In retail history

Macy's at the opening of the Hillsdale Center in the late 50's

Macy’s at the opening of the Hillsdale Center in the late 50’s

On October 28th, 1858, Capt. Rowland Hussey Macy opened his fifth dry goods store after his first four failed.

After his four failed attempts in Massachusetts between 1843 and 1855, Macy moved to New York City and opened his latest store, the R.H.Macy’s & Co. on 6th Street that was considerably north of the dry goods retail stores of the time.  In spite of the risky location, Macy brought in $11.08, equivalent of $303. Macy’s logo has always been the red star which was a tattoo that R.H. had gotten when he was a whaler.

Macy’s opened their flagship Herald Square location in 1902 that has since grown to become the world’s largest department store in 1924.  It is now 2.2 million square feet.


One has to wonder?


Returning from a backpacking trip last weekend, I stopped in at a Dairy Queen restaurant for a quick lunch. (You really can’t beat the “5 Buck Lunch.”)

I made a quick trip to the bathroom to wash up before eating and while drying my hands I read this sign on the paper towel dispenser. We have all seen these “Wash your hand” signs but I had never read one carefully.

Two things jumped out to me from the sign.

First, the idea that employees must wash their hands twice.  Shouldn’t one thorough washing do the trick?  And if an employee does not do a good job the first time they wash, what makes public health officials think a second washing will do the job?

Secondly, the last line of the sign states,” A placard containing this section shall be posted in all toilet rooms” of any restaurant, bed & breakfast facility or temporary restaurant.  I do not remember seeing this sign posted in any of the finer restaurants of Portland.

Too much of a good thing

powells-bookmarksStopped by Powell’s Books the other day for a few items a book the other day, Alone on the Wall by Alex Hannold (I highly recommend it if you enjoy outdoor sports writing) and as usual, I ended up with a few other things.  With my three books, three magazines and a Clark chocolate bar, I approached the cashier.

The cashier was very pleasant offering a warm hello and engaging me in banter as she began to ring up my purchase.  As she scanned the first book, she placed a bookmark inside of the book.

“That’s ok.  I don’t need any more Powell’s bookmarks,” I interjected.

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La Bicyclette

Another bicycle shop we visited was La Bicyclette (the French word for bicycle) near our hotel and the Bastille.

The shop is proudly owned by Lorenzo Savorino who was busy doing assembling a new bicycle for an anxious customer while we were there.  Again my wife translated for Lorenzo and myself with only a few minor hiccups. Lorenzo it turns out is from Italy and he sometimes struggles with French, his second language..

He told of moving to Paris to open a bicycle shop to make a better life for his family.  His sons have grown and are now partners in the business.

One interesting bike he had in the shop was a Savorino badged track bike that he proudly proclaimed he built and it had been used by the Italian Olympic Bicycle Track Team.


The walk around

At every specialty shop that we made purchases in while traveling in Europe, we noticed one common practice.  I call it “the walk around.”

When the cashier or salesperson completes the transaction and after they have carefully wrapped or bag your new purchase, the they take the item and walk around from behind the counter.  Once facing you, they thank you for your business and then carefully pass the package to you.  This is a great way to show the value they place on you and your purchase.

I posted about this last month when I saw the same practice at Nordstrom. Walk it around

I think this is a practice that specialty shops and premium stores should copy.

Eastpak – strategy to sales success


Alexander Blecher,

Alexander Blecher,

Eastpak, a backpack company that traces its roots back to making bags for the US military, was acquired by VF in the year 2000. To expand their business, Eastpak and VF came up with a three-part strategy for growth; Diversify the offerings, Globalize the brand, Create a Lifestyle brand.

How did they do?  The reason for this post was the predominance of the Eastpak brand on the streets of Europe.

Singer Cycles

Version 3

Having traveled to Paris a number of times in the past, my wife and I have already visited most of the key tourist attractions from Notre Dame to the Eiffel Tower.  But in all of our time in Paris, we never thought to visit any bicycle shops.  Since we are both avid cyclist, we realized this was an oversight that need to be rectified on our recent trip.

Alex Singer was our first shop to visit.  To be honest, I was not seeking out legendary service but rather to see one of the last shops of an era that is dying out, the era of the constructeurs.

“During the “Golden Age,” small makers built amazing bicycles that transcended their function to become a form of art. Their craftsmanship was not limited to the frame, but included hand-made derailleurs, brakes, stems, racks and other components. The entire bicycle was carefully designed and crafted as a unit, combining function and beauty. Famous makers like René Herse, Alex Singer, Jo Routens and others spent countless hours on each bicycle in their search for perfection.” -Jan Heine from Bicycle Quarterly



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