• Jennifer Marks

Crazy Train

Jennifer Marks EDITOR-IN-CHIEFJennifer Marks Editor-in-Chief
NO, THAT'S NOT A REFERENCE to Kim Kardashian's marital merry-go-round. I'm talking about the axiom that defines "crazy" as pursuing the same action over and over again expecting to derive different results. That appears to loom ahead in the retail world as several players talk up a return to accelerated store openings.
     Surely the nation's rising online sales figures and the raft of hallowed out strip malls should stand as evidence that more boxes are not what's called for just now. If not that, how about the employment numbers and stagnant middle class incomes?
     I'm not opposed to all store openings, just dumb ones. Who's smart? I give Macys.com, Crate & Barrel and Williams-Sonoma credit for expanding their ecommerce efforts internationally. A tip 'o the hat to Big Lots and Bed Bath & Beyond for acquiring their way into Canada. Big thumbs up to every vendor who is establishing a consumer-direct bulkhead through the internet, however clandestinely.
     But for heaven's sake, enough with the storefronts already. Relocate? Good idea. Overpopulate? I think we know how that story ends, don't we?
     Last week, the New York Times ran a story about a parallel situation in the chain restaurant industry, noting the drag that "zombie" restaurants exert on the overall industry. It defined zombies as failing enterprises that are just large enough to hang on and deprive competitors of market share but not healthy enough to generate profits.
     Assessing the landscape, the ceo of Bennigan's Franchising observed: "I don't' think we're overbuilt. I think we're underdemolished."
     Ah, the sweet sound of truth.
     Which brings us to Sears Holdings. There was much sturm und drang in the business pages last week after the corporation announced it would close up to 120 of its 4,000 or so Sears and Kmart stores. As the gentleman to my right has noted many times previously, Sears ain't about building a retail chain. Why do you think merchant savant Chris Capuano came and went so quickly last year? Perhaps she wanted to actually ... merchandize?
     If I am amazed by anything, it is how many chains managed to survive the Great Recession. (I could say the same of a number of suppliers.) Perhaps as is the case after a forest fire, some of the mighty oaks that made it through the conflagration ultimately fall afterward from the trauma.
     Call me crazy.

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