Macy’s New Shoe Strategy: Stepping up Foot Traffic

 

Department stores have been outdoing each other with bigger and more extravagant shoe departments. Barney’s recently rehabbed their emporium and Saks floor bears its own zip code. This month Macy’s flagship store in Herald Square opened a new 63,000 square foot shoe floor with 300,000 pairs—stepping up to be the biggest shoe store in the world. A champagne and chocolate bar is located on the floor to celebrate when you find the perfect glass slipper. But what’s really behind the shoe madness?

Listen to the interview here!

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Three Reasons Why JCPenney’s Latest Strategy Won’t “Check Out”

Sorry, but I have to continue my JCPenney rant. I didn’t gloat when they admitted that their strategy to de-coupon the stores was a failure. Or when more top level folks gave up their mission to coolify. But today’s news that CEO Johnson is planning to rid the stores of those pesky cash registers and ‘expensive’ cashiers at checkout just can’t go unnoticed.

 

Let’s start with checkout. While every retailer likes to brag, “We want to be a destination store,” instead they ought to promise, “We want to be the evacuation store.” Once women have given a retailer their precious time, they want to get the heck out of there as fast as possible. With the exception of the apple store and maybe anthropologie (where we pretend we are adopting a languid, poetic lifestyle!), women want to bolt and get on with their day.

 

Now it’s true that some mass retailers have taught customers to accept self-checkout. But JCPenney, the store for women who are already doing it all, isn’t WalMart or apple and anthro-anything. And I predict that while someday we may all be asking our mobile phones to talk to a kiosk, we are not all there yet and in this category, we expect more. Here’s why this I predict this initiative will be put in the slow lane within months.

 

The customer: Just a guess: the largest segment of JCPenney customers are women with a low to low/mid HH income, a more limited education, children to support and a technology repertoire that is more email and facebook than apps or code scanning. The loyal ones are likely older.  Just picture these women being asked to aim, scan, tap and tangle with tech when their kids’s humor is wearing thin or their tired feet are giving out.  At the first hiccup, I see them dropping the merch and heading out the door for good.

 

The product: I don’t care if I have to pack my own groceries, but clothes and the cute household decorations? Yeah, I’ve suffered through part-time clerks who stuff, wrinkle and ruin my discount finds in Marshall’s, but for the most part, I feel like the cashiers, pretty much all of whom are women, try. Because they’ve been there. What’s so special now about JCP (Who?) if they make you bag your new bought sheets and clothes and kids’ stuff like it’s off the back table of the dollar store. Even they have cashiers.

 

The experience: For the shoppers who go to Penney’s for a little treat, now the store is taking away one more customer service perk and replacing it with what? Maybe improved customer service that will cost them more because they either have to hire more trained people or spend more money training the ones they have…the ones, whose heads must be spinning by now with the changes that start and stop? We know that eventually, we will all be checking out alone, but for store whose hold on their best customers is so fragile, was this the only way to save 10% of costs?

 

Before the board allows Mr. Johnson to add another apple-esque idea to a store that doesn’t have apple’s customers, products, staff, environment, juice or core, can someone say it might be time for someone else, as smart as he is, to checkout?

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JCP: Meet your MVP. A lesson in knowing what women (don’t) want


This morning the Wall St. Journal headlined the plummeting fortunes of JCPenney  or “JCP” as the company calls itself now that it’s run by former Apple veteran Ron Johnson.  I was among the zillions of marketers applauding the idea that the guy who orchestrated Apple’s sleek and engaging retail stores had come to spruce up the brand that is more “cheap” than “chic.” But it seems that the Penney customers were more than Johnson bargained for.

$163 million of losses later, company execs are admitting that maybe their aspirations to repair company performance in one year was a little too ambitious. Seems they’ve discovered that their customers are addicted to coupons, as they dub them,‘drugs.’

Really? What a surprise. Why would you shop Penney without a coupon? Women know that the store has been a go-to stop on their repertoire of low-priced retailers, along with every competitor who offers coupons, rebates, free stuff to get her dollar. Why did JCP think that they could not only change their customer’s habits but actually convince her to abandon her smart shopping behaviors, just by adding an entertainment space to hang around in? No matter how many ad campaigns they’ve tried, JCPenney’s is the friendly, low priced department store with lots of deals.

I think that JCP didn’t value their MVP, the woman who has counted on them for good quality at a low prices, urged on with a deal. More than that, I wonder if Ron really likes his customers. My guess is that like lots of marketers, he probably wishes his customer was cuter, thinner, younger, richer and just dying to hang around in his store while paying full price on their cool kiosk. (Trust me, she’s too busy to ‘hang around’ and there are about three of these skinny, premium price paying, underaged wealthy women to lure to the store and she’s already on every one else’s dance card.) And I also imagine that JCP’s focus groups were used to prove Johnson’s theory rather than to really listen to who the heck is paying his paycheck.

Apple knew its customers and brand by heart. Time for Penney’s to meet their own, face to face and romance her all over again.

My reco? Love the one you’re with and she will bring more customers like her to your store. Women aren’t going backwards to full price, not in this economy, not at the value tier that this store serves. She was loyal to you. Why are you abandoning her?

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Harvey Nichols “Walk of Shame”

Upscale UK retailer Harvey Nichols recently launched a stir-causing ad on their YouTube channel, titled “The Walk of Shame,” which we enjoyed and wanted to share.

In the spot, a series of women stumble along in ill-fitting dresses “the morning after the night before” to a delicate piano rendition of “Morning Has Broken.”  They teeter up and down subway stairs, partake in medicinal breakfast sandwiches, and pause mid-stride trying to avoid being ill on a sidewalk.  Although it’s UK-based, it is relatable to any woman who’s ever enjoyed too much holiday cheer (which is most of us) and falls squarely in the “funny-because-it’s-true” category.  The screen fades to black, and the viewer is urged to “Avoid the Walk of Shame this Season” before we cut to a lovely young woman, also heading home in the early morning light, but this time wearing a flattering, high-necked dress that moves with her instead of riding simultaneously down and up.  Finally, we are asked to “Share your #walkofshame.”

The ad has inspired a bit of controversy (which I’m sure HN expected and welcomes).  Some viewers complain larger and more realistic women were chosen for its first half, whereas the actress at the end is a thin, beautiful model.  I found the focus throughout to instead be on the dresses; although the final actress was undeniably pretty, the others were certainly attractive as well … just badly dressed.  The spot is more about beautiful, tailored clothes than body image.

Said Harvey Nichols group press and marketing director Julia Bowe (rather cheekily, as the Brits say), “We know that a fabulous outfit can cover a multitude of sins.”

HN’s message is clear: don’t just dig an old, cheap or ill-fitting cocktail dress out of the back of your closet; come to Harvey Nichols for a new frock and feel confident, beautiful, and well-covered on your “Walk of Shame” … thus making the walk not very “shameful” at all.

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Virtual shopping aisles: coming to a commute near you

I have to admit, while I love the thrill of the deal, you’ll never catch me out early on Black Friday. But Cyber Monday (and the email blasts that went along with it) got me excited.  Only problem, it’s on a Monday.  A very busy Monday this year. As each email came in I lamented about the deals that were passing me by because I didn’t even have time to go to the websites and browse.

That is why I’m so excited about the concept of virtual aisles.  Products displayed on ads rather than shelves in places where you would naturally pass them: your train station, the bus shelter,  even a mall!

Just today, running to catch a train. I was literally stopped in my tracks by an Office  Depot billboard of products simply displayed yet interactive. I can now pick up wish-list items without going into a store or even going to the website.  Just scan it and buy it. It’s that easy.  I almost bought a Kindle for the fun of it!

 

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“My Lowe’s” Makes DIY Projects Doable

Lowes’ new campaign, “Never Stop Improving,” shows both men and women across all generations that the store will be there for every home improvement projects over their lifetime. Through the “My Lowe’s” online tool and phone app, consumers will be able to access all their records of past purchases at the store, making it easily accessible to remember dimensions, colors, brand and cost, so future purchases are hassle-free. Users of the service will also be able to set themselves reminders for home-upkeep issues, like changing their filters. Oh, the power of convenience… especially appreciated when one is trying to tackle a DIY home project. Taking the consumer ease factor even further Lowe’s could offer free shipping to their customers  by implementing a shipping membership program, much like Amazon’s Prime, a membership that costs $79 for the year.

Lowes’ new campaign is an especially supportive home improvement approach for the female homeowner. Women constantly are assessing their home for what could be updated and fixed to suit her family’s current needs, but do you think she has time to search for the name of her trim paint from 5 years ago? Lowe’s is offering homeowners the vehicle to make home-improvement projects as seamless as possible. Their hope is that consumers will get on board, and stay on board, until they reach their destination.  This platform differs greatly from long-time competitor Home Depot, whose slogan, since 2009, has stood “More saving. More Doing.” To me, this saying conveys the feeling that there will always be more to be done. Women don’t need to be reminded of their to-do list. They don’t want to feel guilty that they haven’t done it all or that there is still more to fix. The missed opportunity is to congratulate them on all of their progress.

Check out their touching, but upbeat video spot, which follows a couple from their first date to a BBQ with their grandchildren, of course with Lowe’s supporting every one of their twirls, dips and spins.

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IKEA Australia Unveiled MANLAND; Media Pounced On Gender Roles

MANLAND is neither Chippendale’s one-off nor title of a science fiction coming attraction. It is the brainchild of IKEA (were you not clued in by the caps?) as a promotional stunt over Father’s Day weekend in Sydney, Australia, where the powers that be have apparently decided it’s less painful for all shoppers for men to be quarantined in a daycare-like area until the shopping trip is over.

It’s not fair for us to assume that all men need a hideout during shopping, or that all women don’t. But IKEA may be on to something. Who wouldn’t want a break from the chore of shopping? Thank goodness it was limited-time offer, or nothing would ever get done.

As a promotional stunt, MANLAND can’t be faulted. It’s undeniably attention-grabbing and its limited timeframe (open only over Father’s Day weekend, which is evidently a different time in Australia) makes it quite the draw. If pitched as a “let Dad relax” space or a “shop for a Father’s Day gift and surprise Dad” space, it would make more sense. But the media coverage has skewed to the overplayed manchild vs. shrew angle, and goodness knows we’ve had enough of that.

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Despite More Ways To Talk Up, WOM Is Down

A new study from Colloquy Research reveals that Word of Mouth– the 2011 darling of communications for today’s brands– is shutting down.  According to the Colloquy study, of 3,295 U.S. consumers surveyed, just 58% said they often have conversations with family, friends and coworkers about products and services they’ve used, a full 20% down from 2008 survey results.

This dip is particularly surprising given the enormous increase in texting, mobile and social media like FB and Twitter for spreading the word every time we blink. The reason for the reduced chatter? The continued deflated economy that sucks the air out of bragging rights and even erodes consumption of what’s hot. What’s kind of obvious is that when you are not able to buy a lot of stuff, the coolest new brands aren’t on your lips. In fact, they are probably kind of annoying. If things are tight and your appliances are on their last legs and a friend were to inadvertently gush, “Oh, I just bought this great new washer!”, you would clam up or slug her.

As this limp economy lingers and more women either suffer or (if they are OK) keep their buying sprees under the radar, what will it mean for the brands who have been counting on women’s WOM for their marketing strategies? Does it mean brands will have to step up to the plate again and start doing their own heavy lifting? Or that women, the best viral marketers of all, will put their friendships and empathy ahead of their consumerism and not only not talk up the latest whatever, but instead espouse the virtue of not buying…even when they can?

For more of Mary Lou’s insight on WOM, check out her interview with The Small Business Advocate. CLICK HERE.

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ScanIt!, Then SpendIt!

First there was the cashier. Then, the express lane. The self-scanner. And now, the ScanIt!.

Another testament to the idea that the better the tech, the smaller the package (and that exclamation points are silly in product names) the ScanIt! is a handheld device that scans grocery purchases as they’re made, keeps a running total, and even suggests relevant coupons and deals mid-shop.

Let’s do pros first: It’s really, really cool. Who doesn’t love scanning things? We see a prime distraction for bored shoppers, kids and moms alike. Then there’s the budget-policing aspect: No more fudging prices or mistyping on that smart phone calculator—the ScanIt! (feels silly, right?) will do the math for you.

Photo: coolestgadgets.com

Yet while the ScanIt! might be touted as a tool for the money-conscious shopper—and who isn’t one, these days?—it’s actually a pink plastic spending trap. Really though, it’s pink. The idea of suggestions for further purchases with coupons seems great, but it’s eerily reminiscent of the enjoyably black hole that is SuperTarget… you don’t think you need it until you see it on sale. The Wall Street Journal tells us that, unsurprisingly, shoppers who use the device spend about 10% more than shoppers who don’t.

Apparently, around half of Stop & Shop and Giant supermarkets in the Northeast have implemented the ScanIt!. But knowing that it’s a device that allows us to avoid lines and interacting with others, we expect that it will spread through NYC like wildfire.

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Who’s Your Hidden Buyer? The True Power of Women

This past weekend, a newspaper columnist discredited the well known statistic that ‘women buy 80%’ of everything sold in the US. I could take issue with the article on several counts, including the fact that the writer discarded reams of data supplied by experts in the field and relied on only the more discouraging sources, oddly from overseas. But I understand why he struggled with the statistic in the first place. It’s virtually unproveable by its nature. What Just Ask a Woman and so many of our colleagues in the women’s marketing arena have espoused for years is that women ‘buy or influence the purchase of 80%’ and it’s that word ‘influence’ that provides too much wiggle room.

For indeed, if women buy or influence, then so do men. “Buy” is easy to define. Credit card handed over? That’s the buyer. Cash on the counter? That’s the buyer. Contract signed? That’s the buyer. But what does influence really mean? It’s the how, why, who and when that lead to that final decision. And in some of the biggest spending categories, women are the Hidden Buyers.

While leaders in the food, beauty and household products industries refer to all their customers as “she,” marketers of less traditionally gender-based  products and services, such as finance, electronics, major hardgoods, automotive, healthcare and insurance may need a wake- up call to be able to pick their hidden buyer out of a line up. (That’s why the 80% stat is a helpful eye-opener!)

Here’s an example.  Look at your kitchen, from the countertop to the appliances to the lighting. If you’re a couple, you both may have voted on whether you’ve got granite or a composite, a water dispenser or a wine cabinet,  Schoolhouse lights or modern overheads.  But whose idea was it? Who pulled pictures from Dwell, DVR’d HGTV and bookmarked Houzz? Who vetted ideas with friends? Who compared prices, walked the aisles, pushed for one more feature, one more deal? Even if the credit card receipt carried his signature, the likelihood, by far, is that the dealbreaking decisions were largely hers.

But retailers and marketers who give him all the credit are hugely missing her hidden buying power. The home improvement industry’s major players—who watch the in-store action firsthand– are convinced of women’s 80% clout. And the female hidden buyer is rocking the foundation of every car showroom, financial broker’s office and big box electronic retailer in this country and their power only increases each year.

The question isn’t whether your brand or business attributes 60, 80 or 90% of final sales to women. The real question is: are you seeing the hidden 100%…her sometimes invisible but always powerful influence?

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December 15, 2017
by Mary Lou Quinlan

A look at an early production of WORK

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The God Box Goes Global!

“The God Box” has grown to include an app, audio book, philanthropic venture and solo show performed by Mary Lou across the US. Now The God Box Project goes global to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
Go There

press & praise