Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sometimes a Great Notion - Wild Rumpus Edition

While The Retail Muse was glued to the tube watching the increasing bizarre saga of "Balloon Boy", a riot broke out at the Burlington Coat Factory, Wal-Mart starts a book price war, Kindle comes up spades, and, with all the pomp and circumstance of a visit to the Magic Kingdom, Disney might actually get their retail presence right this time.

All this, including ER Iphone apps, and of course, Maurice Sendak and the Wild Things Let the wild rumpus begin notions!

There's a Riot Going on.

Another one of those "you can't make this stuff up" articles, concerning one Columbus, Ohio Burlington Coat Factory, a stretch Hummer limo, a lottery winner, and a riot in the racks.

Showing up in a giant stretch Hummer Limo at the Burlington Coat Factory, Linda Brown walked into the store, telling the shoppers that she had just won 1.5 Million in the lottery. To celebrate, she was buying everyone in the store a coat - up to $500. Naturally, bedlam ensued with 500 customers lining up at the registers, cashiers ringing up sale after sale, and another 1000 customer waiting outside to get in and take part in the freebie winter wraps.

Brown, who it turns out had not won the lottery, had her limo driver take her to a bank machine, and then returned to the store empty handed. admitting she had no money to pay for all the merchandise.

Customers acted in the most sensible manner possible, grabbing merchandise, demanding their free stuff and throwing merchandise on the floor. Store employees called in 2 dozen police officers to handle the crowds and restore order. Too late. As one Detective commented, "it was like Hurricane Katrina had swept through the store"

Talk about crying wolf coat.

How low can you go?, drove new book prices down to $8.99 for upcoming hardcover releases. Amazon matched the price point, and an all out price war hasdeveloped, driving hardcover books down 50% to 70% off the publisher suggested list price.

Publishers and booksellers responded that this price dumping wasn't good for the industry, and puts some publishing houses and authors in peril. Other industry observers noted that this price discount model on new titles rarely works, and only further erodes a fragile industry.

Kindle on campus? The results are mixed.

Two hundred students, who received free Kindle book reading devices from Amazon this year, have less than stellar reviews for the device. Many mentioned that the traditional textbook still seems to work. While the Kindle was praised for being a light and handy device, many students found the highlighting and note taking features to be lacking, confusing and not necessarily a good format for learning information.

Still, one student pointed out that using Kindle to listen to her textbooks while sitting in a traffic jam was a great feature, raising the possibility that Kindle could play an important role for students with disabilities in accessing and understanding material from textbooks.

While the jury is still out on the effectiveness on Kindle in the classroom, Amazon plans to use the information culled from this trial for further enhancements and modifications, with an eye of making Kindle an essential part of the student learning experience.

Disney Does Retail (again)

Been to a Disney store lately? No we didn't think so. Once profitable and engaging, Disney stores have fallen on bad times. Poorly and cheaply merchandised, and lack of customer service, the chain has struggled to regain its footing in the malls of America.

Now, with a little help from their Apple friend, Steve Jobs, Disney has launched a new prototype store called "Imagination Park" Gone are rows of merchandise. Instead, a new entertainment theme has been developed. Children can now watch movie clips, chat with Disney stars live via satellite, and sing along to their favorite Disney song.

Microchips in products would unveil hidden entertainment within the stores, fiber optic trees would come alive through the space, and cashiers would be equipped with handheld wireless devices to ring up purchases on the sales floor.

A dramatic change? For Disney retail, definitely a new outlook. Inspired by Jobs comments to "think big", access to Jobs wildly successful Apple stores, and a desire to re emphasise entertainment within a traditional store setting, Disney is setting it's sighs high.

With each store costing a reported $1 million to create and overhaul, it's a big risk for Disney, but has been met with overall enthusiastic response from industry watchers.


Apple Store sales average a whopping $4,700 a square foot. By far the highest for a chain retailer. By comparison, Best Buy clocks in at $1000/sq foot. How does your store compare?

Doctor Doctor, Give me the news.

If you are driving down the freeways of Florida, and wondering how long it would take a doctor to see you at the local ER, well you are in luck! Hospital Corporation of America (East Florida Div) has installed large billboards which include an RSS feed showing the estimated wait times at your ER. (Hmmmm says the Muse.....Didn't we talk about this as a good idea recently?)

The company has developed an iphone and texting app (called itriage) that allows you to send a request, and receive information on the closet ER, access to a ER nurse and of course the estimated waiting time.

This is not going to work when you are having a heart attack! The company is quick to point out that 911 should be your first call in critical situations. Yet, it is an intriguing and smart use of technology. Dancing on the line between brilliant and gimmicky; which all great marketing campaigns are made of.

Wild make my heart sing.

Offer a children's literature course on campus? Then time to head to the textbook stacks and brush off your copies of "Where The Wild Things Are", Maurice Sendak's Caldicott award winning book. Considered one of the finest children's picture books ever, (although the Muse has a soft spot for Brown's Goodnight Moon"), Sendak's magnum opus is getting big press as the movie adaptation opened in theatres this weekend.

It's a curious amalgamation of the best in children's literature, one of the best directors in the country (Spike Jonze), and a script penned by McSweeny's founder and "Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius" author David Eggers.

Reviews have been lukewarm for the film, but displaying the book in your store along with a few plays of the Troggs hit "Wild Thing", and you are sure to attract attention and re-live those moments when you wanted to be just like Max.

Happy campus rumpus!

1 comment:

Marcia said...

Actually, iTriage was developed by Healthagen, LLC and is an application available for the iPhone, all smart phones and is available for desk top users at

HCA -- East Florida division is using the application as a preferred lister to push out ER Wait Times on the iTriage application.

The application also offers information symptoms, diseases, medical procedures and the closest medical facility from your GPS location, IP address or zip code with turn-by-turn directions.

Marcia Noyes
Healthagen, LLC