Thursday, March 31, 2005

keepin' it clean

Here is Thursday's Roanoke Times column. I thought the visual treatment left something to be desired, but it was presented pretty much how I wrote it. I thought the column was going to run every week, but it looks more like twice a month now.

Saks for Sale

Speculation is that Saks Inc. is on the market, and its Saks Fifth Ave. property as well

Saks Inc. (Birmingham, Ala.) has put its regional department stores up for sale, according to executives close to the company, and is also considering selling its crown jewel, the Saks Fifth Avenue chain.

According to a report in this morning’s New York Times, the Saks board has hired the investment banks Goldman Sachs and Citigroup to “explore strategic alternatives” for its properties.

While the board had initially expected to sell only its 241 regional department stores (Parisian, McRae’s and Carson Pirie Scott, among others), in recent days several suitors have evidently inquired about buying the 62-store Saks Fifth Avenue chain, prompting directors to consider putting the entire business up for sale.

The Times said Saks Inc. ceo Brad Martin is known to be eager to sell some assets to take advantage of the high premiums that department stores have been fetching. Because of the momentum of the luxury market and the value of real estate leases, analysts said the company might bring at least $3 billion.

The most likely candidate to buy the department store group was said to be Belk’s, a mid-level regional department store group based in Charlotte, N.C. But The Times noted that private equity firms have been frantically patrolling the retail industry lately. Among those said to be looking at Saks are the Blackstone Group, the Apollo Group, Bain Capital and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts. With luxury retailing still booming, the prospect of a Saks Fifth Avenue sale would be enticing to a number of these firms, which are also looking at Neiman Marcus.

In March, Neiman Marcus (Dallas) announced it had hired Goldman Sachs to put that company up for bids. Last month, Federated Department Stores (Cincinnati) paid $11 billion for the May Department Stores Company (St. Louis). Only nine months ago, May paid Target Corp. (Minneapolis) $3.2 billion for its Marshall Field’s department store chain, a price many considered more than the chain was worth.

“It’s the perfect time to sell,” Burt Flickinger III, managing director of the Strategic Resource Group, a retail consulting firm, told The Times. “The market will not be higher in the foreseeable future.”

Last month, same-store sales at the Saks Department Store Group were up only 0.9 percent. Saks Fifth Avenue sales, on the other hand, were up 7.1 percent.

Attorney Johnnie Cochran dead at 67

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Famed attorney Johnnie Cochran, 67, perhaps best known for his defense of O.J. Simpson, died Tuesday at his home in Los Angeles. Apparently, Cochran was suffering from a neurological disorder. Full story at CNN.

Thank you to The Hermit (Therese) for posting this on her blog :)

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

on the (adidas) one | in person

I finally saw the much heralded adidas 1 computerized running shoe in person yesterday. It was at Dick's Sporting Goods in SouthPark and it was really cool. I did not get a chance to inquire about sizing, but at $250.00 per pair it's out of my price range anyway.

For more on how the new techno-shoe works, check out my previous post.

Macy's TV Ads Raise Fears of Marshall Field’s Name Change

Chicago - March 28 - Recent television ads promoting Macy’s to Chicago-area viewers have raised fears that the Marshall Field’s nameplate may change to Macy’s.

New Marshall Field’s owner Federated denies that the rumors have any real basis, saying publicly that the ads aren’t necessarily specific to each market and that it will be six to eight months before the future of the Marshall Field’s name is known.

The ads started appearing on the same day that Federated replaced the names of local department store institutions like Burdines, Goldsmith’s, Lazarus and Rich’s with the Macy’s name. Federated earlier had hyphenated the local stores’ names with Macy’s.

They’re in Chevy Chase and You’re Not

Barneys New York has announced it will open its eighth and largest Barneys New York Co-Op store at The Collection at Chevy Chase Center (Chevy Chase, Md.).

The 11,400-square-foot store is scheduled to open in fall of 2005. It will be the fourth Co-Op store opened by Barneys New York this year, following ones in the Lincoln Park section of Chicago, Atlanta and Costa Mesa, Calif.

“As part of the growth strategy of the Barneys New York brand, we continue to seek opportunities to grow our Co-Op concept in the appropriate markets throughout the country,” said Barneys chairman and ceo Howard Socol.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Avoid sore feet - buy the right sneakers for your sport

By Laura O'Reilly, Special to the Daily Record, Parsippany, N.J.

What: Purchasing shoes for specific sports and activities.

Why: Buying sneakers is not as simple as it used to be when canvas Keds were all we had to choose from. Sporting goods stores stock aisles of sneakers in assorted styles for several different uses.

All sneakers provide traction and support, but different sports have different requirements. Basketball sneakers provide extra ankle support for sudden movements. Running shoes provide cushioning for shock absorption. Cross trainers are designed for a variety of uses such as aerobics classes and walking and running, and are useful when combining a weight workout with an aerobic workout.

Know your feet: Don't be enticed by the latest trend and buy a sneaker based on fashion instead of practical purposes. Make sure they are wide enough for your feet and that they provide proper support. People with high arches are prone to ankle injuries and require extra shock absorption. Flat feet require less cushion, and better support.

If you have supinated feet, your shoes will wear out most on the outside of the heel and the forefoot. Pronated feet wear out mostly on the inside of the forefoot. There are various designs for the different shapes of feet.

Try before you buy: Wear comfortable socks and try the shoes on both feet. Take a walk around the store in the sneakers. If they do not feel comfortable do not buy them. Attempting to break them in may result in blistered feet. Some specialty running stores allow patrons to leave the store and run around outside to get a real feel for the shoe.

Replacing the old: When sneakers wear down they should be replaced to avoid injuries, especially to the knees and ankles. Do not wear running shoes or sports specific shoes for hanging around or walking. Rotating your shoes saves on wear, tear and expenses. Running shoes usually have to be replaced every 400 miles (or every six months if you run approximately 15 miles a week). Although they may seem to be in good condition on the outside, when the midsoles wear down, the sneakers lose shock absorbency and support.

Guidelines for buying sneakers:

- Make sure they fit well

- Try sneakers on at the end of the day when feet are more swollen.

- Shop at an athletic shoe store with a large inventory, so there is an adequate selection for your foot type.

- Look for knowledgeable staff. Avid runners and athletes understand the right fit and type of shoe.

- Try shoes on both feet and take a walk/run around the store in them. If they rub or feel tight, they are not the right shoes for you.

- Look for a shoe that has a comfortable width without your heel slipping out. Adjustable laces help with the fit

- Don't overspend. If you are not a competitive sportsperson, it is not necessary to have the most high tech shoe on the market. Technology is always changing and the hot $170 shoe of today, may not be the top pick three months down the road. There is no need to skimp either. Quality materials and workmanship improve sneaker performance. With discount sales, it is possible to buy good sneakers in the $35-$75 price range.

Laura O'Reilly is a certified personal trainer and nutrition consultant. To submit questions contact the Daily Record at 800 Jefferson Road, Parsippany, N.J. 07054, or

Monday, March 28, 2005

alex bugnon is coming to greensboro

Contemporary jazz keyboard player Alex Bugnon, nephew of trumpeter Donald Byrd, grew up going to the Montreux Jazz Festival in his hometown in Switzerland. He attended the Paris Conservatory of Music for two years, then moved to the U.S. and went to the Berklee School of Music, meanwhile performing as an accompanist to gospel groups. He spent four years working as a session musician in New York, backing urban and jazz performers such as Patti Austin, Freddie Jackson, James Ingram, and Keith Sweat.

Alex will be performing in Greensboro at the Carolina Theatre on April 15 at 8:00 PM. Tickets are $37.00 and are available at the box office or online.

Find out more about Alex at To listen to a sample off his new album, please click here.

It’s Official: Kmart + Sears

Shareholders agree on merger, transaction is completed

Kmart Holding Corp. (Troy, Mich.) and Sears, Roebuck and Co. (Hoffman Estates, Ill.) have announced the completion of the merger transaction first announced on Nov. 17, 2004. The two retailing giants will combine into a new retail company named Sears Holdings Corp.

It will be the nation’s third-largest retailer with approximately $55 billion in annual revenues and a national footprint of nearly 3500 retail stores in the United States (including 2350 full-line and off-mall stores, and 1100 specialty retail stores). It will be headquartered in Hoffman Estates, but each party will continue to operate separately under their respective brand names and Kmart will continue to have a presence in Michigan.

Starting March 28, 2005, Sears Holdings stock will be listed for trading on the Nasdaq National Market under the ticker symbol “SHLD.”

Edward Lampert, chairman of Sears Holdings, said, “This new enterprise will seek to leverage the combined strengths of Sears and Kmart to create greater long-term value than either could have generated on a stand-alone basis. Sears Holdings plans to offer customers a new, more compelling shopping experience with a differentiated and expanded product range. We believe Sears Holdings has the potential to be a great company with a truly great retail business.”

Alan Lacy, vice chairman and ceo of the new entity, said, “This combination accelerates Sears’ off-mall strategy and gives customers a complete, convenient shopping solution. Shoppers will have greater access to the leading proprietary brands of both Kmart and Sears, along with financial services products and the industry’s leading service organization. With a national store base of nearly 3500 stores, we expect to be able to leverage our scale and strategically grow the business.”

The combined new company will include the best of both brands: Sears’ strength as a home appliance retailer and a leader in tools, lawn and garden, home electronics and automotive repair and maintenance and the combined key proprietary brands including Kenmore, Craftsman and DieHard, Lands’ End, Jaclyn Smith, Joe Boxer, Apostrophe, Covington and Martha Stewart Everyday.

Crowded House Drummer Hester Found Dead

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) -- The drummer from popular 1980s Australian rock band Crowded House hanged himself in a park in southern Australia, an emergency services spokeswoman said Monday. Paul Hester, 46, failed to return home after taking his two dogs for a walk on Friday night.

The drummer's body was later found in a park near his home in the southern city of Melbourne.

Metropolitan Ambulance Service spokeswoman Liraje Memishi said ambulance officers arrived on the scene shortly after midday Saturday and reported that Hester had "attempted suicide" and suffered strangulation.

Officers declared Hester dead more than 20 minutes later, Memishi said.

"They attempted resuscitation but he was dead when they arrived. There was nothing they could do," she said.

Memishi said she could not confirm where Hester's body was found, but reports have suggested he was discovered hanging from a tree.

Hester played in several small bands before joining the New Zealand group Split Enz in 1983. He and Split Enz singer Neil Finn formed Crowded House in 1985 with bass player Nick Seymour.

Crowded House was one of Australia's most successful bands in the late 1980s and early 1990s, with international hits such as "Don't Dream it's Over" and "Weather with You."

Currently touring in London, Finn mourned the loss of his one-time band member.

"I am deeply saddened by the loss of a close friend," Finn told The Daily Telegraph.

Hester is survived by his girlfriend Mardi Sommerfield and their two daughters aged 8 and 10.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Happy Easter!

todd martin, aia

I am proud to announce that my friend Todd Martin is now a licensed architect in the state of Virginia. He told me in an email tonight "It only took me 6 1/2 years after graduation to finally start taking the damn thing. Thankfully, I passed all sections on my first try. It was kind of a pain, but it wasn't too bad. "

Not bad at all, Todd. Congratulations and good luck.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Gap store to become outlet

Paul Dellinger

CHRISTIANSBURG - The Gap clothing store, which opened about five years ago in the New River Valley Mall, closed today but will reopen within months in a new incarnation.

Interior changes will be carried out for six to eight weeks, converting it into a Gap Outlet store. Gap Outlets are stores that sell Gap labels including Old Navy and Banana Republic at lower prices.

Much of the Gap merchandise had been offered at sale prices before the store closed.

The first Gap store opened in California in 1969. It acquired Banana Republic in 1983, and opened its first overseas store, in London, in 1987. The first Gap Outlet opened its doors in 1994.

Police say 12-year-old attacked Easter Bunny at mall in Bay City

BAY CITY, Mich. (AP) -- The Easter Bunny is hopping mad.

Bryan Johnson, who portrays the furry character at the Bay City Mall, says he was pummeled in an unprovoked attack on the job. Police say the attacker was a 12-year-old boy who sat on Johnson's lap the day before the March 18 incident.

Johnson, 18, suffered a bloody nose. He kept his cool during the attack, deeming it inappropriate for the Easter Bunny to fight back. But he's not willing to forgive and forget.

"They (the sheriff's deputies) told me it was up to me, and I feel that the boy should be prosecuted," Johnson told The Bay City Times.

Johnson told Bay County Sheriff's deputies that the boy hit him in the face at least six times before running away.

Bay County Sheriff John E. Miller said the youth has been in trouble in the past. The case will be forwarded to the Bay County prosecutor's office next week for action, he said.

Johnson, meanwhile, is back on the job at the mall, where he had been working as the Easter Bunny for about a week before the attack. The Bridgeport resident says he took the job to help support his girlfriend and 3-month-old daughter.

"I just like getting the kids to laugh and have fun," he said. His job is to get his picture taken with children and make them laugh. That can be difficult because he is not allowed to speak while in costume.

Still, Johnson is fairly successful at getting the children to smile.

In fact, his 12-year-old attacker seemed perfectly happy the day before the incident, Johnson said.

"Yeah, he came up and said, 'Hi,' and was sitting on my lap and talking," Johnson said. "He seemed OK."

But when he saw Johnson the next day, the boy didn't want to talk.

"He just started hitting," Johnson said.

Friday, March 25, 2005

a letter to the editor

The column didn't run this week, but I did get a Letter to the Editor published. It's on the new Art Museum of Western Virginia, which is something out of this world design-wise, especially for Roanoke.

Just Past Midnight, the Game Is in Hand

By MATT RICHTEL, The New York Times

SAN FRANCISCO, March 24 - Cheers erupting around him, Richard Roth stared into the glare of camera lights with the grin of an Olympic champion. He raised his arms, holding over his head his trophy: a new portable gaming device called the Sony PlayStation Portable, or PSP.

Across the nation's time zones, the gadgets went on sale at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, and Mr. Roth, 23, a supervisor in a local PetsMart, was at the head of the purchase line at the Sony Metreon complex. He had waited for 40 hours on the sidewalk outside, and the fact that he was exhausted and his wallet $271 (including tax) lighter mattered little at his moment of glory.

"I just wanted to be first," he said.

Which was precisely Sony's point, as it engaged in what has become a favorite tactic of marketers in various lines of business: hyping a new product by making it available when most people are in bed, and acting like those slumbering are missing out.

Retailing specialists note that the off-hour shopping extravaganza, at midnight or the crack of dawn, has been used to bring out cultish consumers for films ("Star Wars," "The Passion of the Christ"), shoes (Air Jordan high-tops), video games (Halo 2) and books (Harry Potter books).

"It's become a much more utilized marketing tool over the last three or four years," said Wendy Liebmann, president of WSL Strategic Retail, a marketing consulting firm in New York. The message retailers want to send, she said, is: "This is for aficionados. If you're serious, we're serious."

In the case of the Sony PSP, the nation's video game specialty stores opened their doors at midnight to start selling to Americans a gadget introduced last December in Japan. Sony said it hoped by the end of the weekend to sell the available one million units of the hand-held PSP, which lets people play games, watch movies and listen to music.

The San Francisco event tried to combine the aura of New Year's Eve and the Oscars with the urgency of meeting the income tax deadline. Across the street from the Sony Metreon, a retail and theater complex operated by the company, an enormous replica of a PSP hung on the side of a parking garage, displaying a clock that counted down the seconds until midnight.

Some 400 consumers stood in line. Most of them, unlike the zealous Mr. Roth, had been waiting only a few hours. But all basked in the glare of television lights, some from local television, some from Sony's own publicity department.

When they were at last let inside, a throng of Sony employees cheered the first customers as if they were conquering heroes.

And to the victors went the spoils of a black stretch limousine provided by Sony, which waited out front to whisk Mr. Roth and his friend, Jossle Sison, 18, (the second person to buy a PSP) to their homes.

The honor of selling the first PSP to Mr. Roth went to Jack Tretton, a 43-year-old executive vice president for Sony Computer Entertainment's North America unit. Mr. Tretton said the midnight marketing gimmick provided great free publicity.

By opening the doors at midnight on Thursday, the product's long-planned release date, Mr. Tretton said Sony was telling its customers, "You've waited patiently, we will not make you wait another minute."

Mr. Tretton also played up the idea that customers who did not buy in the first hours or days might miss out on getting a PSP in this first allotment. That prospect, at least, was not pure hype, given that Sony has had trouble meeting demand for PSP's in Japan.

And to the great chagrin of retailers in the United States, Sony had trouble filling orders over Christmas for its PlayStation 2 game console, which is used in connection with a TV set.

"There's definitely scarcity," Mr. Tretton said, referring to the PSP. "That aspect is real." After the first one million are sold, the company will have no more units available in this country until May, he said.

By shortly after noon Thursday, the Sony Metreon had sold its allotment of more than 500 PSP's. Later in the day, the store was waiting for an additional shipment and people were lining up again.

The previous midnight, Nate Sanders, standing across the street from the Metreon, remained unseduced. Mr. Sanders, 53, one of several homeless San Franciscans hanging out in the neighborhood, said that people waiting in line to buy a video game "have their priorities distorted."

"It'd be something to be first at voter registration, or to push civil rights," Mr. Sanders said as a light rain began to fall, noting that he was trying to raise $30 to stay at a hotel. "They have a head-in-the-sand syndrome."

Across the street, a line of people with more discretionary incomes began to move with precision through the checkout line. The majority seemed to be men in their 20's and 30's. Many acknowledged being veterans of off-hours shopping routine.

"I've done it for sneakers, the PlayStation 2, films, and now I'm in line for a device that will change the portable market," said Mike Jeffries, 23, who works in product testing at Genentech, a biotechnology company. Mr. Jeffries said that being in the first-to-buy club provided a chance to bond with other enthusiasts while showing a true commitment to a new product.

To buy without late-night sacrifice, he said, "is like getting the girl without the chase."

Before stepping into the limousine, Mr. Roth hefted his new PSP box and contemplated the future. When the PlayStation 3 hits the market sometime next year, he said he planned to get in line even earlier.

"I'm going to beat my record," he said.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Shareholders Approve Sears-Kmart Merger

The late, great Sears Roebuck & Co. store at SouthPark mall, Charlotte, North Carolina (outisthorough)

Chicago - March 24 - It’s official. Shareholders of Sears, Roebuck and Co. and Kmart Holding Corp. approved the merger of the two companies. Sears Holdings stock is expected to start trading on the Nasdaq National Market under the ticker symbol “SHLD” on March 28.

Kmart chairman Edward S. Lampert said: “The combination of Kmart and Sears will create a leading retailer, and we expect will provide heightened value for our customers, associates and shareholders. Sears Holdings will have an enviable stable of proprietary brands, strong points of distribution and enhanced growth opportunities.”

Lampert also denied reports that the company was interested in selling its Lands’ End division.

Almost 70% of shares outstanding approved the $12.3 billion merger.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Popular shoe spawns odd behavior

Jordan brand celebrates milestone
By Arize Ifejita

After the Saturday release date of the Air Jordan Retro 13, the recent celebration of the 20-year anniversary of Michael Jordan's first sneaker, as well as the Air Jordan XX recently released in mid-February, fans and consumers of "His Airness" are beginning to question many things.

In a time where many feel the effects of supply and demand, manufacturing companies are not helping the consumers.

Due to the increased popularity of his shoes and the lack of supply, the craze for Air Jordan sneakers and apparel has grown.

Buyers of all ages have been known to do a number of unorthodox things on the days leading up to and on the day of his sneaker release dates.

Students skip school and parents or older fans take off work to wait in front of the mall hours before it opens to buy the shoes for themselves, their children, their significant others or all of the above.

Some even order the shoes online before the sun comes up.

As people impatiently wait for the day to come, others wonder why?

Why is there so much chaos about the launching of a shoe?

Why is there so much hype about the shoe of a player who does not even play anymore?

The responses vary from students, to shoe store employees who help sell the sneaker, to everyday people who buy or don't buy them.

"Jordan is the best basketball player to ever live, and there has yet to be another one like him," said Ted Daniels, a third-year business administration student from Washington. "Bron Bron (LeBron James) is the closest one."

Daniels admitted he has done some wild things on release day, but he said he didn't get the 20s and he doesn't plan on getting the 13s.

As for LeBron James, he has the endorsements and the fans, but he lacks the sales.

The December 2004 edition of Sports Illustrated said that collectively, James' first two sneakers sold only 68 percent of what Jordan's first two sold, and 24 percent of what Jordan's last two sold.

Teresa Harris, assistant manager of the Finish Line in Tallahassee Mall, said though she couldn't give specific sale numbers, Jordan sneakers always beat out it's competition by far.

"I personally think that it's because he's the greatest basketball player ever. And with the retro sneakers, people had them before and want them again."

Retro sneakers are sneakers that were previously released, and were re-released years later.

Since retiring in 2002, Jordan has lost consumers. Many feeling that since his career ended, so should the purchasing of his sneakers.

"Without Jordan playing anymore, there isn't the same hype that there was in the past," said Marques Bivins, a third-year business administration student from Temple Hills, Md.

Some even find ways to get the shoes weeks before the release date.

Mitch Brooks, a third-year business administration student from Washington, D.C. is one of them.

"To me, it's about the legacy more than anything. Jordan is a black icon. His shoes are an extension of him," Brooks said. "Growing up; the frenzy came from not only MJ, but also people in the neighborhood, big brothers, sisters and cousins. They were stars to us. They put Jordans on the map."

And as for why Brooks got the shoes early, "I'm a trend setter," he said. "By the time everyone gets them I'll be on the new ones."

Rodney Dubose, a computer science student from Bowie, Md. is also a Jordan fan.

He said he has near 30 pairs of Jordans. He buys all his online.

However, he said he did not purchase the 20s.

As for the release day craze he says, "I can see why, (Jordan) has 20 shoes, a team of athletes who wear his shoes, shoes for every sport, and he's the best of all time."

Monday, March 21, 2005

kevin and the superstars

The adidas Superstar 35th Anniversary City Editions

As a sneaker collector and a recovering shopaholic, I’ve made some pretty large sneaker purchases in the past. I have nothing on my friend Kevin. Yesterday, he found a cache of 35th anniversary Adidas Superstar shoes at Journeys in Greensboro.

For those that don’t know, Adidas has collaborated with artists, musicians and paid tribute to a number of cities with specially designed versions of the shell-toed basketball shoes. Some of the 35 designs are limited to production runs of only 300 pairs and some range as high as 3,000. All of the designs are highly coveted and are hard to find, which makes the appearance of 4 styles in an otherwise nondescript mall store in Greensboro something close to remarkable.

Kevin was able to find the New York, Boston, black embossed, and graphic versions at Journeys in his size. He asked me which ones he should guess, and I told him to decide for himself. So he ended up buying all four of them!

Although I don’t think I would have bought all of the shoes, he is making a decent investment. Each of the shoes is selling for double its retail price online and his size is popular enough that if he ever had to sell, he could probably get even more than that.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Carolina Circle Mall (Greensboro, NC) photos now online

I took some pictures of the very dead Carolina Circle Mall (1976-2002) in Greensboro, NC and posted them online at my photo site. The picture above is of the very funky Montgomery Ward store that was there until the mall's bitter end.

View Carolina Circle Mall, Greensboro, NC

I coudn't include a description on Yahoo! Photos, so here's what the photos are:

1. Left to right; former Belk, upper level mall entrance, former Ivey's/Dillard's

2. Left to right; former Belk, upper level mall entrance, former Ivey's/Dillard's, alternate angle

3. Former Ivey's/Dillard's at left, former Montgomery Ward at right.

4. Former Montgomery Ward auto center, across the street from the mall.

5. Former Montgomery Ward, showing upper level side entrances.

6. Former Montgomery Ward, showing upper level front entrances, former Ivey's/Dillard's is on the left.

7. Former Montgomery Ward, showing lower level entrances, loading docks and garden center.

8. Rear of the mall, with Montgomery Ward garden center at left, Belk at right.

9. Rear of the mall, with Montgomery Ward in the background.

10. Former Belk, showing lower level entrance and the garden center. The rest of the mall is on the left.

11. Former Belk, showing lower level entrance and the garden center at center of photo. The rest of the mall is in the background.

12. Former Belk, showing upper and level entrances.

Here's some music for your journey: Sun Goddess -- Ramsey Lewis with Earth Wind & Fire. I call this “the Carolina Circle song” because it reminds me of Carolina Circle Mall, which, like this song, was very, very ‘70s. Listen


This is what the new Art Museum of Western Virginia is going to look like. Roanoke will never be the same.

my irish name is...

Your Irish Name Is...

Eoin Sheehan

Friday, March 18, 2005

Nike Introduces Product Line For Wal-Mart

Nike's new Starter brand performance sneakers will debut at 400 Wal-Mart stores in the US next month. (Associated Press photo)

BEAVERTON, Ore. -- Sneaker giant Nike is making its first foray into the world of discount chains.

The Beaverton, Ore.-based company is launching a new sneaker line at retail giant Wal-Mart.

The new line, produced by Nike subsidiary Exeter Brand Group, will be the first sneakers offered by Bentonville-based Wal-Mart for athletic use, as opposed to casual wear.

The shoes will be marketed under the Starter brand. They will retail for $40 and will be available in 400 stores starting next week.

Nike has long wrestled with how to reach the millions of budget-minded consumers who shop at discount chains.

How high can they go?

For $250, a microchip-equipped sneaker offers customized cushioning adjustment

By Andrea K. Walker
Baltimore Sun Staff

Michael Jordan proved early on that people are willing to dish out big bucks for the right sneakers. Twenty years after their creation - and two years after Jordan retired from playing basketball - his Nike Air Jordans still sell for as much as $200.

Now, Adidas is about to take the athletic shoe to higher ground.

The German athletic apparel manufacturer plans to introduce in stores today a $250 running sneaker it calls the Smart Shoe.

The Adidas-1 is gaining attention as the first of its kind to use an embedded computer chip that adjusts the cushioning of the shoe based on a runner's weight, speed and running terrain.

The product might cause as much a stir over price as over its technology. It's one of the most expensive sneakers ever to hit the market.

"It's going to be head and shoulders the most expensive shoe out there," said Tim Taylor, a footwear associate at Dick's Sporting Goods in Columbia.

The $16 billion athletic shoe market has rapidly expanded as consumers buy sneakers to make a fashion statement as much as they do for athletic performance.

A new generation of basketball stars led by LeBron James, Kevin Garnett and Baltimore native Carmelo Anthony have replaced endorsement celebrities of the past.

Even old-style, canvas sneakers such as Converse Inc.'s Chuck Taylors have made a comeback. About 493 million pairs of athletic shoes were sold last year, up nearly 5 percent from 471 million pairs sold in 2003, according to NPD Group/NPD Fashionworld, a research firm in New York.

Although consumers have shown they are willing to pay a pretty penny for footwear, some question how big the market is for a shoe that costs as much as some car payments.

"I just think that a $250 price point is a price that is really out there," said Neil Schwartz, director of marketing for SportScan INFO, a Florida market research firm that collects data for the sporting goods industry. "I'm not sure the amount of money spent will equal the advantage of the technology in the shoe."

The average running shoe costs about $55 a pair, according to SportsScan data. Working in Adidas' favor is the growing demand for higher-priced running shoes. Sales of shoes that cost more than $75 grew 20 percent last year, and running shoes are the largest-selling category of athletic shoe.

"People are spending more on a sneaker than ever before," said Mike May, spokesman for the Florida-based Sporting Goods Manufacturing Association, a trade group. "They're realizing that technology-wise, you're getting more support, more longevity, more style, more comfort and more diversity of color than ever before."

"People pay $50,000 for automobiles," he said. "There's not a reason why they won't pay $250 for a sneaker."

Stephen Pierpoint, an Adidas project manager, said the new shoe took four years of development to bring to market. The price is justified by the value of the innovative technology, he said.

Demand has been high, he said, and Adidas has surpassed its goal for the number of shoes it wanted in stores on its launch date.

The shoe's sensor works by measuring the distance to a small magnet at the bottom of the shoe, taking 1,000 readings a second. A small microprocessor capable of making 5 million calculations per second processes the information. The shoe then adapts with a motor-driven cable system that spins at 6,000 rpm - faster than the blades of a helicopter. The motor then gradually adjusts the cushioning of the shoe.

"It's the most advanced sporting shoe on the market," Pierpoint said. "There is not another product that exists like this."

The company expects early buyers to be avid runners or shoppers who like to stay ahead of the trends. The company has released the shoe in selected stores around the country.

Baltimore-based Downtown Locker Room had hoped to get the shoe at one of its 42 stores but wasn't one of Adidas' selected sites.

"There's no question it would be great for us," said Todd Kirssin, divisional merchandise manager of footwear for the athletic apparel store, which owns stores from Maryland to North Carolina. "If we could get it, we would blow out of it."

Kirssin predicts the shoe will attract more than just serious runners.

"It will have a much broader appeal," Kirssin said. "This would be something for the techie kids. Plus, people like to have something that's so limited. Our customer likes to have things first."

The Columbia location of Dick's Sporting Goods has received 25 pairs and expects it to sell pretty well, but Taylor acknowledged that the price might too steep for some customers. Taylor is a runner, but he won't be buying the shoe.

"I think once the word gets around, people will buy it," Taylor said. "I'm not going to spend $250, but it's a great concept."

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Neiman Marcus Considers Sale of Company

Dallas - March 16, 2005

The Neiman Marcus Group, Inc. today said it is considering selling the company as a strategic alternative to enhance shareholder value. The company added that it would not disclose details about its exploration of this or other strategic alternatives until the board has approved a transaction. The Group, which includes specialty retailers Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman, is retaining Goldman Sachs & Co. as the financial advisor in this endeavor.

Lands’ End Reportedly on the Block

New York City - March 15, 2005

Sears, Roebuck and Co. is seeking a buyer for its Lands’ End division at an asking price below the $1.9 billion it paid in 2002, according to a report in Women’s Wear Daily (WWD).

Citing financial sources in the mergers and acquisition community, WWD said that Sears had put a price of $1.2 billion on Lands’ End in presentations it made to a few select companies and individuals.

Texas Pacific Group, majority stakeholder of J. Crew, is one of those said to be interested in the company, WWD reported.

Also named was David Dyer, president and chief executive of Tommy Hilfiger Corp., and former president and CEO of Lands’ End.

Both Tommy Hilfiger and Texas Pacific Group declined to comment. Sears, whose shareholders are set to vote on its proposed merger with Kmart Holding Corp. on March 24, also declined to comment.

Phat Fashion Philosophy

Birmingham News staff writer

While you can barely get to work without spilling tepid coffee on your shirt, hip-hop royalty holds forth on the 'hood's influence on couture during his morning commute.

"The ideas that come from the streets are the ones that pay the bills in Paris," said uberfounder Russell Simmons, he of Def Jam Recordings, film, cable TV, fashion, financial services, philanthropy, political activism and more.

He was on his cell phone en route from his New Jersey home to the New York office of his Phat Farm menswear label. His brother Joseph Simmons, "Rev. Run" of Run DMC, was with him. The brothers will visit the Riverchase Galleria Parisian this week to promote Phat Farm.

Thirteen-year-old Phat Farm blends country club sensibility and street credibility with its stripes, argyles and plaids; its primary colors and pastels; its ball caps and chinos; its cabled and pique polos; its suits and sneakers; and its aristocratic "P" crest logo. The label's motto is "Classic American Flava."

The garments Parisian carries range from $24 to $85.

"We work on instinct and we work on prediction. But the instinct is what makes us unique, the prediction is what makes us obvious," Russell Simmons said. "We know lavender's hot for spring. You can't miss lavender and be in the fashion business. You couldn't have missed pink last year. But will it be a powder pink? Will it be a softer lavender? Which one? That's instinct."

He spoke briskly but elaborately, using many more words than the guy who tersely dismissed audiences at the end of HBO's "Def Comedy Jam" in the early'90s.

Specifically for this season, Simmons is excited about the fruit of his label's acquisition by $2.5 billion marketer Kellwood Co. that he said puts Phat Farm in the upper echelon of apparel.

"It is by far the greatest quality and the best collection we've delivered. We've wanted forever to be competitive with the big guys," said Simmons, who's up against his pals Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren in department stores. "As an independent designer it's almost impossible to produce the finest quality at the greatest prices."

One of his passions is Phat Farm's oxford shirt, which he said is composed of "always crispy fresh phat fabric." That means wrinkle-free.

"People don't like to use the word wrinkle-free because it sounds cheap," Simmons explained. "We wanted to make an oxford shirt for this generation."

Simmons is also excited about Phat Farm's fashion basics with new denim washes and his Phat Farm Select Sneaker ($65) with a rainbow of accents.

"It's a very dressy, slick sneaker," Simmons said of the white shoe with tips in such colors as lavender, navy, powder blue or brown. The mogul said he always wears sneakers with suits.

Phat Farm's chameleonic ability to blend in at the corner store and suburban soccer games isn't that great of a stretch for those who don't stereotype hip-hop culture, Simmons said.

"The hip-hop community is many different things. You've got Lauryn Hill and you've got 50 Cent. They're both hip-hop," he said. "You've got Jay-Z, and you've got The Game or Eminem. They're different, but they're hip-hop. Rev. Run wears a cape and a collar."

Hip-hop culture validates designers across the board, he said, not just Phat Farm or so-called urban brands. The culture breathed new life into Lauren's brand and its affirmation is what made Hilfiger a success.

"We come from a cool, brand-building community," he said. "It's trend-setting. We choose something, we choose it for the world."

Monday, March 14, 2005

Crossroads Mall photos now online

I finally got around to putting my pictures of Crossroads Mall online. They serve as a good compliment to my dead mall story about the place.

View Crossroads Mall, Roanoke, VA

it's a custom job, part three

Believe it or not, the first retail chain to catch onto the sneaker customization trend is Finish Line. In the company's latest magalog, a page is devoted to how to customize sneakers, which I've scanned here. It's a cool thing for a store like Finish Line to do, and they also mention how you can take typical acrylic paint and combine it with acetone to make acceptable shoe paint. I don't know if the method is better or comparable to the original method posted here, but it's worth a try if you're practicing and can't get hold of gourd paint in your neighborhood.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

four thousand

If you just visted steve's blog a minute or two ago, you were visitor number four-thousand. Welcome, congratulations and, most importantly, thank you. I'll have to come up with a graphic.

that bastard Allen

The next several paragraphs find me a little more candid than I usually am on this blog, so if you’re looking for breezy sneaker and mall commentary you may want to skip down. I’m not big on putting my business in the street, but I’m really upset and this is helping me feel better to let it out:

My brother Allen finally came back from active duty in Iraq and California. I’m glad to see that he came back unscathed for the most part after so many people weren’t so lucky. The unfortunate thing is that he came back as an even bigger asshole. I had a close relationship with my brother up until we were teenagers, but he felt like he was more advanced than I was (I was a particularly late bloomer) and since then he’s decided that he needed to “fix” me to make me cool. It never works, because I’m as old and smart as he is and I’m not the limp-headed fool he thinks I am.

Allen is a very irresponsible person. He always makes a big deal about me having lots of unused potential, but he’s the one that’s the waste. He could have anything he wanted in this world if he tried, but all he ever does is waste all his money, try to get over on people by lying and not living up to what he says, and then blames everyone else when things come back to haunt him. Consequently, his credit’s lousy and he’s unable to return to college for several financial reasons. He says he’s proud of me for finishing college and finding a job, but subconsciously he’s not. The way he treats me is testament to that.

Inevitably, our meetings end in or parents having to pull us off of each other after a verbal fight escalates into fisticuffs. Let’s just say we have a perfect record. He tried to hit me for money (again) when we were out shopping (He wanted me to buy movie tickets at $7.50 apiece while he was going to pay for dinner at Wendy’s at $4.50 a person, which means I get screwed out of $5.00 when money’s already tight for me and he’s been picking up a military stipend) and when I told him I would pay for my own stuff, he started calling me self absorbed and yelling and cussing at me. It calmed down until he was going to slick his way back in so that he could use my computer and razor (he’s really got nothing) and came up to my room like nothing happened with my mother. I tried to tell him how I felt, and when that wasn’t enough to get him out of the room, I let him have it verbally. He still tried to out-talk me like he always does , and I pushed him out of the room. That’s when it got messy.

My mom says that she expects that Allen will leave soon, because he always does, being the nomadic sort that he is. I can’t wait. I love my brother, but the he’s not at all likable and he’s annoying, irresponsible and impossible to talk to on top of all of that. He’s making me freak out a little. The other night, I was out shopping, and I really truly didn’t want to come home, because I knew he’d be here, pawing all over my stuff, acting friendly to get me to give him something, then turning on me and telling me how much he wants me to change, passive-aggressively mentally an physically abusing me. I was in bad shape, but Kevin convinced me that I needed to go home and face whatever was there.

If I had some more money, I’d move out and never tell him the address. That wouldn’t work though: my mom would just give it to him and he’d come try to mooch wherever I was. He’s never going to change, so I guess I’ll just have to deal with whatever bullshit comes up over the next several days and weeks until he moves on. He’s been attempting to leave me alone since the incident, but traces of the personality from hell keep coming out whenever he sees me, which is why I stay in my room more these days. It helps me focus on my writing anyway.

Okay, candid time is over.

a Bob Vila moment

The work at the club continues. Mom and I spent all day Saturday, cleaning repairing and sprucing. I learned how simple it is to install a dishwasher. We got the dishwasher from one of my aunts who remodeled her kitchen and got rid of it because it didn’t match the new décor.

Granted the connections were all there, but it didn’t take a lot of effort on my part to hook it up. My friend Todd Rowland has always said it wasn’t hard, but I never thought I’d find out for myself. I bumped my head a couple times, but overall nothing too odd happened.

Next to the dishwasher we installed a trash compactor. This was a find from the Goodwill, barely used and somewhat dated; overall a great find for practically nothing money-wise. Trash compactors were a decent idea that never really caught on. We have one at home from 1980 that we use all the time. I find it to be a stylish, less-messy way of dealing with refuse, but they haven’t been hot sellers since the Carter administration.

No matter; both appliances went in like a dream and I felt a little more manly being able to put in my own built in appliances.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

a joyful noise in a time of need

One of the more interesting things I can do with my audio set-up is record virtually any audio onto CD using my component CD recorder and home theater receiver. I usually don’t do it for others, but I had a client who needed something special. His aunt was the wife of a man suffering from terminal cancer. His dying wish was for his wife to get a more reliable car so that she wouldn’t have to deal with car trouble. She purchased the new car, but the stereo inside didn’t have a cassette player and several of the country gospel tapes that had helped her keep perspective through the years couldn’t be played on the new stereo and couldn’t be replaced because they were out-of-print or unavailable on CD. My client asked if I could copy them over to CD and I willingly complied.

The new CDs came out really well and my client’s aunt is happy. Unfortunately as I was copying the tapes, my client’s uncle passed away. While not unexpected, it’s still sad that things had to end for him in the way that they did. My client’s aunt is holding up as well as can be expected, but she is thankful for both the new car and the old tapes, material reminders of her husband’s memory and the love and times they shared.

friends, etc.

Nothing better than good conversation. When I came home after a particularly rough night for me emotionally (more on this later), I turned on IM expecting to find noone but ran into a number of friends, old and new.

First to respond was my friend Blair. He was checking his email before bed, and we were able to talk about the usual stuff for a few minutes before he went to sleep. Blair’s a great guy: a real Boy Scout, literally. He made it to Eagle Scout and is a Scoutmaster in South Carolina. We’ve been good friends for nearly a decade.

Next was my new friend J.T. We’re both mall guys and J.T’s also into country roads big time. Our conversation was long and took a number of different tangents. He’s the guy behind the Rich’s tribute site, and his other road websites are great too.

My new friend Shariq and I had a great conversation as well. He’s a friend from the Men’s Health forum, and we’re both into clothes, architecture and girls. It was fun chatting with him on those subjects and more.

I should also mention another Men’s Health forum friend: Kris. Kris and I have been communicating back and forth for a short while. We talk about some of the same things Shariq and I talk about, you know, clothes, architecture and girls, but there’s a little bit of religion thrown in because he works for a Lutheran church and I grew up around a several religious people, particularly my grandma, who was the pastor of three churches she founded. Kris is a great guy with a good head on his shoulders and I feel like we understand each other pretty well even though we’re just now becoming friends.

Ladies: Blair, J.T., Shariq, and Kris are all stable, eligible bachelors, as well as your friendly neighborhood blogger. Hint! Hint!

Finally, I should mention my cousin Cindy and my friend Ken, neither of which are available, but nice people all the same.

Cindy called this afternoon, and we talked for a long time. She lives in New Jersey and is a very beautiful woman who works in a medical office. She has a great husband and some of the cutest kids you want to see. We only get to see each other when someone dies or we have a family reunion, but we keep up a good rapport over email. I don’t have a lot of friends who are family, but she’s definitely one of them.

Ken is a guy I need to get in contact with, but I’ve been so preoccupied I haven’t had a chance. I think I’ve mentioned him here before. We used to work together at LMW and he was the guy who convinced me to buy my electric bass, though since he’s been away, I haven’t done much with it. He described himself onetime as humorous, helpful and odd, and I think that’s an accurate description. We’re kindred souls: after hanging out with him for a week or two, I totally ‘got’ him and him me. We’ve been close for at least a couple of years, and sometimes I wish I lived closer so that we could hang out more.

You know, that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to my friends: there’s Tim, Todd, the other Todd, Eddy, Angie, Faye, Sonya, Judy, Wayne…I better stop. I’m going to forget someone ;)

Thursday, March 10, 2005

man, woman, God and Satan

In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth, and populated the Earth with broccoli, cauliflower and spinach, green and yellow and red vegetables of all kinds, so Man and Woman would live long and healthy lives.

Then using God's great gifts, Satan created Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream and Krispy Kreme Donuts. And Satan said, "You want chocolate with that?" And Man said, "Yes!" and Woman said, "as long as you're at it, add some sprinkles." And they gained 10 pounds. And Satan smiled.

And God created the healthful yogurt that Woman might keep the figure that Man found so fair. And Satan brought forth white flour from the wheat and sugar from the cane and combined them. And Woman went from size 6 to size 14.

So God said, "Try my fresh green salad." And Satan presented Thousand-Island Dressing, buttery croutons and garlic toast on the side. And Man and Woman unfastened their belts following the repast.

God then said, "I have sent you heart healthy vegetables and olive oil in which to cook them." And Satan brought forth deep fried fish and chicken-fried steak so big it needed its own platter. And Man gained more weight and his cholesterol went through the roof.

God then created a light, fluffy white cake, named it "Angel Food Cake," and said, "It is good." Satan then created chocolate cake and named it "Devil's Food."

God then brought forth running shoes so that His children might lose those extra pounds. And Satan gave cable TV with a remote control so Man would not have to toil changing the channels. And Man and Woman laughed and cried before the flickering blue light and gained pounds.

Then God brought forth the potato, naturally low in fat and brimming with nutrition. And Satan peeled off the healthful skin and sliced the starchy center into chips and deep-fried them. And Man gained pounds.

God then gave lean beef so that Man might consume fewer calories and still satisfy his appetite. And Satan created McDonald's and its 99-cent double cheeseburger. Then Satan said, "You want fries with that?" And Man replied, "Yes! And super size them!" And Satan said, "It is good." And Man went into cardiac arrest.

God sighed and created quadruple bypass surgery. Then Satan created HMOs.

Thought for the day: There is more money being spent on breast implants and Viagra today than on Alzheimer's research. This means that by 2040, there should be a large elderly population with perky boobs and huge erections and absolutely no recollection of what to do with them.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

what the hell is 'hootie' doing?

It's definately not 1994 anymore. Yes, that was Darius Rucker of Hootie & The Blowfish, donned in a rhinestone cowboy suit for a surreal Burger King Tendercrisp Bacon Cheddar Ranch commercial, along with several other B-list celebrites and starlets.

The spot is so odd it's almost cool, but the fact that Darius appears so prominently in it begs the question "is money really that tight or did you feel like committing career suicide?"

The video clip of this commercial is now available for download

the year i belong in

You Belong in 1968


If you scored...

1950 - 1959: You're fun loving, romantic, and more than a little innocent. See you at the drive in!

1960 - 1969: You are a free spirit with a huge heart. Love, peace, and happiness rule - oh, and drugs too.

1970 - 1979: Bold and brash, you take life by the horns. Whether you're partying or protesting, you give it your all!

1980 - 1989: Wild, over the top, and just a little bit cheesy. You're colorful at night - and successful during the day.

1990 - 1999: With you anything goes! You're grunge one day, ghetto fabulous the next. It's all good!

fred durst's blog

Believe it or not, the rumor about Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst having a blog is true! It's as bad as they say, and worse. Check out this quote:

do you get it? do you really get it? some people were just born to get it and others just weren't. the ones that weren't have no idea what i just said and the ones that do understand completely. and so goes life in my mind.

Sorry Fred. I don't get it.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

catching my breath

The suprisingly good sneaker stores at Charlottesville Fashion Square are highlighted in yellow.

As if my life wasn’t busy enough without impromptu trips, I took off with my friend Kevin to Charlottesville to go look for sneakers over the weekend. I’m sure if you've read much here you know about my sneaker fanatacism, but Kevin puts me to shame. He’s got just about everything big that comes out from Nike! Anyway, he was buying, I was browsing, but it was a fun trip. But it got in the way of me doing much else, at least on Saturday.

I did get in some work though; I had to help my mom with her ongoing renovations to her country club on Sunday. This week was more work in the china closet she and I built. You would not believe how many dishes she’s accumulated there for special events. I now know where I get my shopping habits from ;)

Speaking of shopping, I ran into the perfect side-job. I’m now a freelance shopping and style correspondent for a local newspaper. It doesn’t pay a lot, but I get to write about what I want and I get to go shopping to do it. I just kind of fell into it. They liked what I did earlier when I responded to a call for shopping tips. I was awarded the title of “retail therapist” at that time. For those who don't remember, check out my ‘job interview’

New York 8-14-2004 Photos now online

Times Square, New York City, 8-14-04

Something old, something new. I finally got around to putting my New York pictures from last August online, and I decided to place them in Yahoo! Photos. How is this different than the other services I've been using? For one thing, you now have the option of professionally printing out any picture you see in the set in a variety of sizes and even have the option to get photo gifts, should you deisre to get Macy's on a t-shirt. :) There are nominal charges for any photo services that you get through Yahoo!, but I don't get anything financially from it. It's just another cool feature from steve's blog.

Another good thing is that I have unlimited photo storage with Yahoo!, which means I can share more with you, my faithful readers. The new service doesn't allow for photo descriptions, but that's the only drawback. Overall, it's win-win.

View New York 8-14-2004

buy this book | Sneakers: The Complete Collectors' Guide

Sneakers: The Complete Collectors' Guide by Unorthodox Styles.

Following on from Neal Heard's book of last year, Trainers (Sneakers), comes Sneakers: The Complete Collector's Guide, compiled and edited by creative agency Unorthodox Styles, who also worked on the adidas 35th anniversary and run sneaker-obsessive website Crooked Tongues.

Out in May, the book is an encyclopaedic guide looking at some of the key designs and brands in a market that shows no signs of slowing down.

See more information at about this product.

need another excuse to buy sneakers?

from Darin St. George, The Milford Daily News

Toss those sneakers! This is usually the last thing people think of throwing away; I mean, if they still fit, why get new ones? That is one of the very first things I look at when I meet a person in the [health] club. If you are fairly active, then your sneakers need to be swapped out every six months at least. I pound my sneakers, and have three or four pair that I use depending on the activity. Ask yourself when you bought your current pair and if you can't remember, then it's time to go shopping. Do the same with running socks (the padded ones), sports bras (I definitely need some new ones) and weight gloves. Even though fitness isn't about clothes, sometimes having the right ones and even some new ones can help get the fire started...

Feet of Endurance

The launch of a new collection to mark the 35th anniversary of the iconic adidas Superstar shoe has sparked a fresh wave of sneakermania. Jon Perks looks into the past, present and future of sports footwear culture.

Over the past few weeks observant passers-by will have noted an early morning queue forming outside specialist footwear store size? in Lower Temple Street, Birmingham [England].

The question isn't who have they been waiting for, but what.

Launched last month, the adidas Superstar 35 collection marks the anniversary of one of the world's most iconic shoes that first went on sale in 1970 - stars of music, art and fashion invited by the brand to create the new limited edition range of 35 different Superstar shoes.

With each delivery comes another line of would-be buyers desperate to get their hands on a pair of the shoes that have been changing hands for hundreds of pounds on eBay: "In terms of oneoff trainers it's been the most popular shoe in the three years we've been open," says Dan Pullen, manager at size? "When we get a delivery they're all gone pretty much in a day, hours even."

With just 4,000 pairs of the Expression range and 5,000 of the Musician range available worldwide, the adidas Superstar 35 are the footwear equivalent of hot cakes - but it's only a small fraction of a growing sneaker culture in which serious collectors will pay hundreds, even thousands of pounds for a pair of shoes, often buying as many as three, five or ten pairs of the same shoe at one time.

The Collector

They say you can tell a lot about a man by his shoes.

That's never truer than in the case of Rob Scarlett.

Rob only owns two pairs of 'proper shoes' - one for a funeral, one for a wedding - but his sneaker collection currently totals '1740-something' pairs... and counting.

That's the equivalent of buying a pair every fortnight for 67 years - except Robert's only been collecting since 1982 - an average rate of six pairs a month.

Since kicking off (no pun intended) with a pair of adidas Allasio at the age of nine, the 32-year-old from Solihull has built up a mammoth collection, the sheer size meaning he has to store the dozens of boxes at numerous locations, mostly relatives' houses.

"I've never seen them all together, I simply don't have the space," admits Rob.

"It all started without me realising I was collecting.

"What sparked it was breakdancing, just the whole street culture thing really, the graffiti and just the associations, the people I was with." After getting his pair of Allasio ("a cousin of the Trimm Trab"), Rob says he was then "going into a store and throwing down deposits on six or seven pairs at any one time, and continually doing that every week with pocket money and money I earned from breakdancing; once I'd got enough to get the pairs I'd go in and just walk out with an armful.

"Around 1983/84 I got my first pair of Diadora Borg Elites, and that's pretty much when I started to see them in a more serious way," says Rob.

"Instead of spending all my money on sweets I saved as much as I could, and instead of opting for an infinite amount of toys at Christmas, I'd have a couple but would always be saying to my mum and dad: 'can I have those trainers, can I get that Tacchini tracksuit...'"

Amazingly, Rob keeps no written record or catalogue of his sneaker stockpile - it's all in his head: "I know what I've got and if it's multiple pairs of the same shoe I know what colour-wise," he says.

"If I want to wear a certain pair of kicks then I'll just find the relevant box, get the shoe out; I know where certain ones are - it's just a question of keeping the ones I wear a lot at hand."

Given the size of his collection, you'd be forgiven for thinking Rob simply buys every new trainer that comes onto the market. Far from it: "I don't buy the latest shoe simply because it's the latest shoe - I just buy what I like," he states.

"If it's a vintage shoe I'll track it down, but if it's an up to date release it goes on the basis of what I like cosmetically - if I like the look of the shoe then I'll go for it, that's been the case since I was small."

While he may only buy shoes on the basis of their looks, Rob - who cites Puma Navratilovas, adidas Trimm Trabs and Micro Pacers amongst his favourites - still has an eye for a classic or collectible: "There's quite a few, but the one that I'm quite fond of is the Diadora Borg Elites, 1981 shoe," he says. "They come with their own printed signature on the shoe, but I also have a pair that was signed additionally by Borg himself, it kind of makes it that little bit special.

"I think the current value of a shoe like that to a collector would be around £1,200-£1,500," he adds, coolly.

"If it's something readily available I'll buy two, three pairs - one to wear, one to wear when that pair's gone and one just to keep on ice."

So what remains for someone who seems to own every pair of sneakers ever made?

Aside from currently tracking down two sets of vintage trainer from 1983 ("I can't name them because they're so obscure I'd rather not expand everyone else's interest into them"), Rob reveals he has two big ambitions; to write an autobiographical account of his collection, and to design his own shoe.

He certainly has enough prototypes to work with.

The Book

You know when a trend, movement or person has seeped into popular culture when a book is published on the subject.

Following on from Neal Heard's book of last year, Trainers, comes Sneakers: The Complete Collector's Guide, compiled and edited by creative agency Unorthodox Styles, who also worked on the adidas 35th anniversary and run sneaker-obsessive website Crooked Tongues.

Out in May, the book is an encyclopaedic guide looking at some of the key designs and brands in a market that shows no signs of slowing down.

"You've got a lot of guys who maybe worked in sports stores in the 80s, who obviously had access to cheap shoes and were basically taking stuff from end of lines, putting stuff away and they've become collectors," says Russ Williamson of Unorthodox Styles.

"I know a lot of guys in the States who try and get every single Jordan shoe," says Tim Easley of the Crooked Tongues website, which has built up a database of 47,000 subscribers in its five years.

"They buy like five-ten pairs of the ones they like, so they can keep them fresh for like the next ten years, so they don't have to go and buy extra pairs - a lot of them put them in display cabinets in their house.

"Generally nowadays people are just collecting anything that's limited," Tim adds.

"People don't seem to be that specific; people are buying stuff from JD Sports or Footlocker that's not the collectable stuff now but it's maybe gonna be quite collectable in five, ten years' time.

"That's the stuff the kids are buying and they're wearing every day and killing the shoes - so no-one will have them and all these guys who've been buying the limited stuff and keeping them in the bedroom will be all over the place!"

Monday, March 07, 2005

B$46.52 as of today

I don't know what to make of this. Maybe someone out there will.

Adidas: The Machine Of A New Sole

Adidas' new shoe is no gimmick. But at $250, it's no bargain
By Stanley Holmes in Portland, Ore.

Three years ago, a trio of engineers for adidas-Salomon (ADDDY ) began toiling away in a windowless boiler-room-turned-secret-workshop beneath downtown Portland, Ore. Their goal: to create the first intelligent running shoe, one that would use an in-sole computer to adjust its heel cushioning in real time according to changes in the running surface.

"We knew we would have to rewrite the rules," says Christian DiBenedetto, chief shoe engineer at the North American headquarters of Adidas. "But we knew it would be massive if we could pull it off."

Well, maybe. Even if Adidas can make a reliable computerized shoe, the unknown is whether enough consumers will value the breakthrough. The Adidas 1, a $250 high-tech wonder, hits store shelves this month as a big gamble that the German company can redraw the battle lines between itself and archrivals Nike Inc. (NKE ) and Reebok International Ltd. (RBK )

Inside the heel of the aerodynamic shoe are a wafer-thin sensor and magnet that monitors the amount of shock applied to the foot and adjusts the footbed 1,000 times per second.

Adidas executives believe the shoe could be their iPod, a technology so ready for prime-time that it can be adapted to the company's basketball and soccer shoes and eventually enter the profitable league of "gotta-have" sneakers among urban youth. Says a hopeful Erich Stamminger, CEO of Adidas North America: "This is the biggest thing to hit this industry in decades."

But Adidas could just as likely be stepping off a cliff. No one knows if even serious runners are ready to pay $250 for a shoe -- more than 50% above the next most expensive sneaker on the market. Nike Air Jordans, at $150 to $175 a pair, only staged a comeback last year, after two years of sinking sales

. Adidas won't divulge its capital investment in Adidas 1. But analysts say production is complicated and that the new sneakers will cost four or five times as much to make as a normal shoe. Because of that, production will be less than 10,000 this year to drive exclusivity and hedge Stamminger's bet.

Adidas is following the example of German luxury auto makers, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. The carmakers introduce expensive technology, like navigation systems, in high-priced models, establish credibility and critical mass, and then push the technology, if it's accepted, into lower priced models.

But shoes aren't cars, and Adidas can't afford a misstep. Outside the U.S. it is the clear rival to Nike, and holds a dominant 35% share of soccer-shoe sales. But the German company slid to No. 3 in the $8.3 billion U.S. branded-athletic-shoe market in the late 1990s, thanks to weak ad campaigns and unfashionable new products. Adidas held a 9.1% share in 2003 and 2004, vs. 12% for Reebok, and 36.4% for a resurgent Nike.

Stamminger, who took over the U.S. division last year, adding to his global marketing title, is making changes that have retailers more interested in Adidas these days. Designs for the U.S. are hatched in Portland now, reversing years of designs that played in Munich and bombed in Missouri.

In addition to outbidding rivals for NBA pitchmen Kevin Garnett, Tracy McGrady, and Kwame Brown, he secured exclusive ad rights for the U.S. TV feed of 2006 World Cup Soccer. And Adidas recently signed hot fashionista Stella McCartney to design new lines of sport clothing.

Rivals Nike and Reebok have taken notice but are skeptical that Adidas 1 will be another Air Jordan.

"We think technology that changes the design of the shoe rather than just the function, like our pump that obsoletes laces, is where the breakthroughs come," says Reebok Chief Marketing Officer Dennis Baldwin.

Both rivals are developing their own "smart shoes," though they say they aren't going as far in applying silicon chips to the problem.

One pitfall stemming from the hardware is added weight. A size-9 Adidas 1 weighs 15.3 ounces, while most top-end running shoes weigh between 10 and 14 oz. And if anyone obsesses about a few ounces, it's influential consumers in the $4.9 billion running-shoe market.

Nevertheless, Adidas is pumped by nine months of positive buzz that preceded the new shoe's launch. Runner's World gear editor Warren Greene, for example, says Adidas 1 delivered the goods on his extended test. "The overall fit and feel and responsiveness and the ride of the shoe were all positive."

Stamminger delivered a mild rebound in 2004 when Adidas' sales rose 2% last year after two years of flat sales. Now he is projecting sales will grow by 5% to 10% this year and hit double digits next year, thanks in part to Adidas 1. Those are heady expectations for a sneaker priced in territory Michael Jordan couldn't reach, even on his best day.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

another sneaker timeline

The first rubber-soled shoes were manufactured in the 1800s, but the modern sneaker didn't gain cultural prominence until the 1950s. Here are some other memorable moments in the history of the sneaker from The Journal News

1917: Converse releases the world's first performance basketball shoe, the Converse All Star.

1923: The All Star turns into the Chuck Taylor All Star, a shoe still beloved today.

1935: Converse releases the Jack Purcell, snapped up by early Hollywood stars.

1950s: Sneakers become a symbol of rebellion when James Dean is photographed in white kicks and Levis. Teenagers worldwide, from bikers to cheerleaders, start to wear sneakers.

1968: Puma is the first sports shoe maker to introduce Velcro fasteners.

1973: Runner Steve Prefontaine becomes the first major athlete to wear Nike running shoes.

1982: Nike releases the Air Force One.

1985: A Chicago Bulls rookie named Michael Jordan endorses a line of Nike shoes and apparel. The first Air Jordan is released.

1986: Run-DMC releases the song "My Adidas" and lands a landmark endorsement deal, sparking the now-ubiquitous trend of using hip-hop artists in promotional campaigns.

2003: Rapper Jay-Z launches his S. Carter line of sneakers with Reebok, making him the first non-athlete to have a signature athletic footwear collection.

2005: Jordan Brand celebrates its 20th anniversary with the release of the Jordan XX sneaker.

more krogering

This is the Wayne, Michigan Kroger store, on Michigan Avenue (US12), another example of a well-preserved Kroger superstore, at least on the outside, anyway. The interior is early 1990's (

Believ it or not, there's a bunch of retail geeks like me around. Through my friend J.T. Legg, I found about the Yahoo! group Remembering Retail. After joining, I took the Madison Heights Kroger pictures I took yesterday and posted them to the group photo site.

That post led to "Rob-dude" at Remembering Retail telling me about his supermarket photo site. It's a simple site, just pictures and commentary on Ohio and Michagan grocery stores, but it's worth the visit if you like to see old supermarket designs. I liked the Kroger page in particular, but there's much more than Kroger there. You should check it out sometime.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Paying top dollar for sneakers


It's just past dawn on a frigid Saturday, but Travis McGarrell of White Plains is wide awake, bundled up and headed for Niketown on East 57th Street. The store is opening two hours early for the release of the Air Jordan Retro XIIIs, and this 18-year-old is determined to snag a pair.

McGarrell's worried, though. Niketown has a limited number of shoes for sale, and he's gotten word that some fans have camped out overnight.

He considered ditching his trip into the city. Then his inner sneakerhead — as these frenzied sneaker collectors are called — began to whisper.

Maybe, the voice said, you'll luck out. Maybe there won't be that many people there.

The voice couldn't have been more wrong.

The scene outside Niketown leaves McGarrell — along with a few of the store's usually jaded security guards — stunned. Hundreds of sneakerheads are snaked around the building, with about a dozen New York City police officers posted for crowd control.

Niketown managers say the throng topped 500 at one point, though it's thinned since blue wristbands were distributed at 3:30 a.m. Rumors float that only the first 165 in line got those bands, their ticket into the store when it opens at 8 a.m. Niketown won't confirm a number, and it's hard to tell how many buyers without bracelets are still hanging around, hoping to gain entry anyway.

"I figured I'd come and give it a shot," McGarrell says. "I never, ever thought it would be this crazy."

McGarrell might be a sneakerhead, but he's enough of a newbie to think he'll score these slammin' shoes by waiting or a mere hour or two. You see, to get kicks like this, you've really got to earn them.

You've got to be hard-core, like Joseph Butler and Matthew Shaw of Brooklyn, who spent a whopping 19 hours at Niketown.

They claimed first-in-line status at 1 p.m. Friday, spending the bitterly cold night commiserating with other sneaker fiends and alternating trips to the nearest 24-hour deli.

Butler, 23, and Shaw, 22, say they each own about 200 pairs of sneakers. This is their third weekend in a row spent in slush and snow outside New York City shops, trying to add a few more hard-to-get shoes to their stockpiles.

The Jordan Retro XIIIs are a big deal, they explain, because they're black and "altitude" green — colors not normally associated with the shoes' legendary Chicago Bulls namesake.

The friends see their hobby as fashionable fun, but not everyone shares their view.

"My wife thinks I'm crazy," Shaw says. "I talked to her last night, and she said to just call her in the morning. She's disgusted with me."

"I wear my Adidas when I rock the beat/on stage front page every show I go/it's Adidas on my feet high top or low" — Run-DMC

Like collectors of sports memorabilia or comic books, sneakerheads have formed their own unique brotherhood — and yes, it is almost exclusively men.

The community has grown so much in recent years, the independent online forum now boasts 4.7 million posts and more than 35,000 registered members. Competitions have started to sprout around the country, prompting sneakerheads to travel hundreds of miles to have their collections judged.

Some say that what was once an underground phenomenon has turned into hysteria. Cops were called two weeks ago to a Lower East Side shop when dozens of sneakerheads started a brawl in a scramble to get a pair of rare Nike Pigeon Dunks.

Sneaker freaks are usually young guys from urban areas, generations schooled on hip-hop and basketball culture.

They have their own lingo: Never-worn, perfectly preserved sneakers are "deadstock"; a "hyper strike" is when a company releases a few dozen shoes at only one place in the world.

Sneakerheads know the right stores in the right neighborhoods; they know the ones to go to for the latest styles and the ones to avoid because they jack prices way up. They scour Web sites looking for buys, spending hundreds, sometimes thousands, on a single purchase.

In fact, Steve Mullholand, publisher of Sole Collector magazine, claims that sneakers may be a better investment than the current stock market.

"I know a guy that has a fairly small collection, maybe 50 pairs of shoes," he says. "But I guarantee you, he could buy a Ferrari with that collection. A new one."

The Internet is littered with sneakers going for double, triple, even 10 times the retail price, depending on the shoe's vintage and condition. A pristine pair of 1985 Air Jordan I low-tops is now selling for $9,000 at, a site owned by Mullholand.

Some sneakerheads are indiscriminate when it comes to brand, veering from hot new labels like A Bathing Ape (known as BAPE) to old-school favorites like Air Force Ones. Others are faithful to Jordans, or to the Nike Dunk, a skateboarding shoe.

There are those who gravitate toward the rarest of the rare, like a Jordan XI sample "Space Jam" that has Michael's short-lived jersey number 45 on the back. Others are fashion mavens who want to break necks walking down the street; they're drawn to a shoe's artistry, such as the pop-art styling on an Adidas Superstar that pays tribute to Andy Warhol.

Then there are sneakerheads who fall into both categories. If they can afford it, they'll buy two pairs of the same shoe: one to put on ice, the other to show off and wear. Ironically, sneakerheads don't really care about the feature that made early sneakers so popular — comfort. Instead, what seems to stoke the most interest is exclusivity.

Shoe manufacturers often fuel a buzz for newer sneakers by releasing limited quantities; Nike is the master of this strategy.

"We'll sometimes do regional colors, darker on the East Coast, lighter on the West Coast," says Jordan brand manager Roman Vega. "It creates more demand for us. You'd have to call a friend to get it for you or fly there. It helps keep the brand hot."

So when a sneakerhead drops a ton of cash on Nike NYC Pigeon Dunks, he's also buying the assurance that only a reported 150 people in the world will have the same shoe.

"If you have one of those (limited editions), nobody else in your high school will have them. No one else in your state will have them," Mullholand says. "You're guaranteed people will go, 'Are you kidding me?' "

And while the unenlightened wouldn't know an All Star from an Air Max, sneakerheads can spot a sweet shoe in an instant.

"You can tell when someone knows what you're wearing," says Josh Rubin, a Manhattan-based designer whose blog about hip products,, has a section devoted to sneakers.

"You get like a nod, kind of showing respect."

"Rock my Adidas, never rock Filas" — Beastie Boys

Jeremie Harris of New Rochelle leads the way to the dorm room that houses the sneaker collection of his New York University classmate Mohammad Mohammad.

Mohammad's the true sneakerhead of the two, though Harris did stand outside Barneys New York for hours with his friend last month to snag some Kidrobot Air Max Is. With only an estimated 250 released worldwide, Harris quickly sold the $150 pink-and-black shoes on eBay to a buyer in Singapore for $400.

Even with the lure of fast cash, Mohammad wouldn't dream of letting his Kidrobots go — not after waiting in line for nearly a full day to get them. He hasn't laced up the shoes, and he's not ever planning to wear them.

He's never even slipped them on his feet.

"I'm keeping mine," he says. "After what I went through, these are a memory piece."

Mohammad, who's 18 and from Jackson Heights, works part-time at Banana Republic to help pay for his sneaker fixes. The job lets him do spontaneous things like plunk down $400 for Nike "Unkle" Dunks, which he did after fruitlessly searching for them online and then spotting them at a NoLita store.

He's not into Jordans anymore, and he hates Adidas: "They're the ugliest sneakers I've ever seen in my life."

Now Mohammad says he's on the verge of becoming a "Dunkaholic."

"Once you get into it," he says, "you can't stop."

"I said give me two pair/cause I need two pair/So I can get to stompin' in my Air Force Ones" — Nelly

Just one subway stop away, at the corner of Broadway and Bleecker, is a basement boutique called Nom de Guerre. It's known for having hard-to-find sneakers, and appropriately, the store itself is pretty hard to find.

The only sign of it at street level is its name stenciled on the sidewalk, in front of a dark stairwell that leads to a narrow corridor tunneled beneath a Swatch watch outlet. Entering Nom de Guerre through the first steel door on the right, you see racks of cutting-edge T-shirts and pricey designer jeans — but not a single sneaker.

So this is the place where Nas, Busta Rhymes and Kanye West come to update their vast collections? The store where — just a few weeks after it opened — Jude Law dropped by to scoop up $600 vintage Dunks?

Apparently so, if the shop's constantly ringing phone is any clue. Each time Nom de Guerre partner Wil Whitney picks up, he repeats the same thing: He's sold out of Nike Air Max 180s.

"We're trying to get a dozen more, but it doesn't look good," he tells one caller.

Whitney heads out the door and wanders down that dimly lit hallway. He unlocks another steel door to reveal a shoebox-size room. It's only a few shelves with a few dozen shoes, but a sneakerhead would call it nirvana.

None of these sneakers has a price tag, but you don't need one to know you won't find a bargain here. A glass case shows off the most valuable merchandise, including $800 Nike Air Forces made as a Roc-A-Fella Records promotion.

"So they were never for sale to the public," says Whitney, explaining the high cost.

Right now, Whitney says the store's owners are trying to figure out how to discourage sneaker resellers — those in the game just to make money, spoilers who'll take a true fan's place in line only to sell a hard-to-get sneaker for a huge profit.

The store is trying to compile a "hold" list, a roster of regulars who won't have to wait with the crowd at a sneaker release.

That way, Nom de Guerre might avoid situations like the one last week in which 40 customers turned up for 12 pairs of one-piece Laser Dunks.

"When that happens, there aren't a lot of happy people," Whitney says.

"And I be gettin' Nikes before they even get released" — Fabolous

Sneakers first gained cultural prominence in the 1950s, when James Dean was photographed in Levis and white athletic shoes. Last year, 493 million pairs were sold for a total of $16 billion.

But the start of the sneakerhead craze can be traced to the mid-1980s, when Michael Jordan put out his first shoe and changed the industry forever. Americans soon had no problem buying multiple pairs and shelling out three figures for each one.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Air Jordan; Nike just unveiled the $175 Jordan XX to mark the occasion.

"I was an anomaly of society when I had five, six pairs of sneakers under my bed in 1981," says Bobbito Garcia, author of "Where'd You Get Those? New York City's Sneaker Culture: 1960-1987."

"That's like a small amount of sneakers to have now for a yuppie who works at Goldman Sachs."

Adam Goldstein, a Los Angeles disc jockey who goes by the handle DJ A.M., describes the current sneaker mania this way: "It's like Pokémon for adults."

Goldstein's own collection tops 500: Most are carefully boxed, marked with a Polaroid picture and stored in his garage. Among his prized possessions are black-and-white Jordan I's (purchase price: $800) and an original pair of never-worn, shell-toe Adidas from 1987, like the ones favored by pioneer rap group Run-DMC.

About 30 favorites are displayed like museum pieces on a "shoe wall" in the Hollywood Hills home he recently moved into with his fiancée, "Simple Life" star Nicole Richie.

"I had it in my old house, and she encouraged me to put it back up," Goldstein says. He laughs that Richie, famous for her own shopaholic tendencies, can "definitely relate" to his obsession.

"Guys don't get to accessorize the way girls do," he says. "We have shoes, that's what we have… They kind of represent your taste."

"Had to scuffle with freaks/I'm a addict for sneakers" — Nas

At exactly 8 a.m., Niketown's doors swing open and security lets in the first 10 customers in line.
The chosen few dart inside, arms waving triumphantly. War whoops ricochet around the showroom as they hold up their hard-won Jordan Retro XIIIs.

"We're the top 10, baby! Whoo!" shouts one.

Sales clerk Keri Childs of Mount Vernon cracks up.

"I was on the train this morning and I heard four guys talking about coming here," she says. "I didn't say anything, but I was like, 'You're gonna be too late.'"

Joseph Butler hands a box of size 9s back to a clerk, who sighs and heads back to the stockroom.

"Sorry, man!" calls Butler, looking a bit sheepish. "You've got to have that perfect box, and that one's all smashed up."

As he heads for the register, Butler pauses to pull out his cell and plug in the number of a guy named Tony, a sneakerhead behind him in line who seems to have connections.

"I've got to buy more sneakers off him," Butler mutters.

Meanwhile, Travis McGarrell is nowhere to be found. He's at Grand Central Terminal, waiting for the next train back to White Plains. But he's not headed home.

As soon as he saw the crowd at Niketown, he got on the phone and dispatched a friend to wait at the Galleria mall.

The Foot Action there is opening soon, and McGarrell is hoping to grab the Jordans there.

After all, even a rookie sneakerhead knows enough to have a Plan B.

kroger's over in madison heights

Preserved exterior

A kitchen clean interior

I was out and about yesterday and attempted to take a picture of the last (largely) unmodified 1970s-era Kroger 'Superstore' I knew of. I went to the site, in Madison Heights (north of Lynchburg) and realized that the store was now the latest area Kroger to close.

Unfettered and presented with an oppurtunity to photograph what was left of the old store, I shot a series of pictures to document what was and is there, one of which you see above.

The exterior was shabby but really clean and the interior was intact and looked like all that was missing was the food and customers.

This Kroger Superstore opened sometime in the mid '70s with an adjacent shopping center and a Kmart next door. It closed early in 2005, after losing its next door neighbors to a new Lowe's home improvement store. After thirty years of service, this store was pummeled by changing demographics, three Food Lion stores within a three mile radius and a Wal-Mart supercenter.

Multiplying Macy's

Regional store names bow to national branding

Associated Press

SEATTLE - Standing outside the Bon Marché department store in downtown Seattle, Marguerite Norbut lamented the day that workers replaced the sign she'd walked past for years with a new but familiar name: Macy's.

"I've seen it since I was a little girl!" said Norbut, 54, who grew up just across Puget Sound and has shopped at various "the Bon" stores in the Northwest her entire life.

But Norbut's daughter, Rachael, 22, heard a ring of urban sophistication, a reaction that would doubtless please the executives at Federated Department Stores Inc., Macy's parent company.

"I've always associated Macy's with California and the East Coast," the younger Norbut said.

For better or worse, it's the end of a retailing era for Seattle and other cities around the country.

Beginning Sunday, customers of the Bon, Rich's, Goldsmith's, Burdines and Lazarus will lose -- at least in name -- the regional department stores that have been around for more than a century. Federated is rechristening them under the national Macy's brand.

Longtime shoppers have had the opportunity to get used to the change -- Federated had already begun hyphenating "Macy's" onto the more familiar store names before deciding to get rid of the regional names altogether. Dan Edelman, chief executive of Macy's Northwest, said Federated decided to drop the hyphenations after customer surveys showed that most would not find the name change to be a negative.

The loss of regional branding is likely to continue with Cincinnati-based Federated's proposed merger with The May Department Stores Co., announced earlier this week. Spokeswoman Carol Sanger said the merger will likely mean that many of May's regional department stores also eventually become Macy's stores, although she said the company was still considering what to do with two of May's best-known brand names: Lord & Taylor and Marshall Field's.

But the company says the Hecht's name is all but certain to change to Macy's, meaning the Charlotte area stands to gain as many as three Macy's stores from the scheduled changeover. Hecht's has a recently remodeled store at SouthPark and another at Carolina Place in Pineville. Another Hecht's store is under construction at the Northlake Mall scheduled to open in September at Interstate 77 and W.T. Harris Boulevard.

Officials say it's too soon to give specifics on local change-over plans.

Analysts say the name changes are inevitable, because they save Federated money and give it the much-needed ability to market itself nationally and compete better against other national brand names ranging from The Gap Inc. to Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Along with the name change, the company plans a national television campaign, and it is touting other advantages such as easier national return policies and nationally branded store credit cards.

Still, some longtime shoppers think it's bad business to scrap a popular local brand name such as Rich's in Georgia.

"I don't know why they would want to drop the name. In Atlanta, it's as recognizable as Coca-Cola," said Elizabeth Brown, a retired schoolteacher from Marietta, Ga., who was shopping at a Rich's mall store in Kennesaw, a northern suburb of Atlanta.

The company insisted it is taking pains to keep some regional feeling despite the name change.

Edelman said the former Bon will have its own promotional calendar and flexibility in carrying clothing that fits regional weather. The Northwest stores also will still sell the well-loved Frango mints.

But Marshal Cohen, chief analyst with The NPD Group, argued that many of Federated's regional department stores have already lost much of their individual personalities after years of answering to a corporate parent, making the name changeover more of a formality.

"Was Burdines so different from a Macy's? No, not anymore," he said.

The name changes also left some reminiscing about the days when going to a department store was an event. Louetta Payne, 70, remembered dressing up for a trip to her local Rich's, and spending the better part of a day there.

"Those days will never come back, and I'm not saying they're better than now," she said as she browsed a clearance at a Lazarus-Macy's outside of Columbus, Ohio. "It's just that there was a pride to it. What you bought there was unique."