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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Rewriting the Rules of How We Work

Over the years, I have been part of many teams, stretching from my first years in a large, global corporation, through my decade in the competitive ad agency world, my years as an entrepreneur. Each experience came with its own approach to management and staffing. But my latest endeavor, The God Box Project, has been my first foray into creative a team the new-fashioned way with a wired and unwired network of global talent, handpicked for their expertise. The piece that I wrote in Forbes.com explains how it all began.

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A Mother’s Prayer and a Daughter’s Dream: The God Box just made the New York Times bestsellers list!

I am so excited to share this incredible news. The New York Times just named “The God Box” to their bestseller list. This is a huge thrill for me and I can only think of Mom who was the reason for the story and more than that, the reason I believed I could write. Even though I can hear her now saying, “I knew this would happen,” I have to admit, I am over the moon with joy, gratitude and that feeling that comes with doing what you love. Thanks so much to all my friends and family who were behind me every step of the way. This is your story, your success too.

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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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My latest project: “The God Box,” full of faith, love and letting go

Imagine traveling the country and learning about women–their deepest and often unspoken feelings? Imagine sharing stories of love, loss, hope with perfect strangers who soon become friends? Imagine seeing faces that reveal that the women they’ve become is rooted in the mother who bore them?…and all the while, raising money for causes in need?

That has been my experience of the past month, every single day.

On April 14th, at the Coaches V Cancer event in my hometown of Philadelphia, I launched my new book The God Box: Sharing my mother’s gift of faith, love and letting go. And seven days a week since then, I have spoken, hugged and shared my story. The book is about the discovery of my Mom’s God Boxes filled with loving prayers, 20 years worth of every worry, hiccup and hope for family, friends and even strangers.

I knew that even writing a book with “God” in the title might make some people wonder what I was up to. After all, business people rarely cross lines of politics or religion or any boundary that might seem too personal. And here I was, on the road talking about faith, motherhood and the heartbreak of losing my mother. But you know what? There’s a lot of yearning out there for honest talk about the relationship that formed us first and the underlying beliefs that get us through life. The book is spiritual and inspirational and I am proud to share that it has been recommended by PARADE, Redbook, Family Circle and this week by USA Today as the number one book for Mother’s Day.

We have been covered in the Wall St. Journal, the Huffington Post and the NY Post and I’ve written blogs for the New York Times’ Motherlode, Parents.com, Belief. net and this Sunday for the Wall St. Journal, all exploring the nature of mothers, both in life and after death.

The book garnered bestseller status in the first two weeks on amazon and Barnes and Noble and both the online and brick and mortar stores blew through their stock in a heartbeat. We have gone to a second printing and we are just getting started. The book is not about one holiday or one life. But about the hopes we harbor for those we love and the way we can learn to let go.

I have traveled so many miles and frankly, shed some tears but I sit here a month later and want to say, this is the loveliest journey into understanding women that I have ever taken. And men are along for this ride too. And in my own way, I believe my Mom is enjoying it as well.

Hope you will check out the book right here on the home page. I can say that right now, I couldn’t be happier.

Hands on,
Mary Lou

 

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Welcome to Mary Lou Quinlan & Co!

Nearly 13 years ago, I walked out of the corner office of a big ad agency and into the career—make that “careers”—of my dreams. I founded Just Ask a Woman with the goal of becoming the most compelling interpreter of women’s voices in the marketplace. For all those years, I worked with a wonderful team of women to make it happen.

I never think small and maybe I got a bit carried away, but as I’ve often said, it’s your dream, make it big. From the get go, I hoped to build expertise in six different disciplines: consulting and strategy, speaking, TV, online communications, books and magazine writing. I used to call them my six flowerpots. I figured if I watered them with attention, talent and time, eventually they all would grow. Consulting took off like a shot, thanks to the unique assets of Just Ask a Woman, but eventually three books sprouted, along with dozens of magazine articles, blogs, and hundreds of speeches around the country and the world. Just Ask a Woman bloomed but we never lost that start up edge.

Now I’m expanding in new creative ways with the upcoming launch of The God Box Project– my memoir of my mother, but also a one woman, one act play I’ve written and performed, a series of short films, a vibrant online community and soon, an app. Exploring the intimate relationship of mothers and daughters will likely be the most personal and revealing ‘market research’ I will ever do. So, with the God Box—and spring–it seemed the perfect time to present this new outgrowth of what we’ve done.

Introducing Mary Lou Quinlan & Co which brings together the best of content and consulting, reflecting over a decade of listening to women…and to my heart. Over the coming months, you’ll learn about new services, new global partners, and new ventures. But one thing stays the same. It’s all about understanding women and letting their voices be heard. Join us as we give voice to what women really feel, believe and want.

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How to Listen Between the Lines

Since 1999, the world’s most demanding marketers have counted on Just Ask a Woman to discover the triggers that make women buy, decide and believe in their brands. An advantage of these years of experience about marketing to women is now realized with this new asset: offering expanded services by partnering with leading talent—strategists, designers, digital gurus, filmmakers—who are successful in their own right but also partner with us.

Mary Lou Quinlan & Co.

We embrace new ways of collaborating with talent to build your brand with women. Since a new insight may lead to a new brand, a new look, a new story, a new customer, Mary Lou can personally assemble a team – virtually, globally, locally – to get you there and identify just the right talent for your project. She can introduce you to the company she keeps.

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Mad Women for a Change

Last night I was invited to a terrific party hosted by Ken Roman, former chairman of Ogilvy. The occasion was the debut of a new book by the wonderful creative director and writer Jane Maas. It’s called “Mad Women” published by St. Martin’s Press.  The book takes a fun and honest look at what it was really like for women in ad agencies in the sixties and seventies. Was there really that much sex?  Were women relegated to the steno pool, no matter their ambitions and talent? Jane’s book says, yes and even more so than in the Mad Men series. She interviewed me for the book, not because I was one of those women (I was in grade school!) but because my mom worked in ad agencies throughout those decades. For the record, my mom did her share of typing and shorthand but thankfully avoided the seamier side of the inter-departmental relationships that Jane vividly describes.

In her book, Jane retells my story of how I grew up at a dinner table where storyboards and media plans were normal conversation. My mother loved working in advertising, certainly more than cooking dinner. She once worked for an agency where the Campbells soup account came under fire for exaggerating the pile of vegetables in a soup shoot, so she was in charge of counting exactly how many string beans, peas and carrots were in a can and verifying that the bowl was ‘honest’ before the cameras rolled. I love that she loved her work and she inspired me to follow in her footsteps. Not that it was as racy as the TV drama but advertising did bring out the crazy in a lot of people.

Jane is headed out on a 40 city tour, (OMG!) and having done it myself, I wish her a lot of great applause, as many flight upgrades as she can get and a good night’s sleep or three.

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Asking for It (or Positive Thinking About Negative Feedback)

Check out Mary Lou’s blog for the Huffington Post! Her latest adventure has been taking The God Box on stage, performing in her own one woman, one act play. A new role that requires her to ask audience members and peers for feedback, both positive and negative (well, we prefer the term constructive).

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November 22, 2019
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.
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