Sunday, December 13, 2009

They're not all equal

I have two boys whom I love equally, but differently. They each have strengths and weaknesses. It would be wrong to treat them exactly the same since they aren't exactly the same.

Walking the mall today, it became so apparent that this holiday season is going to have it's share of winners AND losers, even though so many would like to paint all retail with the same brush.

There were a number of teen retailers full of merchandise that was marked down offering an additional savings of 25-33% with purchases of $75-100. It amused me that a couple of these retailers belong to a company that swore they weren't going to discount because it would damage the brand. I could report that these discounts drove scores of customers and purchases into their stores, but my parents taught me early that lying was the wrong thing to do. The mall I was at didn't have an Aeropostale, but I'm pretty sure that they had to be doing better business than what I saw at their competition.

On the other side of the equation, J Crew was running with a moderate amount of inventory at most, had some sales going which projected value, and all of it made me want to buy.

Certain large national department stores with more than 850 stores had a lot of merchandise, few clerks, and not a lot of purchasers among the folks wandering through the store. Those cash registers are more profitable if people line up to buy things at them.

Oh yeah, and if you're at the mall with your significant other and just can't take the hustle and bustle anymore... fear not. There's plenty of peace and quiet in just about any jewelry store in the mall.

There's a lot more detail rattling inside my head about this, but my bottom line is simple: don't believe all the hype that "The Consumer" is back. "The Consumer" doesn't exist, just like "The Retailer" doesn't. Unlike the Borg (yeah, I've been known to watch some sci-fi, so what?), there are differing levels of consumer rebounds and retailers' success isn't homogeneous. If you're not going to do your own homework, or pay to peek at someone else's... stay out of the game.

Be careful out there.

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