Great idea, poor execution


I visited the Clackamas Town Center in Happy Valley, OR today.  As I was walking from the parking lot to the mall, I saw something that just did not seem right.

If you have read this blog, you know that I am an avid bicyclist.  I average about 4000 miles a year on my bike and use them for fitness, recreation and commuting.

So as I walked towards the mall doors today, a set of bicycle lockers caught my eye.  These lockers are secure and weather-proof containers where you can park your bike when you visit the mall as a shopper or worker. I am glad to see the mall encourages bicycle use.  Of course, this is Portland and encouraging bike use is expected.

But what was odd about the lockers was how they were placed.  These bicycle lockers have lockers on both sides of the unit.  But in this case, the unit was shoved up against the wall so that only half of the lockers could be used.

IMG_1234  I could not figure out why the mall would go to the trouble of purchasing the lockers but installing them in such a way that only half of the capacity can be used.  There does not seem to be any space constraints.  As you can see in this photo there is plenty of space on the walkway to move the lockers away from the wall so that they can be fully utilized.

Great idea, poor execution.

The little things – Making it easy to give

I am not always as philanthropic as I would like, so when someone makes it easy to be generous, I appreciate it.

Case in point, I was out for a drive yesterday in the Columbia Gorge and thought it would be great to grab some food and head out on a trail for a short hike and picnic.  Stopping at a Safeway, I quickly grabbed a few things for lunch then I headed to the cashier.

While the cashier made quick work of my purchase, I entered my Safeway Club card.  After entering the card number, the reader asked if I wanted to make a donation.  I punched “yes.”  The next screen explained the donation would support the local schools and I could give $1,$3 or $5.  I hit $5.

Simple as that, I had made a charitable donation just as the cashier finished ringing up the order.  I handed him $20 and waited for the change.  Turning back, he pointed out where there were additional mustard and mayo packets for my sandwich (a small thing, but a nice touch) and then he thanked me by name for my contribution to the local schools.

Nicely done.

Am I invisible?


Or are you just ignoring me?

Running some errands on a recent weekday afternoon, I stopped at the Washington Square Mall in Beaverton, Oregon.  I wasn’t shopping for anything specific, I just hadn’t spent much tome in retail spaces as of late.  While in the back of my mind, I was mulling over what I would pack for an upcoming visit to Europe so I was inclined to buy if  a store made me feel welcome and they offered the right product.

My first stop was Dick’s Sporting Goods where I actively shopped in the Golf, Camping, Activewear and Footwear departments along with a deep dive in the clearance racks.  I was never greeted, engaged or even acknowledged by any store staff members.

Macy’s was the next stop where I spent some time checking out men’s clothing and footwear.  Again, nary a nod or a smile from a Macy’s staff member.

Continue reading

P.C. Advertising

AC sign

Not “politically correct” but “personal computer.”

I saw this sign attached to the entry display windows of my neighborhood Sears store today.

I know this type of advertising drives corporate marketing and corporate visual merchandising departments bonkers.  Not very sophisticated but I did see two groups read the sign as they entered the store.

“The whole culture of the company is shifting…”


While watching a recent tv show on my Comcast cable service, I saw an ad from the same company.  The smiling Comcast employee (or actor portraying one) proclaimed “The whole culture of the company is shifting to customer service!”

As early as 2004, the American Customer Satisfaction Index reported that Comcast had the worst customer satisfaction score of any company or governmental agency in the United States.  Comcast even beat out the Internal Revenue Service in the race to the bottom.  Comcast repeated the achievement in 2007.  There is even a Wiki page reporting on the Criticism of Comcast.

The Comcast statement raises several questions.  What was the culture before this change?  Why is this shift occurring?  What is driving this shift?

It is unfortunate when a company has to advertise that they are increasing their customer service rather than demonstrating it.

In retail history


On July 20, 1915, the United States Steel Company opened the Lake View store in Morgan Park, MN.

The Lake View store with its indoor corridors and multiple stores was one of the first indoor shopping malls in the United States. Minnesota would later build the Southdale Center, the first post-war enclosed shopping mall and the Mall of America, the largest shopping mall in the United States and the most visited mall in the world. (Full disclosure:  I may be biased having been born and raised in Minnesota.)

Continue reading

In retail history


On July 16th, 1995, opens for business when they sold and shipped a copy of Douglas Hofstadter’s book, Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought.  And the rest, as they say, is history.

Last year and only 20 years after beginning operations, Amazon’s revenue was $107 billion.



In retail history

FAO Schwarz by A Marga from WikiCommons

FAO Schwarz by A Marga from WikiCommons

It was a dark day for children young and old on July 15th, 2015 when FAO Schwarz closed the doors and turned off the lights at its 5th Avenue store in Manhattan.

Founded in 1862 and moving to New York in 1870, FAO Schwarz was the oldest toy store in the U.S. known for their unique often high-end toys.

Why invest in a dying industry?

Brick mortar

Why invest in a dying industry?  It is a perfectly valid question.  With headlines screaming about the demise of brick & mortar or the losing battling with Amazon and on-line retailers, why would anyone be opening physical stores?  On-line retailers realize that people like to shop in different ways and multichannel retailers with a strong physical and virtual presence succeed.

So who is investing in the dying industry?  Pure players of e-commerce.  Late last year, Amazon opened their first bookstore in University Village in Seattle and the store has proven quite successful.  (More on that here: ) This is in addition to the showroom they are experimenting with in Seattle.  Newegg is building on the success of their first store (Hybrid Center) in LA with a new store in Richmond Hill, Ont.  Blue Nile, the largest on-line retailer of diamonds, has been adding physical locations with their “webrooms.”

We also continue to see expansion from non-traditional retailers.  Look at Microsoft’s continuing retail store expansion.

Are these retailers creating some new type of brick & mortar stores?  No.  What they are  contributing to is the continued evolution of retail.  After all, catalog showrooms were popular from the 50s into the 80s. with companies like Service Merchandise and Best Products and many of these new “store” are an updated version of the concept.

Brick & mortar is far from dead and with new energy coming from these evolutionary retailers, it will have a long and fruitful future.