Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Liz Claiborne passes away at 78

Chain Store Age

Fashion designer Liz Claiborne has died, the company she founded said Wednesday. She was 78.

Claiborne died Tuesday after suffering from cancer for a number of years, said Gwen Satterfield, personal assistant to Claiborne.

Claiborne founded Liz Claiborne Inc. in 1976 along with her husband Art Ortenberg and Leonard Boxer. Their aim was to create a collection of fashions aimed at the growing number of women entering the work force.

The clothes became an instant hit, and the company went public in 1981. By 1985, Liz Claiborne Inc. was the first company founded by a woman to be listed in the Fortune 500, according to the company's Web site. The company, whose brands now include Ellen Tracy, Dana Buchman and Juicy Couture, generated sales of almost $5 billion last year.

Liz Claiborne retired from day-to-day operations in 1989.

Friday, June 15, 2007

one last time...

Bob Barker enters the stage for the last time for his final episode of "The Price Is Right" in Los Angeles on Wednesday, June 6, 2007. Bob Barker signed off on 35 years on "The Price Is Right" and 51 years in television in the same low-key, genial fashion that made him one of daytime TV's biggest stars. (AP Photo)

I want this setup for my house, back wall and all. I used to have something similar at Tanglewood, or thought I did. LOL

We're gonna miss you, Bob!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

"they're (not so) grrrreat"

Does 'Big Cereal's self-regulation mean anything?

According to published reports, cereal giant Kellogg is voluntarily phasing out advertising to kids under age 12 unless and until the foods meet certain nutrition guidelines. They have also agreed to stop licensing popular advertising characters connected to the affected products.

Is this a step in the right direction? Maybe, but it seems a little silly to me.

Anyone who’s read about the dangers of processed foods knows that breakfast foods like Pop Tarts and Froot Loops are not good for you, even as part of a “balanced breakfast.” And we all know that kids are gullible. I know I would try to stick everything in the supermarket cart I saw on Saturday morning cartoons (Remember those? Where have they gone?)


Unlike with similar initiatives aimed at the tobacco and cigarette industry, the target market is not easily able to go buy (or have someone buy them) the product. Your five-year-old will beg and scream for Corn Pops, but it’s not like he can drive himself to Kroger and stock up.

Parents are buying this crap for their kids. Taking the commercials off cartoon broadcasts doesn’t mean anything if the parent goes and buys it for them anyway. And part of the reason that kids are so overweight and obese these days is because parents are enabling them with foods that are bad for them.

While it’s likely that some cereals and other products could be reformulated to be healthier, and hopefully they will be, by this intuitive, so much of what is going on is just window dressing.

Think about the kids menu at your favorite restaurant. Hot dogs, chicken nuggets, fries…none of this stuff is substantially healthier than a bowl of cereal (especially when studies have shown a link between increased levels of saturated fats in the body and the development of diabetes). But nobody (yet) has suggested that we take off the Oscar Meyer or Ore-Ida commercials.

Yes, I know it’s voluntary, but it’s a double standard, and in the media clip-entrenched world we live in, it makes something that (generally) does include some vitamins and minerals in its primary ingredients out to be the bad guy. Giving a kid another processed product in lieu of the suddenly evil cereal will not necessarily improve their health.

I guess my point is, what’s being done doesn’t hurt, but until an effort is done to make food healthier for all of us, especially kids, we’re really not doing anything special here by taking away Tony the Tiger.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

new rules for 2007

I think George Carlin came up with these, and my cousin Cindy sent them to me. Enjoy.
  • New Rule: Stop giving me that pop-up ad for! There's a reason you don't talk to people for 25 years. Because you don't particularly like them!? Besides, I already know what the captain of the football team is doing these days--mowing my lawn.
  • New Rule: Don't eat anything that's served to you out a window unless you're a seagull. People are acting all shocked that a human finger was found in a bowl of Wendy's chili. Hey, it cost less than a dollar. What did you expect it to contain?? Trout?
  • New Rule: Stop saying that teenage boys who have sex with their hot, blonde teachers are permanently damaged. I have a better description for these kids: lucky bastards.
  • New Rule: If you need to shave and you still collect baseball cards, you're a dope. If you're a kid, the cards are keepsakes of your idols. If you're a grown man, they're pictures of men.
  • New Rule: Ladies, leave your eyebrows alone. Here's how much men care about your eyebrows: do you have two of them? Okay, we're done.
  • New Rule: There's no such thing as flavored water. There's a whole aisle of this crap at the supermarket, water, but without that watery taste. Sorry, but flavored water is called a soft drink. You want flavored water? Pour some scotch over ice and let it melt. That's your flavored water.
  • New Rule: Stop screwing with old people. Target is introducing a redesigned pill bottle that's square, with a bigger label. And the top is now the bottom. And by the time grandpa figures out how to open it, his ass will be in the morgue. Congratulations, Target, you just solved the Social Security crisis.
  • New Rule: The more complicated the Starbucks order, the bigger the asshole. If you walk into a Starbucks and order a "decaf grande half-soy, half-low fat, iced vanilla, double-shot, gingerbread cappuccino, extra dry, light ice, with one sweet-n'-Low, and one NutraSweet," ooh, you're a huge asshole.
  • New Rule: I'm not the cashier! By the time I look up from sliding my card, entering my PIN number, pressing "Enter," verifying the amount, deciding no, I don't want cash back, and pressing "Enter" again, the kid who is supposed to be ringing me up is standing there eating my Almond Joy.
  • New Rule: Just because your tattoo has Chinese characters in it doesn't make you spiritual. It's right above the crack of your ass. And it translates to "beef with broccoli." The last time you did anything spiritual, you were praying to God you weren't pregnant. You're not spiritual. You're just high.
  • New Rule: Competitive eating isn't a sport. It's one of the seven deadly sins. ESPN recently televised the U.S. Open of Competitive Eating, because watching those athletes at the poker table was just too damned exciting. What's next, competitive farting??? Oh wait!? They're already doing that. It's called "The Howard Stern Show."
  • New Rule: I don't need a bigger mega M&Ms. If I'm extra hungry for M&Ms, I'll go nuts and eat two.
  • New Rule: If you're going to insist on making movies based on crappy, old television shows, then you have to give everyone in the Cineplex a remote so we can see what's playing on the other screens. Let's remember the reason something was a television show in the first place is that the idea wasn't good enough to be a movie.
  • New Rule: No more gift registries. You know, it used to be just for weddings. Now it's for babies and new homes and graduations from rehab. Picking out the stuff you want and having other people buy it for you isn't gift giving, it's the white people version of looting.
  • New Rule: and this one is long overdue: No more bathroom attendants.? After I zip up, some guy is offering me a towel and a mint like I just had sex with George Michael. I can't even tell if he's supposed to be there, or just some freak with a fetish. I don't want to be on your web cam, dude. I just want to wash my hands.
  • New Rule: When I ask how old your toddler is, I don't need to know in months. "27 Months." "He's two," will do just fine. He's not a piece of cheese. And I didn't really care in the first place.
  • New Rule: If you ever hope to be a credible adult and want a job that pays better than minimum wage, then for God's sake don't pierce or tattoo every available piece of flesh. If so, then plan your future around saying, "Do you want fries with that?"

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

way to shop?

Macy's regional buying strategy is criticized

The New York Post

Even as Macy's spends millions of dollars to create a national brand through advertising and store renovations, behind the scenes the company still operates through seven regional buying offices, a system that analysts have panned as outdated and costly.

Macy's argues that its regional divisions allow it to better tailor merchandise for different stores, ensuring that marquee locations such as Macy's Herald Square carry more upscale items than do stores in less affluent neighborhoods.

But analysts point out that Macy's is one of the few large retailers to still rely on regional buying offices. J.C. Penney, Kohl's and Nordstrom are among those that have switched to central systems, yet manage to pepper stores with local flavor, these people said.

As Macy's sales continue to lag expectations, the company's cost structure is increasingly becoming a topic of conversation. This is especially true as savings from its merger with the May Department Stores Co. start to run their course.

"Macy's cost structure is too high, and, as a result, their prices are too high," said Robert Buchanan of A. G. Edwards. "That is a key reason why they are likely to lose market share."

Buchanan estimates that Macy's could save $100 million a year by eliminating all but two of its buying offices. He favors the retention of regional merchandise managers to ensure that products are tailored to individual stores.

Such a move would help bring Macy's expenses in line with competitors. According to Buchanan, Macy's expense-to- sales ratio is 32 percent compared with 27 percent for Nordstrom and 25 percent for both J.C. Penney and Kohl's.

Macy's has tried centralized buying in its home department with disastrous results, making it less likely the company would move quickly to streamline other divisions, observers said.

The move to central buying for bedding, furniture and other items for the home pre-dated Macy's, then known as Federated Department Stores, 2005 merger with the May Co.

Logistical problems with warehouse and distribution centers overwhelmed the Macy's team. Then the housing slump kicked in, further hurting sales of home goods, which have been among the company's weakest performers.

The pressure to cut costs by centralizing operations comes as Macy's finds it increasingly difficult to integrate the roughly 400 stores it acquired from the May Co.

Macy's is adding more promotions and adjusting merchandise through a seven-box grid. Prices range from good, better, best. Styles are lumped into four groups with traditional being the most conservative and fashion the most trendy.

Tinkering with the merchandise only works if consumers perceive products sold at Macy's to be of comparable or better value to what competitors are offering, analysts said.

For instance, towels sold at Macy's under its private label Charter Club brand for $16 stack up poorly against Target's Fieldcrest towels, which regularly go for $11.99, said Robert Passikoff of Brand Keys.

Monday, June 11, 2007

"There are FIVE chairs in this hotel room"

Greetings and salutations to whoever’s left out here.

My frequent and long-term absences from this blog have taken a toll on the comments and readership, as evidenced in the lack of comments of late. If I had my way, these things would never happen, but, like everybody else these days, I’ve been pulled in multiple directions in this recent life, unable to focus enough to give this place the quality of writing that it deserved.

So I backed off.

In the meantime, a lot has happened, not necessarily to me, but to other members of our little blogging community. Several of us have lost parents and other loved ones, and others have gotten new jobs or increased responsibilities on our existing jobs. Some of us have suffered from writers’ block, while others have never been so prolific. Kids are born; stuff goes out of business or changes beyond recognition. Such is life.

As for me, I recently celebrated (if you can call it that) my one-year service anniversary with the city and two successful tax seasons with Big Green. One of these things may or may not be a part of my life this time next year. I’ll let you know, preferably off-site, as the biggest drawback of being so open and public with my identity is that anybody and everybody can read this stuff.

Something tells me that if I had it to do again, I’d select a snazzy pseudonym and conduct this operation undercover. Then again, when I started this thing, I never expected to develop a fan base (HA!) or a public life. I also never expected to live out my life’s dramas behind a keyboard. Oh well. I guess I never took ‘Diary 101’ back in the day.

I’ve been doing the retail thing as of late as well, as if anyone is surprised. In the past few weeks, I’ve visited new store prototypes from The Home Depot, Brooks Brothers, Sur la Table and Belk, as well as an antique mall that is located in an almost well-preserved former Kmart that thankfully never made it to the badly-altered Big Kmart phase.

I also saw “Knocked Up” at the movies. Seth Rogen found a way to make what would seem to be a totally undesirable character into a sweet, smart and unquestionably funny lead. He’s only a small part of what makes this Judd Aptow vehicle a smash hit. You just have to see how many gags and references can be effectively crammed into one movie.

Geez, what else have I done? A lot, I guess, but writing it is harder that it seems.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

the quality food people

Oh yeah, do you know how you know you’re suffering from job burnout? When you can’t seem to chill out enough to do productive things.

Tonight, instead of doing something that probably needed to be done, I was looking at pictures of old Giant (Landover) grocery stores on DC Grocery.

Giant Food really is one of the more interesting supermarket chains from a historical standpoint. It started a lot later than most of its industry counterparts and concentrated on a handful of contiguous markets in the Washington, DC area, but still was able to cast a major shadow on the industry, providing such innovations as combo grocery-general merchandise stores (in the ‘50s!) and chain-wide grocery scanners way before even its largest competitors.

Considering who I am and what I do, I don’t consider it a waste of my evening, especially when I found a vintage The Hecht Co. logo in an ad posted on the same site that had the Giant photos.

I’m weird. I don’t miss my local Hecht’s. But I miss the Washington-area Hecht’s, as well as the Woodward & Lothrop and Garfinkel’s. I think for me they helped define the market as a distinctive entity. You don’t get that with national chains. But I digress.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The NYC Profit Calculator (Macy's edition)

If you have ever wondered how a place like Macy's in Herald Square stays in business, here's an idea.

Related Story
The Profit Calculator -- New York Magazine

After taping last show, Barker offers to fill in as 'Price' host

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- After 35 years as host of "The Price Is Right," Bob Barker hung up his microphone for good this week. Or did he?

After taping his last show, the 83-year-old icon said Wednesday that he would happily return to the "Price" stage if a replacement host isn't found by the time the new season starts in the fall.

"They're having trouble finding someone to do the show," Barker told reporters during a post-show press conference. "And I've told members of the staff here that ... if they wanted me to do it for a few more months, I would do it.

"I don't want to walk out on CBS or the company if they're in that position because they've been too good to me."

FremantleMedia North America, which produces "The Price Is Right," did not respond to a call seeking comment Thursday.

Barker taped his last episode — his 6,586th — of the popular CBS game show Wednesday, retiring after five decades on national television. The episode is scheduled to air twice June 15: once at its usual time and again that evening.

The silver-haired host ended his record tenure by blowing kisses and working in the same low-key, genial fashion that made him one of daytime TV's biggest stars. He closed the show with his usual, "Help control the pet population, have your pets spayed or neutered. Goodbye everybody."

Once the cameras stopped rolling, he told the studio audience: "I thank you, thank you, thank you for inviting me into your home for more than 50 years. I'm truly grateful, and I hope that all of you have enjoyed your visit to `The Price Is Right.'"

Reruns of Barker-hosted shows will play throughout the summer.

A new host has yet to be named. Among those reportedly in the running are Todd Newton of the E! network, Mark Steines of "Entertainment Tonight," George Hamilton and John O'Hurley.

Developers show off Lord & Taylor, Whole Foods plan

Mark Ginocchio,
The Stamford Advocate

STAMFORD, Conn. -- Jun. 5 -- Developers yesterday unveiled an artist's rendering of an expanded Lord & Taylor department store at Bulls Head with a Whole Foods Market on the ground floor.

The site would include a new 190,000-square-foot Lord & Taylor store, a 60,000-square-foot Whole Foods and 50,000 square feet of retail space with vendors to be determined.

The changes are part of a nationwide makeover of the department store chain, Lord & Taylor Chairman Richard Baker said.

"Every inch will be brand new," Baker said during a news conference at the Stamford Government Center. "It will be the most special Lord & Taylor in the chain."

When he acquired the department store chain in October, Lord & Taylor was a "dusty brand," Baker said. The company is investing $500 million nationally to revitalize it.

The Stamford project, which must be approved by city boards, is being developed by National Realty & Development Corp. of Purchase, N.Y.

The specialty grocer Whole Foods has "knocked on doors" in Stamford for a while, Mayor Dannel Malloy said.

The closest Whole Foods stores are in Greenwich and White Plains, N.Y. The company recently bought the Wild Oats chain, which has a store in Westport.

Bringing in a Whole Foods is great but "one of the most exciting parts is that Lord & Taylor is enlarging, while other stores have been downsizing," Malloy said.

Sandra Goldstein, executive director of the Downtown Special Services District, said she has received a number of calls asking for a Whole Foods downtown.

"As much as we would want one downtown, we are very supportive of this program," Goldstein said of the Lord & Taylor development between High Ridge and Long Ridge roads at Bulls Head, the large intersection with Cold Spring Road, Summer Street and Bedford Street.