One Size Doesn't Fit All

Carole Sloan, Lissa Wyman, September 25, 2010

OVER THE PAST YEAR or so, the retail marketplace has been hearing a great deal about "new discoveries" on how to do business in this venue with today's increasingly independent consumer.
     And along with it, this-called newness is bringing with it a passion, almost mania for exclusivity, especially in brands. It is in this area that the waters become murky. Brands that have been built with diligence, care and attention to what the brand stands for now are being tossed to the highest bidder as new brand owners of longtime classics and even newer trendier brands look for the quick money stream, rather than longevity.
    Basically what it has boiled down to is that there is no longer a "one size fits all" for retailing - especially in the department store segment. This holds true whether one is referring to assortments or brands.
So we have seen the somewhat sotto voce approach to regionalization at JCPenney and the more heralded My Macy's concept of local preferences at that giant organization. And others have more or less fallen into place with a piece of the concept.
     Now we are facing a new retailing phenomenon - helping customers fi nd item X that might not be in-stock in the store where they are shopping. Typically, that was it - and no sale.
"Brands that have been built with diligence, care and attention to what the brand stands for now are being tossed to the highest bidder."
     But it seems that with the advent of the internet and its constantly proliferating off-spring, sales help in stores - or even consumers themselves - can find a specific size or color of a wanted item anywhere in the chain - in a store on the other side of the continent or even in inventory for the retailer's dot com business. That was the big news from Nordstrom for Wall Street just a week or so ago.
     Folks, these were basics decades ago, even as the locals were being swallowed up by the regionals, then nationals. So it seems that once again the basics are coming forward as the "new" retailing giants try to outdo each other.
     As for brand degradation, the move to putting a brand name on everything imaginable now is the modus operandi.
And no one seems t care what the products look like so long as they fit into a predetermined assortment system at the retailer.
     And now we're hearing more than an occasional conversation about how the retailer with a confined brand is willing to let suppliers provide look-alikes - one never calls them knockoffs - to avoid the built-in cost of the royalty. The retailer attitude appears to be "they wouldn't dare sue us."
     Hopefully, these will be topics of conversations during market next week. Could be interesting discussions.

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