers, faux leather jackets and J.C. Penny house brand jeans. Don’t get me wrong, I am an optimist by nature.  Brand planning is all about positivity and change.  Even heavy Domino’s Pizza type lifting, but this one feels like it will need Microsoft money to accomplish.

Michael Dell who also practiced his marketing ju-ju in Plano, TX, but has had a hard time of late, would agree.  A J.C. Penny retail makeover is quite a challenge. The articles about Mr. Johnson’s hire talk about innovation…but innovation is not a word that can be slapped on a product label. Apple’s innovation began in R&D, in the labs, in the culture and resulted in some fine-ass products.  Penny’s innovation can’t come from pricing, or salespeople, or the merchandise sets – it has to come from something much deeper.  I suspect Mr. Johnson, as excited and smart as he is, may be the wrong tool for this job.  I hope he proves me wrong, because it would be exciting to watch.

A while ago I suggested Sears reposition and become El Sears, catering to the Spanish and Latin communities. (They didn’t listen. Give them 7 years.) J.C. Penny needs to focus on innovation it has a stomach for…and its consumers have a stomach for.  This move may actually be “the idea to have an idea,” but not the idea itself.  RIP Dick Kerr. Peace!

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Back in the 1700-1800s (in the U.S.) if you needed stuff you either made it or went to the general store.  The Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalogue was the next marketing innovation (1888), showing pictures of products and published prices, allowing customers to purchase by mail. Among the 322 pages in the catalogue published in 1894 must have been products didn’t sell and had to be replaced. The birth of ROI? 

Television

The next massive marketing innovation was television. Television commercials which began in earnest in the 1940s became the most popular, effective form of advertising. But can you imaging trying to track sales to media and production back then in the very beginning? “Where’s the ROI? How do you measure this stuff?” Mad men. 

The Web

Fast forward to the Inter-nech. Banner ads and ad serving allowed us to count clicks. 2% click thru rates. Whoo hoo. Click to buy. Whoo hoo. But not everything could be bought over the web. (Discussion of that for another day.) CTRs diminished and web display ads became, so said the salespeople, a branding mechanism.

Social Media

Enter social media.  And consultants. When consultants out-number practitioners you know the market is in flux. The Altimeter Group, some very smart people let me just say, created a social media presenttion ‘splaining how to measure social media via a marketing analytics framework. Here are some of the measurables: share of voice, audience engagement, conversation reach, active advocates, active influence, advocacy impact, customer problem resolution rate, resolution time, satisfaction score, plus a couple of metrics tied to gathering input for product innovation. What’s not mentioned here, something Messrs. Sear and Roebuck might have added, is sales.  I love consultants ( am one) and the Altimeter Group is growing like a dookie, but until they and all of us tie these type of metrics back to da monies, we’re just making paper.

A smart client at AT&T once said to me, “we collect all this data now we have to do something smart with it.”  That’s business. That’s return on strategy. Peace!

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