What Keeps Jeff Bezos Up at Night- And Why What He’s Doing Should Keep You Up.

To my mind, Amazon’s biggest strategic advantage is that they started without brick and mortar retail.  The business was built for ecommerce and then, using the systems and data they’ve developed, they could look at brick and mortar making sure to have the right number of stores in the right places configured in the right way.  To put it another way, their brick and mortar business, whatever it turns out to be, supports their ecommerce.  With existing brick and mortar retailers, it’s the other way around.

As regular readers know, I’ve called the “omnichannel” the word that legacy brick and mortar retailers use to put a positive spin on the fact that, unlike Amazon, they have the wrong number of stores in some of the wrong places configured the wrong way.

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Some Positive Trade Show News; Emerald Exhibitions to Acquire the SIA Show

Finally, some positive movement in the trade show space.  I’ve hung back on writing about this for a few days but SIA President Nick Sargent sent out an email to all SIA members announcing and describing the deal, which is subject to approval by SIA’s premium members.

The email from Nick was labeled “CONFIDENTIAL: DO NOT SHARE OR FORWARD,” so naturally everybody in the industry who’s not in a coma now knows about it and has a copy.

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“Sacrifice a Little Growth…for Quality.” VF’s March 31st Quarter

Well, there you have it.  At some level, it is that simple.   But let me complete CFO Scott Roe’s comment in the conference call.  “…we are sharply focused on fundamentals and willing to sacrifice a little growth in the near term for quality. Our efforts are clearly paying off in the gross margin line. And we believe our decisions will improve the long-term health of both our brands and the marketplace.”

They improved their gross margin 1.3% (remember that’s a mixed retail and wholesale gross margin and, unfortunately, they don’t break it down between the two).  Distribution matters these days in brand building, and you can afford to give up some sales if you increase your gross margin that much.  In fact, I’d suggest you get that margin increase precisely because you made some distribution decisions that improved the “quality” of your sales.  Scott notes later, referring to off price business, that they’ve “…already cleaned a lot of that up.”

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Retail, Technology, Consolidation, and Unintended Consequences

This morning, the Seattle Times featured this article telling us that REI wage hikes for store employee announced last summer will be costing the company $24 to $25 million.  The company’s net income for its last complete year was $38.3 million.

Meanwhile, my oldest son sent me this article from Investor’s Business Daily, telling us that fast food purveyor Wendy’s will have self-service ordering kiosks in 6,000 restaurants in the second half of this year due to rising minimum wages and tight labor conditions.

I’ve been writing about the potential impact of 3D printing and other kinds of manufacturing technology for a while.  Here’s my article on the apparel manufacturing system Intel plans to introduce.

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Projected Retail Closings and Job losses for the Year

People don’t like people who make them uncomfortable.  And when I do it, like now, I’m pretty sure it makes it less likely I get calls for consulting.  But I’m all about trying to help you to run your businesses better and think you need the bad news as well as the good.  Probably you need the bad news more.  But, in a sense, this news about retailers closing isn’t completely bad news.  I say that because, first, it’s old news (though the acceleration of the trend this year seems significant) and, second, because it needs to happen.

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Zumiez’s New Concept Store

Zumiez has been telling us for some time now, correctly I think, that they are approaching the number of Zumiez stores the U.S. market can support.  They ended their January 31 year with 603 U.S. stores.  No doubt they will continue to selectively open (and close) stores and there is certainly no exact number of stores this market will support.  However, I’m guessing that the number has declined due to a weak economy, an over retailed market, and Zumiez’s omnichannel influenced “trade area” strategy.

That strategy focuses on having the right number of stores in each geographic area given ecommerce and the way Zumiez’s customers are choosing to shop.  Its focus is maximizing revenue in each area.  Its premise is that opening more stores isn’t the only, or even the best, way to do that.

But Zumiez is a public company.  Growth matters, though CEO Rick Brooks (along with some other CEOs) is trying to get the Wall Street community to focus a bit more on the bottom line rather than the top.

I guess after the initial shock you get when something new and different happens, I wasn’t that surprised to see Zumiez’s new concept store WAYWARD open in this Bellevue, Washington mall two stores down from the Zumiez store.  Here’s a picture of the entrance.

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Emerald Exhibitions- Owner of Surf Expo, Outdoor Retailer, Interbike and Others- Going Public. Why?

Last Week Emerald Exhibition (EE) filed the S-1 that includes the first draft of its prospectus to go public.  Because it’s the first draft a lot of information (like price per share and number to be sold) is missing.  Still, it’s worth a review.  We’ll summarize the company’s history and activities, look at the financial results, talk about their market and how they see themselves competing, and discuss why they are going public.  I also want to point out a risk factor they seem to ignore.

Who’s Emerald Exhibitions?

What is now called EE was acquired from The Nielsen Company by Onex in 2013.

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An Intriguing Transaction: GoPro Wants to Sell Some Debt.

GoPro’s press release of yesterday had the following title: “GoPro to Offer $150 Million of Convertible Senior Notes due 2022.”  Well, okay, they’ve run through a lot of cash lately.  That they might want to raise some makes sense.  We don’t yet know anything about the terms.  “The interest rate, conversion rate, offering price and other terms are to be determined upon pricing of the notes,” the press release says.

Here’s the link to the press release.  I’m hoping one of you who has more experience with this kind of deal might call me or post a comment on my web site explaining it.

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It’s Not All About the Omnichannel? Could That Be Okay? The Buckle’s Annual Report

The way The Buckle 10K and conference call come across, you can’t quite decide, at first read, if they’ve made a specific decision to focus on brick and mortar or if they are just way, way behind in online.  I think it’s the former given how they describe their business and how they compete.

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Amazon’s Retail Plans

It’s all the Lydians’ fault.  The Lydians were a people who lived in what’s now Eastern Turkey in the second millennium BC.  Herodotus, writing around 450 BC, tells us this about them:

“…the Lydians lived their lives in a way not dissimilar to the Greeks.  So far as we know they were the first people ever to strike gold and silver coins, and to use them: the result was the invention of shopping.”

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