Retail Wire

It ain't easy being a teen (retailer)

Carol's latest Retail Wire weigh-in on why teen retailers are falling out of fashion

Tech IS the new fashion and at the same time, traditional fashion is operating in a trend-less environment (quick, what is the hottest apparel trend for fall/winter 2014? I don't know either). There is simply no compelling reason to refresh the wardrobe or reverse the trade-off between togs and tech.

A larger deadly dynamic is at work that is by no means exclusive to teen retailers though: death by category killing. What was once a recipe for success, going deep and wide within a category, is now a perilous path for brick-and-mortar retailers. When opportunistic digital niche killers like Amazon (and the flies they either swat or eat, like Quidsi), take a focused fancy to a category, brick-and-mortar retailers have little recourse. Toys 'R' Us is in this hard place as are office retailers (hence the mergers and recent maniacal focus on category expansion through digital marketplaces).

Abercrombie just (finally) extricated Mike Jeffries, ending his mind-bogglingly long tenure at the top. Hopefully the new guy/gal addresses this inescapable reality through business model innovation rather than another wave of category or brand rejiggering.

Read the rest of the article and check out the discussion

Will Neil Young’s Pono Keep the (almost) Free World Rockin’?

Carol Spieckerman comments on today’s Retail Wire discussion: Neil Young evokes Steve Jobs, plans to take on Apple's iPod.

Initial reviews from aficionados will determine whether Pono has the potential to make it big, but I don't think that's the end game for Mr. Young. This is a long-tail play from a musical genius and audiophile who no doubt knows many others who share his tastes and frustrations with current formats. That said, if the technology does build a better bridge between vinyl and digital, Apple, Google, Samsung and the like would be wise to license it rather than attempting to recreate Mr. Young's masterwork.

Check out the article and discussion on Retail Wire.

The Art and Science of Social Media Response in Retail

Carol Spieckerman's comments on today's Retail Wire discussion: Brands fail to deal with social complaints.

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Being on social media implies being available via social media to address both sneers and cheers. Doing so requires a dedicated effort, vigilance and deft communication skills. All three are now table stakes.

That said, responding immediately and publicly to individual complaints isn't always prudent. Determining the point at which individual complaints begin to form patterns is an opportunity area for most retailers and brands. Proactive corporate statements and action steps are more appropriate in these cases, but will backfire if delayed. A recent and extreme example is the massive security breach that unfortunately, got "branded" as a Target problem. As complaints hit scale, all other corporate messages are drowned out. By then, it's too late.

Check out the article and discussion on Retail Wire