Retail Traffic

Five Wishes For 2005

Maybe John Maynard Keynes had it right when he said “the difficulty lies not in creating new ideas but escaping from old ones.” Today's retail industry needs a shake up more than ever before, and who better to rattle the box a bit than the folks at RTKL, who offer their list of things they'd like to see change by May of next year:

Free Martha.

We know, we know. This has nothing to do with retail design or development, but we couldn't help ourselves. She's the type of gal you love to hate (cf., Leona Helmsley), but nobody has done more than Martha to make style more accessible to the middle class. Deep down, we love Martha and see her as retail's Joan of Arc who is taking one for the team (corporate America, that is). But, before you guffaw at the thought of toile window treatments in a minimum security prison, consider what Martha taught us all about building brands and multi-channel retailing. It's a good thing.

Where are the Simons of yesteryear?

And the Rouses, and the Taubmans …. Maybe it's us, but lately retail development seems more defined by asset managers and REITs than by visionary developers who are changing the course of the industry — and have a shot at making tangible, long-term contributions to the structure and character of our communities. Don't get us wrong, it's wonderful to maintain value and keep the share price climbing, but who will bring us the next next thing? Surely the next crop of progressive, risk-taking developers is out there somewhere, willing to create a new brand of retail. The world waits.

Service makes a comeback.

Remember service? That commodity that kept you going back to your favorite bistro, the drugstore down the street, the local bank. Well, it seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle of grow, grow, grow. But smart retailers will pick the notion up and dust it off, because customers understand that “value” isn't about rock-bottom prices served up with a cocktail of ennui and condescension. Stanley Marcus had it right: It's about quality products, helpful service and fair prices.

The coolness of Target catches up with the coolness of their ad campaigns.

We love Target. We even shop there. But we love their ads even more, especially that pesky little pup that reminds us of Pete from Our Gang. Who knew that value-oriented shopping could be so hip, so much a part of the Zeitgeist? But when will Target the store — all that fluorescent lighting, those sky-high racks — catch up to Target the advertisements? The campaign promises iPod cool at accessible prices, but the stores deliver only a notch or two above Wal-Mart. Ugh. Talk about brand dissonance.

Brix, Clix and Pix, the three moons of Planet Retail, will align in commercial harmonic convergence.

Internet sales are ticking upward (yawn), catalogs are holding steady (all that paper, all that postage) and bricks-and-mortar stores are, well, you read the papers. When will retailers realize these three things need to work together, each bringing their own stack of chips to the table? The Internet has made consumers smarter and more sophisticated; catalogs create the context (“Oh, so THAT'S what it's supposed to look like!”) and target the demographic; but you can only kick the tires out there on the lot. Figure it out.

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