Online Retailers Now Opening Stores

Has the retailing world gone insane? Over the last several years online sellers have made significant dents in brickand mortar stores in every market and in every city. Many retailers had to jump into online selling whether they wanted to or not to keep a presence to the consumers. This addition has been costlyand for many retailers has not been all that popular, as many online shoppers are scouring for the cheapest price.

Fast forward to today when new retailing reports are showing that many online stores that had been exclusively on line are venturing into brick and mortar situations. Has everyone lost their minds? Is this backwards day?

An article that was published in USA today talked about an online fashion retailer in San Francisco that has sold online only for a decade and then decided that it would be a great idea to open a physical store so he could interact with the customers. Lo and behold he discovered that he makes larger sales and were able to interact better with the customers. OMG – something us physical retailers have known about forever!

So now the hipster millennial trend is the NEW thing…opening physical locations! They even have a name for it – it is called omni-channel marketing. We used to just call it RETAILING!

The newfound genius’ have discovered that there are great benefits by having a physical location and those selling fashion feel they can no longer ignore the client who wants to touch merchandise. Wow. something we have all been doing for eons until many were put out of business because of these same genius’ saying the internet is the ONLY way to sell. So, they rise through the carnage THEY made of the brick and mortar stores only to bring it back again. But this time they think they have invented a NEW way to sell!

My favorite addition to this story is that after years of the decimation of book stores and the burying of Walden Books, Borders and the dwindling down of Barnesand Noble, an announcement was just made that Amazon will be opening physical book stores next year!  I give up!! Is it just me?  Share your thoughts…

Barney’s NY – Racial Profiling?

JZ IMAGEWell, the newspapers love good stories and this last week it had a field day here in New York City. It appears that a young African American shopper was buying an expensive belt at Barney’s New York store and was stopped by two plainclothes policemen who questioned him about the purchase. I will spare you the details as I am sure you are up to speed on the idiocy of their interrogation.

Here is the problem that I am having. Barney’s is a retailer who services tens of thousands of customers annually. This incident, and one other that was just reported after the “victim” discovered you can actually sueand make bank for this, seem to be somewhat isolated incidents. I do not imagine that Barney’s has a discriminatory policy against minorities as several of their brands they sell are fashioned for urban youths.

Could this possibly have been extremely poor judgement by the cashier at the store, or the NYPD (they have at times shown lapses in judgement)? I am surprised that the store let the story get away from them by not addressing it immediately. How about some press showing that you are firing the employee (if it were their fault), or questioning the police. But instead Barney’s let the media go into a frenzy, which will probably result in major reputation damage ruining decades of retailing success.

Let’s go even one step further! Now the call is for Jay Z to pull his products from the store! And the poor (not in the cash sense) guy is getting blasted as the bad guy for not lashing out against Barney’s. This is the ultimate in misdirected anger, and of course where there is misdirected anger there is Al Sharpton.

I am certain that Jay Z is not the only African American designer with products in Barney’sand the onus is not on him to police the apparent one, possibly two, poor judgements against shoppers – which we still do not know was because of the clerk or the police department. I agree that IF Barney’s has a discriminatory policy against any race or religion they would deserve the wrath of Sharpton and his crusaders, but I believe this is far from the case here.

As retailers, we can all learn a valuable lesson from this episode. Firstand foremost don’t discriminate and more importantly react quickly when an employee or an outside entity does something to damage your reputation and your business. By Barney’s not hitting this problem on the head immediately it has spun into a media nightmare for them, and one that will not go away easily. All it would have taken is for this mega corporation to get in front of the story, which they did not.

What do you think?