Thursday, May 31, 2007

Is Wal-Mart Too Cheap for Its Own Good?

The New York Times

A confidential report concludes that the chain’s reputation for discounts has worked against its efforts to move upscale. (more)

A Traditionalist Walks a Fine Line

Shoemaker Allen Edmonds Aims to Reach Younger Men By Touting Old-School Quality

By Christina Binkley
The Wall Street Journal

When it comes to shoes, conventional wisdom holds that most men today respond to fresh design, splashy advertising and styles conceived for younger feet.

Since turning itself into a high-fashion brand, Coach has been on a tear. Gucci and Prada have gobbled up the markets for luxury loafers and bags. In June in Milan, sexy-shoe designer Brian Atwood will show his first collection -- men's footwear -- as creative director for Swiss shoemaker Bally, which is seeking more fashion-conscious shoppers these days.

Then there's Allen Edmonds. Oxfords, tassel moccasins, penny loafers. Now here's a brand in need of resuscitation: eighty-five years old, with flat revenue and an aging boomer clientele.

Its new private-equity owners, Goldner Hawn Johnson & Morrison Inc., which bought an 86% stake last year, are now advocating an overhaul. But instead of following the rest of the high-fashion accessories industry, Allen Edmonds is digging in its heels. With a wingtip and a prayer, it's expanding with a strategy to make new assets of old-world service and quality...

Read more at The Wall Street Journal

Friday, May 25, 2007



New York's famed Saks Fifth Avenue department store plans to open a shoe department so big it has been granted its own ZIP code, 10022-SHOE, the company said on Thursday.

Saks said it plans to nearly double the number of shoes for sale and take over the entire eighth floor of its flagship store in Manhattan. The expanded department will open in September under the name 10022-SHOE.

"10022-SHOE will also hold a place in U.S. history as the first floor to be granted its own designated ZIP code by the United States Post Office," Saks said in a statement.

The news may delight women with shoe obsessions to rival that of former Philippines first lady Imelda Marcos.

"Visitors to the new eighth floor will be greeted by a seemingly endless array of shoes," the statement said.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A Pall on The Mall

Note from Steve: this article focuses on my collegues over at, a great mall history site if there ever was one. It also mentions frequent steve's blog contributor Mitch Glaser's excellent All the Malls of Southern California

Are dead malls worth saving?

Lissa Harris
The Weekly Dig, Boston

As a kid in suburban Rhode Island in the ’80s, [Jason] Damas (left) was, naturally, a mall rat, spending his spare time at the Rhode Island Mall food court and his spare quarters in the Aladdin’s Castle arcade. What’s odd is that he never grew out of it. One rainy day when he was 18, he drove to the Lincoln Mall a few towns over for no reason at all, and spent the day just watching people come and go. It was a bit of an epiphany for Damas...

...Now living in suburban Boston, the 26-year-old Damas is an avid historian—albeit a historian who writes under the pen name “Caldor,” taken from a now-defunct Northeastern retail chain that went belly-up in 1999...

Last year, Damas and [Ross] Schendel launched Labelscar (—a blog, an ambitious retail history project and a state of mind, with a name that manages to be at the same time both poetic and technical....

Read More at The Weekly Dig.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Cliff's Quiz

Another one of Carrie's friend's quizzes...

1. Have you ever changed your clothes while in a vehicle?
Yeah, quite a few times

2. What's something you MUST do before you go to bed?
Put on my bedclothes.

3. Are you single?

4. What's one thing you will not eat?
Boiled eggs.

5. What color is your underwear?
Not brown.

6. When is the last time you went out of state?
I go out-of-state practically every weekend. That’s where the malls are.

7. Who was your last received call?

8. Have you ever drank milk straight out of the carton?
I don’t like milk that much, but I have drunk it from the carton.

10. Can you hula hoop?
Hell naw.

11. Have you ever crawled through a window?
Once or twice

Where's 12 and 13??

14. Was today better than yesterday?
Yeah, but tomorrow’s gonna be a bitch.

15. Is anybody getting on your nerves?
How much time you got?

16. Do you talk to yourself?
Often, it’s the only sensible conversation I have all day.

17. Would you kiss the last person you kissed again?
Yes, but would she let me…

19. Ever waxed your eyebrows?

20. Earrings or necklaces?
I once rocked a fake gold chain in college. I was going through a phase.

21. Are you mad at anybody?
Again. How much time you got?

24. Do you use smiley faces on the computer a lot?
I’m trying to cut down, but I do. :-)

25. What are you doing tonight?
Getting ready to go to bed.

26. What time is it?
2:00 AM

27. Are you loud?
Not as loud as the rest of my family, but louder than the general population.

28. What are you looking forward to?

29. Do you watch Family Guy regularly?

30. Have you ever watched a little kids show?
I used to watch a lot of them. One in particular. You may have heard of it.

31. What does your last outbox text say?
RE: Carolina Circle Emblem

32 Zodiac sign?

33. What's something you have nightmares about?
Being trapped somewhere.

34. Have you ever been on a rollercoaster?
A few. Not my thing, really.

35. Do you care what others think about you?

36.What do you do all the time in a car?
Navigate. Nobody I ride with knows where in the hell they’re going.

37. Do you trust people easily?
Nope. You gotta earn it, Jack!

38.Do you follow college football?
Only the Hokies…and lightly at that.

39. Where was the last place you went shopping?
Hanes Mall

40. Favorite football team?
Pittsburgh Steelers

41. Do you watch the Olympics?

42. Last bar you went to?

43. Do you have a favorite number?
6, just like Bert. Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah.

44. Are you multitasking right now?
You know how we do.

45. Could you handle being in the military?

46. Do you believe in karma?
Yep,and it’s a bitch, too.

47. How is the weather today?
Not hot. Not cold. Not in the pot 9 days old.

48. Stupidest thing you ever did with your cell phone?
Sign the contract.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Hudson Belk gives men their space

Updated 6/5/07 with additional information (see below)

Stand-alone Men's Store opens at Crabtree Valley Mall with more clothes, shoes

Sue Stock, Staff Writer
The News & Observer

RALEIGH - Employees at the new Hudson Belk Men's Store in Raleigh's Crabtree Valley Mall are still arranging displays and unpacking merchandise, but the store was ready enough to open its doors Sunday afternoon.

Belk has moved into the top floor of what used to be Lord & Taylor, bringing mahogany shelves, racks of polo shirts, an expanded shoe department and legions of khaki pants.

The arrival of the 68,000-square-foot Belk Men's Store signals a new approach in this market by the longtime shopping staple.

This is Belk's first stand-alone Men's Store in the area, though it has 15 others in cities such as Danville, Va. It's also the biggest Men's Store the Charlotte retailer has ever built.

Company executives acknowledge that it's a strategy that won't work everywhere.

Shopping centers have to generate enough sales and traffic to make a stand-alone store worthwhile, said Steve Pernotto, the executive vice president.

"It has to be a highly productive center, and we look at sales per square foot and profitability," he said. "We look at the current and the future. You need to look out at where you're going to be in the next couple of years."

Other Belk Men's Stores have been successful, Pernotto said.

He declined to offer specific figures but said a store's sales would typically rise by a few hundred dollars per additional square foot.

The Belk Men's Store at Crabtree is double the size of the old men's department, with 34,000 additional square feet.

Still, despite all the optimism, customers were a bit confused.

Those who visited the old men's department were greeted by empty shelves, a few sales racks and a sign directing them to the new Men's Store.

Mitch Danforth, a senior civil engineering major at N.C. State University, was surprised by the speed of the transition.

"I came to Belk on Saturday and looked at sports jackets, and I came back today and found they had moved," he said. "But they kept the sale prices, so I'm fine."

Belk executives say the confusion will only be temporary. "Change always takes a little time for people to get used to it," store manager Lee O'Rourke said "You'll start to see lots of advertising as we lead into our official grand opening."

Some shoppers Monday were waiting to see whether the new store would retain their favorite qualities from the old store.

Cary resident Al Blalock said he's a fast shopper who goes into the store, gets what he wants and leaves.

"I liked coming to Belk because I didn't feel like someone had to escort me around," Blalock said. "As long as that stays the same, I'm OK."

Alienating shoppers such as Blalock is the last thing Belk wants to do. Overall at Belk stores, 70 percent of the shoppers in the men's department are women.

The Men's Stores offer a chance to appeal directly to men, with no makeup counters or perfume-spraying attendants to dodge and a decor of dark wood and dark colors, Pernotto said.

"The female's going to shop there, regardless, for their husband," Pernotto said. "We think we'll increase the percent of males that shop in our location instead of shopping at another location."

Cary resident Wayne Harris, said he will spend a lot of time in the new Men's Store. He already shops at men's specialty stores such as Liles Clothing Studio in North Hills.

"I think a big percentage of guys just don't like to shop," he said. "But maybe that's because there's not enough selection. ... This will definitely be a shot in the arm for men's shopping around here. They've been needing this."

Other shoppers wondered whether the store was too sophisticated.

"The main focus is on the business attire," said Raleigh resident Curtis Brown, a recent N.C. State University graduate. "Their fashion sense for the younger generation isn't really that much."

Renovation in the old men's department in the original Belk store starts Monday, O'Rourke said. Cosmetics, accessories and intimate apparel will expand into the space. The work will be completed in November.

The new Belk Men's Store will have its grand opening June 1.

Belk's for men jazzed up
Samantha Thompson Smith, Staff Writer
The News & Observer

RALEIGH - Burberry at Belk? That's just one of the big surprises at the new stand-alone Belk men's store that recently opened in the old Lord & Taylor space at Crabtree Valley Mall.

Here's another shocker: 7 for All Mankind jeans. A few of which sell for $198.

Grandad's Belk? Clearly not.

Finally Belk has done to men's fashion what it started doing for women a few years ago. The new store is a pleasant surprise; a mix of old faithfuls that Belk shoppers grew up with -- Saddlebred, Levi's and Ralph Lauren -- coupled with brands you wouldn't expect at Belk. Among them: Gitman Brothers button-downs, Ferragamo ties, Donald Pliner loafers and Paper Denim & Cloth jeans.

They don't come with traditional Belk pricing, either. The Ferragamo ties sell for $135. Burberry button downs cost $115.

There's still plenty of what we're used to. There are plenty of Meeting Street button-downs, and the store has hundreds of Polo shirts -- so many, the Polo shop is among the largest in the Southeast.

But if you want to take it up a notch, here's the place to look. The store also sells higher-end suits by Burberry and Hugo Boss. The selection of Joseph Abboud has expanded. And there's Tommy Bahama wear both for weekends and for work.

The new space is one of the biggest shops for men's clothing and accessories in the area, taking up 68,000 square feet, more than double the retail space of its old location in the lower level of the Crabtree Belk store.

The changes have been a long time coming. Nordstrom and Saks both came into the market a few years ago stocking trendy, big-name brands appealing to more fashion-conscious male shoppers.

Stay tuned. Merchandisers are waiting to see what customers like. Then they plan to edit the selection once they get a better feel for customer demand, says Travis Groome, a Belk merchandise coordinator.