Tag: retail

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Thanksgiving Times are Changin’

On Nov. 20, 2005, I marveled at Tower Records’ holiday hours—the store being open on Thanksgiving and also Christmas. A year later, the retail music chain was gone—and, tragically, a broader cultural experience/lifestyle with it. Major bookstore chains, like Borders, followed along later—all casualties of the digital content economy (or lack of it because of piracy) enabled by Internet distribution.

Finding anything open for business on the third Thursday of November was a challenge 12 years ago. Today, retailers can’t wait to welcome shoppers. Black Friday deals have been available pretty much everywhere all week, while bargain hunters can shop today at their favorite stores. That is, if not scouring Amazon deals from ye `ol smart device while sitting on the couch, watching football, chugging brewskis, and belching. 

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Seriously?

Oh, Please! It’s not even Halloween! Fashion Valley decks the mall with mounds of folly—fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la! You won’t forget to spend your money—fa, la, la, la, la, la, […]

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I Buried My PixelBook Ambitions at Google Store

I would like to thank Google for saving me thousands of dollars in needless spending. Near the end of today’s gangbuster hardware event, I was ready to order two new Chromebooks and smartphones, one each for me and my wife. But “error 500” pages on the company’s store website and long-lead new product availability dates prompted me to cancel the one order successfully made and to delete the others in process from my shopping cart.

For a company whose product managers droned on this morning about all the reasons why artificial intelligence is so right, Big G got the store selling experience all wrong. I have waited through most of 2017 for a new Google-branded Chrome OS laptop. While hardly a fresh hardware design concept, PixelBook is nevertheless tempting enough to bring me back to the AI and voice-assistant contextual future from the Apple rotting on the overly-obsessed touch-UI tree. I was willing and ready but instead walked away angry. 

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A Short Stay in Long Beach

My niece, Lynnae, is in Long Beach—her first trip to California and the West Coast. We visited last evening and breakfasted this morning, when I used iPhone 7 Plus to capture a portrait. Her family lives on a 7-acre “homestead” in Vermont, where she works part-time for a local company but also operates her own small business—making (and selling) fresh, natural cosmetics from her own recipes; eh, formulas.

Lynnae’s energy, geniality, and clarity are irresistibly endearing. She’s a social butterfly, too. After looking around the Hyatt for a place to eat, and finding nothing appealing to either of us, I suggested dining at the hotel. About an hour earlier, Lynnae told me about trying to beat back jet lag the previous night, her first; she snacked and sipped at the restaurant pub. Ha! The woman makes friends easily. She could have been a regular for years judging from the hand waves and by-name greetings received as we walked in together. 

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Amazon Across America

My first reaction to Amazon buying Whole Foods is “Huh?” Few brands could be any more different. The online retailer is all about giving customers the most for the least amount spent, while the grocer is the pricey purview of the alt-organic lifestyle elite. No moment is better metaphor for Whole Foods’ clientele than the exchange I heard between a thirtysomething couple standing at the deli holding chicken luncheon meat. “Is it free range?” the women asked her husband. It had to be, or she wouldn’t buy. They argued. I silently chuckled: luncheon meat—not a bird! It’s all pressed meat, Honey. You do know that?

But from another perspective, and one transcending retail store presence, are other considerations, like brand affinity and buyer demographics. For the first, Amazon may be all about value, but in an increasingly middle-class and well-to-do demographic kind of way, particularly among city dwellers. Despite sharing similar cut-throat margin, expansive business philosophies with Walmart, Amazon doesn’t carry the same stigma among the socially conscious “better-thans”. For the second, who do you think plunks down 99 bucks a year for Prime membership or can’t wait for two-day free delivery or is too busy to go to the store to buy groceries? Without hard numbers to back the supposition, I’d bet there is lots of existing and potential regular shopper overlap among these customers and those who walk Whole Foods’ aisles. 

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Pop Pie Art

After months of anticipation—mainly because construction seemed to go on forever—the Pop Pie Co. finally opened for business late-September 2016 here in San Diego’s University Heights neighborhood. Sometime later came the terrific art you see […]

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The Ring Returns

Yesterday, I put on my wedding ring for the first time in 13 years. The saga starts in January 2004, in an incident described in missive: “Man on the Train“. I got poison ivy—in Winter, no less—after giving a homeless guy money while riding the DC Metro. That was the suspected scenario from my then doctor, now retired, Gabe Mirkin, a well-known fitness physician whose office was around the block from our house. Dr. Mirkin surmised that the homeless dude had residue on his hands and clothes from sleeping outdoors. Brrrr.

I closed the blogpost recounting the incident: “My left hand is so swollen, today I may ask a jeweler to cut off my wedding ring”. And I did, returning to White Flint Mall, where was the store from which my wife and I bought matching gold bands in 1989. The shop had closed, but another jeweler expertly performed a clean hackjob. Whoa, color returned to my finger! White Flint is gone now, BTW. The upscale mall was torn down in summer 2015. WTH? 

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Sign of the Times

Two weeks ago, while walking around Hillcrest, my wife and I briefly stopped by the local, massive, used bookstore. To my surprise, the place was three-quarters emptied and going out of business. Yikes! I hadn’t shopped there for nearly a year, when purchasing a paperback for myself later given to my father-in-law. While 5th Avenue Books is gone, online counterpart Schrader’s Books will continue selling used titles through Amazon. As someone who almost exclusively reads ebooks, I occasionally—but, honestly, rarely—shopped out-of-prints not available in digital format, almost always finding the sought-after read.

That last purchase: The Past Through Tomorrow by Robert A. Heinlein, an old-time favorite selling for three bucks. When I first bought the anthology in high school, it came as a set with two other titles: Stranger in a Strange Land and Time Enough for Love. During the last year of my father-in-law’s life, reading became his main recreation. I donated the Heinlein title to that cause. Following the 95 year-old’s death nine weeks ago, I reclaimed the book to read and as remembrance. 

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How Did It Come to This?

Surely somewhere in the collapse of retailer American Apparel there is a metaphor appropriate for the policy platform put forth by Donald Trump. The President talks about bringing jobs back to the United States and renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement. Ironically, with AA, we see the demise of an iconic, hip “Made in the USA” brand, with its remaining assets being sold to Canadian-based Gildan. What’s up with that? Eh?

The Featured Image, and the pic following below the fold, tells a different story: Recent remembrance of another American Apparel, which allure popped pop culture’s cherry, for coolness and sex-appeal. On May 8, 2010, the retailer’s San Diego store held a rummage sale that drew long lines that wrapped around the block such that the end overlapped the beginning. I captured the moment with the Sigma DP2s. What a change in 7 years—and not just for the one clothier. Last year, local company Sports Chalet went out of business, around the same time as national chain Sports Authority. The Limited is shuttering all its stores, and Macy’s nearly 70. Should we blame China or, hehe, Amazon

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Amazon Books San Diego

My wife and I drove to Westfield UTC to walk around on this bright sunny day, and to reminisce. Soon after we moved to San Diego in late 2007, my daughter started skating at Ice Town (since renamed UTC Ice), which is inside the mall’s food court. There, Firefighters gave her a Santa’s hat on Christmas Eve, 2008. We hadn’t visited the La Jolla retail complex for at least six months, and I suspect much longer. Hehe, we missed out. In September 2016, the second Amazon Books store opened there. The first is in Seattle, and there is another in Portland, Oregon.

Eleven months ago, when Wall Street Journal broke Amazon’s plan to open the shops, I offered some good reasons why the strategy makes sense, even if it might seem nonsensical when bookstores are shutting around the nation— the online retailer’s Kindle ebook business being a major reason. I had no idea then, or until today, that San Diego was among the locations. UTC is a good choice. Amazon Books is diagonally across from Apple Store, in a mall that is very outdoor shopping/walking friendly and courts a clientele that would shop for titles they can hold and read; no device or screen required. 

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Apple Store, Bah Humbug

Apple sure knows how to keep its store stocked for the holidays. Ho, ho, ho, bah humbug. The shelves are bare, and you can get your must-have pretty thing some time next year. If you’re lucky. Let’s start with the delayed AirPods, which went on sale online last week. They arrived in stores on Monday, and whoosh were gone before the waiting line ended. My local shop had about 30 pairs. If you want them, first available retail pickup date is—cough, cough—February 8th. That is 2017. I had to confirm not 2018, because you never know with these dumbfounding delays. Straight-to-ship orders move your way in six weeks. Donald Trump will be president sooner!

Perhaps you’re pining for one of those pricey MacBook Pros—you know, the ones with Touch Bar that no sane person knows what to do with. Apple will miss Christmas, but you can still beat Martin Luther King’s birthday, with orders made today delivering sometime between January 4-10 or available for in-store pickup on the tenth. God Bless America and Made in China! 

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Apple Store Then and Now

Fifteen years ago today, the first Apple Store opened at Tysons Corner Center in McLean, Va. I was there, covering the event for CNET News. Four days earlier, then CEO Steve Jobs briefed journalists—bloggers, bwahaha, no—across the way at upper-scale Tysons Galleria. Most of us thought his scheme was kind of nuts, as did analysts, and news stories reflected the sentiment. Recession gripped the country and rival Gateway was in process of shuttering more than 400 retail shops. Timing was madness.

But companies that take big risks during economic downturns are most likely to reap rewards later. Retail would be Apple’s third walk across the tightrope during 2001. The others: iTunes (January); OS X (March); iPod (October). I’ve said before that these four are foundation for all the company’s successes that followed, including iPhone. But 15 years ago, battling the Wintel duopoly with less than 2 percent global PC market share, Jobs figuratively walked a tightrope across the Grand Canyon carrying original Macintoshes in each arm.