Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Sometimes a Great Notion - Autumnal Equinox Edition

The official first day of fall, and The Retail Muse grabs a Jamba Juice, stumbles across a popped up toy store, finds the nearest blockbuster closed, and joins the injured while trying to open packaging.
While the leaves turn and the days shorten, The Muse considers great customer service and Amazon's pursuit of world domination.

Happy autumnal notions!

Juicing for campus

Jamba Juice continues to focus attention on campus and airport locations. Recently they opened their ninth location for 2009 at Northwestern University. It is their 30th campus location since 2007. Touting the "good for you" Jamba Juice product, coupled with the convenience "quick serve" factor, Jamba Juice has also focused on sustainability when building on campus.

Campus locations are built with recycled materials, Meet LEED certification, and are designed with a focus on reducing heating and air-conditioning costs.

Toys Popping Up

Toys R us is rolling out 350 pop up temporary stores, in an effort to boost sales and increase market share during the holiday season. The temporary toy stores and boutiques will mainly be set up in empty retail mall spaces. For Toys R Us, they hope to get their name out there in a big way this year, and combat continued price pressure from competitors such as Sears and Wal-Mart.

Recession killed the video store.

Less than a week after we told you about Redbox expansion plans for DVD rental kiosks, comes word that Blockbuster plans to close as many as 960 store locations. Blockbuster plans to shift focus into the DVD and Game rental kiosk format as a store replacement. 2500 kiosks are planned to be opened this year, and 10,000 by next year.

It is a sign of the recessionary times, that Blockbuster is making this move. Almost slipping into bankruptcy last year, this move is aimed at improving liquidity, and eliminating the 18% of stores that are not profitable.

Maimed by Packaging.

Have you ever been frustrated, angry, or injured while trying to open that hard plastic clam shell packaging surrounding your latest purchase? You're not alone. In a report from an NBC Dallas Fort Worth affiliate, Scott Gordon reports that 6000 people a year are injured while trying to open the common packaging. Retailers are starting to respond. Best Buy is planning to phase out the packaging in their stores, and Amazon is shipping items wrapped in cardboard.

Presumably the handy tip to open this packaging is "kitchen shears". The Muse does not own such an item, instead using the tried and tested method of rusty blunt scissors and teeth.

Service is still the old stand by.

Retailers cost cutting, layoffs and closures might save some dollars, but is comes at the expense of customer service. In an article for the Cincinnati Enquirer, Laura Baverman asked a number of businesses, and consultants about declining customer service. All the individuals said the same thing. Service is paramount, especially during tough economic times. One consultant noted that companies who have cut staff, or reduced services, are struggling to keep customers happy

It's a good reminder that when times are bad, don't focus on cutting the front end of your business. Keeping the customer happy, and providing a positive experience, still is the way to keep your business afloat and profitable.

Amazon and world domination.

For 15 years, Amazon.com has been the scourge of independent booksellers and music stores. Now add a growing list of general merchandise retailers fearing Amazon, as world wide sales of non book items will be surpassed by sales of other general merchandise this year.

Amazon is becoming the world's general store, says Brad Stone, from the New York Times. It's not all books, CDs and DVDs. Now the focus is on Lego, diapers, big screen televisions and sporting goods.

The key to Amazon's success rests with an impressive and efficient inventory management system, a highly advanced management system, that sells the goods to customers before the bill from the supplier is due, and of course customer service. Fast efficient service, backed up by free shipping promotions to loyal and "prime" customers.

Major retailers and independents are scrambling to respond, much with limited success. Independents focus on the tangibility of being able to touch and feel a product before buying, as well as knowledgeable service staff. Major retailers, such as Target and Wal-Mart, are looking to revamp their web site offering in an effort to create "Amazon lite" sites, and preserve market share.

Jeff Wilkie, Amazon's senior VP of North American retail sums it up best; "we are becoming increasingly important in the lives of our customers, which has been our mission from the beginning"

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