Behind 5 of Last Week's Consumer Headlines

A Giant Shopping Mall Company is Turning to 10 Startups to Breathe New Life into Retail

  • Westfield has been a leader in pushing the thinking on malls, and not just because they incubate a sub-organization called Westfield Labs
  • While fashion/retail incubators aren’t unheard of, Westfield does a good job of supporting start-ups uniquely capable of making malls more relevant than ever before — which I believe they can be
  • Among the start-ups taking part, I’m most excited about those that have a multichannel focus and leverage network effects, including Happy Returns and Darkstore; I’m also impressed by the sounds of AxleHire and I’m eager to see what Cordial and Percolate can do

After Digital Spree, Retailers Spending on Stores Again

  • To be fair, it’s not as though large stores - especially the likes of Saks and Nordstrom - hadn’t continued to invest in stores while doubling down on e-commerce
  • But new locations and flagship remodels aside, we need to start talking about the poor state of stores among some chains, including one company I could name that was complacent about discolored couches in a store, only in part because they were planning to close it
  • While this article addresses physical improvements, it’s critical for company leaders to keep an eye on on staffing levels to ensure they don’t drop so low (as sales shift online) that the lack of service hurts multichannel objectives

Birchbox’s Investors are Giving the Startup a $15 Million Lifeline

  • While Birchbox may have been slower than it should’ve been in growing a revenue stream beyond subscriptions, they were pioneers in their space; it’s understandable there would’ve been lessons to learn
  • I know Birchbox’ focus now is on growing e-commerce, which is personally disappointing to me, as I was a big fan of their Soho store when it first opened
  • While that first store has become less distinct from other beauty purchasing options over time, I’m looking for how Birchbox will develop an e-commerce business that (hopefully) leverages its subscription offer and sets itself apart from other beauty e-tailers

This Luxury Trend will Hurt

  • Like many other chains, higher-end retailers are closing stores as they become less productive in ringing transaction dollars
  • Since luxury is notoriously a segment where consumers want to see product in person before purchasing it, I hope brands are considering the e-commerce impact of store closures (this is something I’ve witnessed first hand)
  • If key cities are left without stores, advertising (stores are media!) and brand experience also will be diminished

Grocery Online Ordering, At-store Pickup Service Increasing in Popularity

  • In some ways, we shouldn’t be surprised that BOPIS proliferated first at stores that were already doing significant e-commerce revenue
  • But given the amount of time grocery shopping takes, and the fact that it’s easier to delegate produce-picking than denim try-ons, I expect grocery to catch up quickly
  • With aisle-hunting services that are $4.95 (no minimum purchase) at Kroger and free ($30 minimum) at Walmart, BOPIS is a good “happy medium” relative to the shopping/delivery services that are more expensive and not available in all locales