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Shoulberg PUBLISHER/EDITORIAL DIRECTOR

S'hrooming

Warren Shoulberg Publisher/Editorial DirectorWarren Shoulberg Publisher/Editorial Director
Y'ou've got to love the English language. A few months ago if you said the word "showrooming" to somebody in the industry they would look at you like you had a speech impediment. Now the word is all over the retail speak world to describe the process of shoppers hitting up a real store to scope out a product and then buying said product elsewhere online.
     Target has taken the lead on this issue and has said it won't be anybody's showrooming sap, in fact dropping the Kindle reader from Amazon after deciding that shoppers were going to end up buying the thing at Amazon, so what the hell.
     And so, retail stupidity has now been taken to a higher plane.
     I get the whole thing that stores don't want to be taken advantage of by bargain besieged shoppers who will go to the end of the internet to find the cheapest price. It's why stores are increasingly turning to private label, captured label and no-label merchandise in a bid to have something nobody else has.
     What I don't get is when a retailer drops a product that consumers have been buying at their stores simply because some other store also carries the same product. They will willingly walk away from a sale that they were probably making a decent margin on just to punish the supplier who sold it to the guy across the street.
     We've seen this behavior countless times in the apparel business. Back in the 1980s when Halston began selling its brand in J.C. Penney, department stores couldn't run away from the label fast enough, despite the fact that it was a good seller for them.
     We've seen it in the jeans business, too, when Wrangler or Lee or Levi followed their customer down market and moved their brands into the discount channel. It's the reason The Gap, which had once been almost exclusively a Levi's house, branched out into private label. The department stores reacted the same way. And they all abandoned ongoing, successful - and profitable - businesses in the process.
     We've seen it in our own little home textiles world. When Fieldcrest opened up Royal Velvet to Bed Bath & Beyond and Linens'n Things way back when, Dillard's largely dumped the brand, which was probably its single best selling program in bath.
     So now it's happening again. Stores are going to drop products and programs because they are available online. And replace them with merchandise that probably isn't viewed the same way in the consumer's eyes.
     About a million retail years ago, the original Marshall Field - the person himself - said, "Give the lady what she wants." These days, retailers who are dropping popular products for illogical reasons are adapting a much different philosophy: "Give the lady what we want."

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