My email feed is full of crap emails. Black Friday sales, pre-Black Friday sales, post-Black Friday Sales, Black Friday week. Cyber Monday, Donation Tuesday. But today, today is fuck you Wednesday.
If you bought into the hype, maxed out your credit cards to buy more junk that nobody actually needs to help fulfill your life of nothingness, today is your day. Give the shit back.
According to early statistics brick and mortar, Black Friday sales were up 6.2% from 2018 while internet sales surged to $7.4 billion on Friday up $1.2 billion from 2018. Seems like things are just rosy.
As a matter of fact, retail has been on an upswing with an average 4% annual growth since 2010. And this year is positioned to be another winner with anticipated holiday shopping forecast to hit $1 trillion. People are buying more online and more importantly from their mobile devices with a Black Friday mobile purchase increase of 35%. We are talking 61% of purchases were from mobile devices. The largest mobile device purchase day ever.
Brick and mortar sales weren’t quite as lucrative however a big selling factor was the ability to purchase online while you can pick up in the store. Sort of the best of both worlds as you have the ability to research your products and find the best deals and not wait or pay for shipping.
What does all this mean? Online marketing is working. As we have firmly learned how to market to the masses and pump up sales it appears the trajectory is positive.
With this increase in sales, we should all be happy as we skip down the pathway of life. But are the retailers actually making a profit? I’m unsure how to write the sound of a vinyl record grinding to a halt as someone is screaming “stop the damn Holiday music” vvvvrrrerrfffff.
“Profits? Did someday say profits?” I say in my best Mayor Augustus Whoville’s voice. “Profits, we don’t discuss profits at Christmas”
Why not? Because we are in what is being called the Retail Vortex. Market analysis shows that the added cost of online marketing, logistics costs, and deep discounts are thinning profits. And more importantly, we haven’t discussed the dirty little word…. Returns. No returns on investment but the massive onslaught of returns that retailers absorb in this market where consumers feel returning or exchanging gifts is okay.
With limited consumer commitment in keeping purchases, retail sales and Black Friday/ Cyber Monday statistics are artificially reported. With many product return policies accepting returns into the New Year it’s possible the losses will be carried over.
The best advice is to spend time with friends and family and only make wise informed purchases. Make art, make music or make love, just don’t buy into the hype.
We all have witnessed brilliant business ideas pop up into a void of an existing market,that successfully takes off and changes the status quo forever. A gap so wide and vacant you’ll question yourself on why you didn’t come up with the idea yourself. Like watching the instant replay of an amazing touchdown run and seeing that gap, as now visualizing how the running back saw an opportunity and made his move.
Did Blockbuster not see the coming of DVD services like Redbox and Netflix? They most certainly did however they stood there and watched as a small innovative concept…took over.
Not smart business. What did Blockbuster do wrong…they didn’t Look, Listen and Learn. Without looking at the then current DVD rental market and heading off the Netflix and Redbox growth, listening to their then current customer base and learning from the data, Blockbuster nailed it’s own coffin shut.
What about Borders books? With over 500 retail based brick and mortar superstores worldwide Borders had a decent market share. In the early 1990’s Borders had an edge on the industry by having a sophisticated inventory system that could predict and optimize consumer purchases. However with growing competition from Barnes and Noble brick and mortar, and online giant Amazon, Borders mounting debt and large wagering on merchandising of CD’s and DVD’s forced them into bankruptcy. Borders didn’t adapt to the moving trends of online sales, while they invested heavily into a market segment that was going digital.
Borders certainly didn’t Look, Listen or Learn to their customers or the industries innovations.
Ironically a few weeks ago I visited an Amazon Books store in Manhattan. The store felt familiar to me with bright lighting and blond colored shelving adorned with 4 Star and above Top Seller books.
Sounds to me like Amazon is doing just as I suggest…. Look, Listen, Learn.
Working as Brand Designer for a startup experiential event and products company I’ve been tasked with the core projects of defining our brand, corporate culture, product design/ packaging and defining our target audience. Simple tasks complicated if you head into the quagmire of business development books and websites usually aimed at copying others.
Most of the content outdated or written on a generally broad topic without analysis of the only thing that really matters… the customer.
Recent business advice was to discuss anticipated costs, balance sheets and capital. Typical Wharton School of Business tactics to maximize sales and growth of what?
Of what I asked? We are still defining the targeted market that’ll fit into our brand, vision and values of what this company should be.
Looking at the assembled team of highly qualified team members of our startup, I felt it was imperative to understand why they signed on. Looking and listening to each individuals values on what environment they saw themselves coming to each day. Listening to how they hoped to interact with our future customers and who they visualized those customers to be.
We have a long way to go to build the brand, however by looking at the current state of our alleged competition, listening to our proposed clients and learning from the experience we’re developing what’s soon to be an innovative, lifestyle changing business.
With limited efforts placed on balance sheets and venture capital and all effort placed on defining our mission and culture, we are sure to change the lives of customers…. We shall Look, Listen and Learn
On a warm July day, my wife and I decided to take a relaxing trip into New York City and explore some new inspirational spatial designs. Our goal was to buzz around to find retail stores that specialized in making an engaging and innovative shopping experience.
We jumped onto a semi-express New Jersey Transit train destined for NYC Penn Station, a train and subway transportation hub in New York’s famous Chelsea district. Having done a small amount of itinerary planning we felt it best to first head over to the Hudson Yards, the largest private real estate development in the U.S.
Developed as a 28 acre mixed use developmemt with estimated construction costs in the billions, the project compromises of public green space, residential towers, a hotel, office spaces and a mall.
Walking across 32nd Street to the West Side it was difficult to miss the development with its shining glass skyscrapers and the Thomas Heatherwick designed stunning copper clad interactive sculpture Vessel. With over 2,500 steps on 154 interconnecting flights of stairs interwoven into a hive like structure, Vessel is a great way to get exercise while gaining stunning viewing of the City.
Heading into the Shops at the Hudson Yards, a 720,000 sq foot multi-floor mall with Neiman Marcus as the anchor, we were quickly immersed in visual stimulation.
Lighted interactive kiosks were placed throughout the mall as directories to shops, restaurants and transportation. We walked past huge video display walls with stunning visual motion graphics.
Throughout the mall were interactive art display walls of metallic fabrics and rooms for coloring to inspire creativity and user engagement. Cleverly named “Off the Walls” and created by the Culture Corps., the installations are designed in tribute to the areas past, present and future.
Wandering from shop to shop the user interactive kiosks and experiences were everywhere. From the cool techie retail-as-service store B8TA offering well designed displays of speciality products by small unknown manufactures and also offering “Built by B8TA” products.
Heading across town we headed to 5th Avenue and uptown to the Adidas Flagship stadium inspired store. Built as the largest Adidas store worldwide, the design concept hopes to develop brand identity to another generation of customer. With a stadium styled tunnel entrance, locker room style dressing rooms, and multiple floors of apparel, accessories and sneakers there is plenty immersion. Large video walls on multiple floors, stylizing kiosks, stadium seating for game viewing, tracks and field areas to try and experience the sneaker offerings.
Designed with Adidas Checkland Kindleysides and Gensler the store was sustainably designed to mimic old high school gymnasiums with exposed concrete, raw wood bleachers and large stadium lighting. A 360vR experience tells the story of the making of a new sneaker.
Jumping onto a subway headed to Nike Soho we entered the 5 story Broadway and Spring Street store. Large video screens again with Nike commercials were playing amongst racks and shelves of Nike sneakers and apparel. Lit glass display cases showcased specialized models and options.
Escalators took us floor to floor of soccer fields, treadmills and basketball courts to demo products within a real world environment.
Further down Broadway we entered into the huge multi-floored Dolby Sohointeractive store. Currently setup to promote The Lion King film in theaters at the time we decided to explore further. The front room filled with 3 of 4 walls of video screens playing a vibrant waterfall scene.
Walking room to room we experienced more Lion King videos in 360 degrees with Dolby Immersive Atmos Sound.
The 2019 CGI animated film has rich visuals with stunning blacks and high dynamic range.
With lifelike hair, water and animals movement the film is easy to get lost in. The object based Dolby Atmos sound firmly placed the viewer into jungle.
Heading to the lower floor was a DJ in Atmos as well as a screening room. Reviewing films in the screening room allowed for the testing of standard color rendering vs Dolby Cinema color.
Kiosks we’re placed on walls to display the Dolby Atmos headphones sold at a discounted rate on that day.
Leaving New York at sunset we were able to see the brightly lit City. Having for years worked in NYC this relaxed visit was a different experience. Fully immersed in the various stores spatial designs and experiential designs we left the City with a renewed faith in retail and its future experiential existence.
Why you should never water down your products to increase sales.
Growing up I lived within a short train ride into New York City. It was almost easier to jump onto a NJ Transit train than sit on the school bus for almost 45 minutes to get to school. Musician friends of mine and I would often bag the day and head into the City, grab some breakfast at the Tick Tock Diner in Hell’s Kitchen and then head thru Times Squares’ debacle of sex shops and tourist trinkets.
We would head to Midtown’s infamous 48th street music shop row, home to Manny’s Music, 48th Street Guitars, Sam Ash, Rudy’s Music Stop among others. With our long hair and pseudo rockstar looks we would discuss what famous guitarist would be wondering the store and our excitement to try out a Les Paul guitar thru the then new Marshall JCM800 tube amplifiers.
Waiting outside for the stores to open we would always be first inside drooling over the walls of hanging guitars, rooms with precariously stacked amps and speaker cabinets, racks of recording gear, spools of tape and mixing boards that looked like mission control.
We would wander the store trying every instrument we could while twisting knobs and tweaking amps almost certainly attempting to play a Steve Vai riff. Salesmen would cruise around the store dressed in jeans, Vans or Cons and manufacture’s T-shirts that generally signified what department they specialized in. Questions were answered and experimentation and noodling was encouraged.
Pro musicians would pop in while in town recording or touring, often disappearing into private rooms as you never knew what to expect. More times than not we would walk out with some new tool be it an effect pedal or just some strings excited about our surroundings and adventures.
Then the bottom fell out as the music stores slowly closed, blamed was New York City’s higher rents which mostly isn’t true. Yes the rents increased on 48th Street just like the rents increased everywhere else in New York City however what actually happened was big box retailers took over.
Sam Ash and Guitar Center went from small mom and pop shops into gigantic Goliath like retailers, gobbling up scores of musical shops and popping up in strip malls around the country, the decline begins.
Armed with higher credit ratings the big box retailers converge on the manufactures. Companies such as Gibson and Fender guitars began to squeeze smaller retailers forcing them to carry large quantities of inventory across the entire brand lineup. Many of the once American made products found themselves being manufactured in Mexican, Japan and ultimately China in efforts to reduce costs and expand the brands. Manufacturers ventured into the uncharted waters of relabeling kitschy items such as guitar picks, strings and cords to maximum market share and sales.
The entire structure of the musical instrument industry was being run by Wall Street in a huge Madoffesque Ponzi scheme. Manufactures became more corporate as they increased market share with often subpar products. Retailers promoted “sales” almost weekly of rebranded trash products to lore unsuspecting musicians and students reeled into purchasing “just as good as products” from unheard of manufacturers.
One holiday season while Christmas shopping with my wife I wondered into a big box music shop armed with my anything in the store 15% off coupon I headed to the “Pro Audio” department. A “pro audio specialist” or whatever false narrative he was claiming asked if I needed any help. I’m an easy sell as I know what I want long before I ever enter a store and to be honest I was only there to save 15%. I requested him to grab me a Shure SM 57 microphone.
The Shure SM57 mic which is based on a 1930’s design is legendary in the audio world. Used by every United States President for over the past 50 years and most Rock and Roll concerts and recordings I was already sold (plus I already owned four of them)
My salesman responded that if I had read the fine print of the sales-flyer, Shure (along with most other major manufactures was excluded). My wife as always responded “ I told you, nothing you want is ever really on sale here why do you bother?” and I generally hang my head in shame, knowing she’s right and recognize that the nostalgic days of musical equipment glory were nearly over.
The salesman suggested to me a “just as good as” rebranded piece of trash which I angrily responded “how many hit records were recorded with this piece of shit jammed into the speaker cone?”
I didn’t bother to await his response as I walked out of that big box retailer, never to enter again.
To be fair we aren’t talking a substantial amount of money nor savings. A Shure SM57 goes for about $100 retail so saving $15 bucks certainly isn’t worth compromising your sound or your reputation. The following day I called my Pro Audio sound specialist to place a full price order. In conversation, I expressed my disgust with the big box vs Shure issue as well as the fact the great music shops of the past hardly exist any longer.
Then I asked him why Shure hardly goes on sale and his response changed my life from charging my own customers to the products I purchase….
Shure microphones sell themselves. With small profit margins and a flurry of cheap knockoffs the only way to maintain brand dominance is to hold the line. Occasionally Shure will allow their products to be placed on sale under their control. Retailers do not control Shure nor other high end manufactures.
I currently buy products from manufacturers such as Sound Devices, Sennheiser, Rycote and Cinela. High end brands that hold the value of the products consumer experience, quality control and market share to the highest regards.
Working mostly in sound for film I now frequent what our industry calls the “usual suspects” a small team of specialty retailers with a knowledgeable caring staff that represent the manufactures brand values to the highest regards. Sales and service are paramount in these business models with direct dialog back to the manufactures. Product corrections are often made with new products often specially designed and manufactured to fill a need in the professional industry.
Pro consumers have close connections with our sales reps and often manufactures reps to keep our cottage industry progressively moving forward. Most of these products are hardly ever discounted on the new market and very often hold higher prices on the used market with pros citing years of product reliability and manufacturers support.
That crappy Big Box Store microphone could have saved me tons of cash over the years on product acquisition costs however it’s doubtful on the reliability and customer support level which currently is ultimately what I’m willing to pay for.