Friday, November 25, 2011

944 Black Friday

944 Black Friday

This is that day.  This tough- to- understand and awkward phrase applies to the Friday after Thanksgiving when retailers say they stop using red ink and start using black on their ledgers (do any of them use ink, or have ledgers for that matter?)  Seems hard to imagine that they have to go well into the eleventh month of any given year to turn a buck.  But that’s what they claim.

Here are some store reviews and comments, a little something to read on line as you wait to check out of MegaMart:

What hurts Best Buy:  diminished customer service.  Diminished need for and availability of expert floor help as people become more knowledgeable about electronics and shift to Costco and its siblings and to, and Newegg.  BBY is not always competitive on major appliance prices or selection.

Radio Shack:  probably gets a boost from its recently renewed affiliation with Verizon, especially where their other cell phone carriers (A&TT, Sprint) have inferior signals. But overall, they're in trouble from the same competitors as BBY and because there's almost no margin in some of the small stuff they sell.

What hurts mall Jewelers (Kay, Gordon’s, etc.) overpriced, complex conditions in their warranties.  Increased competition from TV shopping channels (primarily the smaller ones, JTV and ShopNBC.)

Macy's:  the last traditional national mid-price full line department store chain standing.  They have a pricing policy that seems completely unrelated to their costs, which means some things there have to be overpriced to make up for all the cutting they do in clothing and accessories.   They've recently ended their contract with the outfit that leased the better jewelry department and have started running it themselves, an improvement.

Look for a reasonably good holiday results from the high-end chains, Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, Saks, Lord & Taylor, Neiman Marcus.  Saks just was hit with a pretty big price-per-foot increase at its Fifth Avenue flagship store.  You know who’s going to pay for that.

What hurts Wal-Mart: bad front ends. Checking out is slower than almost anywhere else on earth.  (City and suburban CVS, Rite-Aid, Walgreen and Duane Reade locations are worse.)   Wal-Mart is a store of last resort.

Sam’s Club, the Wal-Mart- owned answer to the unfortunately-named B.J.’s Wholesale Club and Costco suffers from the same slow checkout and carries less stuff than its competitors.

Costco benefits from consistently good Consumer Reports Magazine ratings of its house brands.

Target:  trying to promote itself as low priced and fashionable non-Wal-Mart Wal-Mart.  People are attracted to logical displays and decent checkout.  Target is going big into groceries, an iffy, low-margin, high shrinkage area.

TJMaxx & Marshalls:  TJs are better run than jointly owned Marshalls, and both are more upscale than prime competitor, Ross.  

Bed Bath:  overpriced, and a bad stop for claustrophobic shoppers.  Sloppy front end.

Sears:  Eddie Lampert hasn't killed it yet.  But wait until there's a rebound in real estate and they and K-mart are gone with the wind.  Sears-owned Lands' End probably will survive because of its huge loyal customer base.  But it’s being hurt, by year-round free shipping from LL Bean, and smart merchandising from the other Eddie, Bauer.  Sears still is a good place to buy tools and major appliances.  Consumer Reports loves their Kenmore brand.  Some Kenmore owners and repair people don’t and shouldn’t.  They sell plenty of good name brands alongside their own.

Furniture:  Buy floor models or stuff that’s in the warehouse and that you’ve personally inspected.  Don’t order anything from anybody. Period. Inspect your purchase before it leaves the truck and if unacceptable, don’t accept delivery.

Craft stores:  You want to solve the terrorism problem?  Lock the suspects up in one of these places for a couple of hours and they’ll confess to anything. No water board required (or included.)

Not recommended: K-Mart (prices, quality,) Lowe’s (limited selection in all but the largest units,)  Old Navy (unless you’re looking for wear-once-throw-away,) Dollar General (see K-Mart.)  Pay-Less Shoes (see Dollar General,)  GNC (same kind of stuff is available at the big box discounters or any drug store and comes with a whole lot less theatrical b.s. plus you’ll pay much less.) Any candle shop, Pier One, Bath & Body Works (see “Air,” below.)

Air:  Newer stores and many malls are generally badly ventilated, reason enough to stay away and shop on line unless you don’t mind breathing stale air and fabric particles.  Many also are overheated and alternately over-cooled.  Some older buildings share this problem, but not all of them.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2011

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