Tough times for regional retailers

It’s been a tough quarter for regional retailers based here in the Pacific Northwest. They’ve all suffered from the same soft sales that the economy has imposed on national retailers, and we had a sever winter storm that knocked out a lot of the traditional holiday shopping days this season. Now we’re starting to see the fall out.

Many great independent retailers are closing their stores. In my neighborhood, a wonderful local store called Cheeky B had to call it quits and liquidate their inventory. In an all to common scenario, their out of state landlord wasn’t interested in working with them, and instead will try to find new tenants looking to risk opening a store in this economy.

Worse, the regional chains are taking a beating. (more)

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Miller Zell study is Great, but is it True?

Miller Zell is one of the top firms in the retail marketing and design industry.  In the first half of the 90’s they were a terrific vendor of mine at Blockbuster.  Among the clever things they do is conduct their own research.  It both gives them a competitive advantage versus firms that either don’t base their work on research or are limited to publically available sources of research; more importantly the research some extra credibility for Miller Zell in the space.

Last week they published a new study, Gone in 2.3 seconds.   This study, surveyed 1000 consumers about the influences on their purchase decisions, and concluded amongst other things that in-store marketing is very effective, and that more than 60% of purchase decisions are still made in the store.  The study is certainly interesting, and I frankly agree with many of it’s conclusions.  You can read more about the study at Ad Week or at the Experiate blog. (more)

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Clear Spot from Clear not so great

Here in Portland Oregon  we are lucky enough to be one of the first two markets in the country to get 4G wireless service (WiMax from ClearWire aka Clear).

It’s interesting, that they have opened a number of retail stores with a distinct consumer feel (and certainly with expensive high foot traffic rent), despite the fact that WiMax is probably more of a Business to Business solution at the moment.   WiMax claims download speeds of 6Mbps and upload speeds of up to 1Mbps, although like most wireless technologies your actual speed is highly dependant on coverage.  At my office out in the suburbs of Portland, I get good coverage and 5Mbps downloads, but in my 4th floor condo in the heart of the downtown Pearl district, I barely get coverage at all, and when I do it’s slower than my AT&T 3G broadband card.  Clear promises that they are adding more access points in my neighborhood, and that the dense, tall buildings are a challenge for the relatively directional WiMax signals.  They have a variety of rate plans ranging from pay as you go, to $50/mo for unlimited mobile usage, which is the plan I have. (more)

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What’s Wrong with Apple Stores?

In a recent post about Microsoft’s new retail initiative, I suggested that that there are aspects of Apples customer experience that could be improved.  Several readers responded, asked for more specifics thoughts.

Let me start by saying that Apple has the best dollars per square foot metrics in all of retail.  They don’t need to apologize about their stores to anyone.  Further, there are many elements of their experience that I love,  including their signature architecture, genius bar, useful fact tags, category signage with decision tree suggestions, window displays and wireless CRM.

That being said, here are some areas that could be improved. (more)

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In Las Vegas for Global Shop 2009

The annual gathering of retail designers and in-store marketers starts Monday in Las Vegas.  I’m in town and will be blogging a recap of the show.  Last year, the show was over spring break, during some unseasonably bad weather in Chicago, and attendance was lack-luster.  At the time, I speculated that it was also a bit quiet because the show started a month after the much larger EuroShop which takes place every three years in Dusseldorf, Germany. (more)

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Microsoft returns to retail. Blogosphere already assumes it will fail.

Last week Microsoft announced plans to open its own retail stores to "transform the PC and Microsoft buying experience," the company said Wednesday as it hired David Porter as corporate vice president of Retail Stores.

Although Microsoft hasn’t publicized the scope or mission of this new retail initiative.  Many reporters and bloggers responded by immediately assuming the stores will directly complete with Apple and that Microsoft’s efforts will fall short of the Apple experience. (more)

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Vacant Stores as Digital Signage

MediaPost’s Marketing Daily has an article about how some advertisers are setting up digital signage networks in the windows of out-of-business vacant retail stores. (more)

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Harrods goes live with innovative digital signage in window display

Adrain Cotterill who writes the excellent Daily Digital out of Home blog, sent me a heads-up this morning about a new window display being unveiled at Harrods.

For US centric readers, Harrods is based in the UK, and is one of the premiere department stores in Europe along with the likes of KaDeWe from Germany or Printemps of France. The US doesn’t have a true equivalent in terms of eclectic and comprehensive product assortment, but I suppose the closest comparison would be to a premium Macys. (more)

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ad:tech San Francisco recap

On Tuesday April 15, I had the opportunity to attend my first ad:tech event, and speak on one of the Power Panels (Tales from the Bleeding Edge – Game-Changing Opportunities for Tomorrow’s Marketer).

Ad:tech is an interactive advertising and technology conference and exhibition. They do a number of events each year at a variety of international venues. The primary attendees are brands, agencies, publishers, portals, and service providers.

I’m not sure if it’s the intention, but the bulk of exhibitors and content are primarily focused on web based activities (media buying, search, e-mail marketing, web analytics, affiliate marketing, blogging, etc…). There is not (yet) much of a presence for Digital Out of Home, much less retail environment specific content. (more)

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Context Sensitive Advertising

In a world in which most of us are exposed to over 3000 advertisements today, and are enticed to read/listen/watch almost 300 of them, you have to take your shoes hat off to advertisers that can rise above the noise. (more)

I was recently traveling through the security checkpoint at the San Diego airport, and found this tray provided to pass my luggage through the X-Ray machine.

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