March 27, 2014

Brookstone

Click here - Brookstone / Bankruptcy.

A couple of things.

First, we have to stop blaming the economy. Can we all agree that what happened in 2008 was awful? Can we all agree that the economy never came back? Good. Now that we agree, is it not our job, as business leaders, to find a way to persevere, to grow?

I mean, how is it that Amazon exploded during a time when the economy was awful? How do companies like Nordstrom survive and thrive at at time when what you buy at Nordstrom could be bought anywhere, especially online? Why isn't anybody at Nordstrom complaining about the economy?

It's also time to stop blaming crippling debt levels. Have you ever looked at Nordstrom's debt levels? If they took a hit in merchandise productivity, their debt levels would be considered "crippling". Debt cripples when sales crumble. Debt is a symptom of poor management. Can't afford a new store? Tack on some debt. Sell to private equity? You're going to tack on some debt. When you stop being a merchandiser, and start being an asset, you're going to tack on some debt - debt allows somebody to get paid. When you stop being a merchandiser, sales will crumble. When sales crumble, debt cripples.

Give this ditty from ROI (Retail Online Integration) a read (click here) ... it details the keynote that Brookstone gave at the recent NEMOA Spring Conference. There's a quote in the article from Brookstone's CEO that I find interesting
  • "The goal of every marketing effort is to create hyper relevancy."
There are a lot of companies that are not declaring bankruptcy - at many of those companies, the goal of every marketing effort is to create awareness that generates profit.

Maybe the quote says something about the state of modern marketing, and the relationship between modern marketing and company profit.

I attended the Brookstone session at NEMOA. The session started with the CEO projected on a robotic LCD monitor that waltzed down an aisle toward the speaker podium, just like the Big Bang Theory episode that featured a virtual Sheldon Cooper. It was a neat stunt, and it featured an innovative product. But Microsoft has innovative products, too - their tablet devices are arguably better than any other tablet out there. Innovative products do not guarantee profit.

It's easy to blame the economy and crippling debt. It's hard to align innovation with customer needs. That's the job of a brilliant merchandiser. It's time for all of us to prioritize brilliant merchandising over attribution models, omnichannel, social media, and catalogs. It's time to stop cheerleading "hyper relevancy" when what we need, quite honestly, is "hyper profitability".

Is this about Brookstone? No. This is about you. I'm using Brookstone as a metaphor for where we are all headed if we don't focus on what is important. Our industry has been teased ... teased into believing that we can use magic to generate business, that merchandise is not important. Merchandise means everything.