Chipotle: Too Cold to be Cool?

Business Insider: “Chipotle is hardly the first big company to screw up, but the reason it’s now struggling to woo customers might have to do with … placing too much focus on food and not enough on connections with customers. That’s according to Chris Malone … coauthor, with the psychologist Susan Fiske, of The Human Brand.”

“Malone said he doesn’t have concrete data, but before the outbreaks, he’d personally observed minimal interaction between customers and servers, almost no managerial supervision, and employees unfazed by long wait times. Then the outbreaks — and the fact that the company couldn’t pinpoint their source — called into question Chipotle’s core competency. Suddenly the company had nothing going for it.”

“If Chipotle wants to bolster its image among consumers, it needs to ‘put more of a human face on the company,’ Malone said. But he’s skeptical that it would be able to do that.”

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Direct Disruption: The Tide Wash Club

The Wall Street Journal: “Blindsided by the success of the upstart Dollar Shave Club, an online subscription service that chipped away at the dominance of Gillette razors, P&G executives say they are focusing not only on what consumers buy but on how they buy … P&G is experimenting with … the Tide Wash Club, an online subscription service for the dissolvable Tide Pods capsules that are the company’s highest-priced laundry detergent. The company offers free shipping at regular intervals.”

“Another new offering: Tide Spin, an undertaking P&G is calling the ‘uberization of laundry,’ in which customers in parts of Chicago can use a smartphone app to order laundry pickup and delivery from Tide-branded couriers. With the ventures, P&G is delving deeper into the business of connecting consumers directly with the products it makes, especially a new generation less loyal to the company’s big brands.”

“Privately, P&G executives acknowledge the company was caught off guard by the success of Dollar Shave Club, which started in 2011 and says it now has 3.2 million subscribers. ‘It was probably on the radar but we weren’t necessarily having the right conversation around what might disrupt us,’ said a person familiar with the company’s thinking.”

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Big-Bang Retail: Hershey Chocolate World To Triple Size

“Hershey said it would open a new New York City flagship location triple the size of its existing Times Square store,” The Wall Street Journal reports. “At a little more than 2,200-square feet, Hershey’s Chocolate World store at West 48th Street and Broadway is popular, but its size limits the number of brands and experience the company can offer, a Hershey spokeswoman said.”

“Hershey will join other Times Square tenants creating more interactive or engaging retail environments … Last month, the National Football League, Cirque du Soleil and the National Football League Players Association announced they would open an NFL Times Square experience, a four-story, 40,000-square foot permanent exhibit also at 20 Times Square. The exhibit will include an NFL store, a 350-seat theater, and high-tech, interactive displays designed to re-create an immersive experience of a football game for fans.”

Andrew S. Goldberg of CBRE Group comments: “If you look at all the stores now [in Times Square], it’s not traditional retail being done in the old format way. Everyone is looking at how to keep the customers engaged longer and having them stay and be more involved in the store.”

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Macy’s: Putting the ‘AI’ Into Retail

The Washington Post: “Macy’s … has teamed up with IBM Watson to use artificial intelligence as a customer service tool in 10 of its stores. The retailer dubbed the pilot program ‘Macy’s On Call,’ and it will allow customers to type in questions on their phones and receive answers. Unlike some chatbots that can only regurgitate pre-programmed responses based on keywords, IBM Watson will learn over time to give better answers that are customized to individual stores.”

“Macy’s move is an acknowledgment of what a habit it has become for consumers to swipe and tap on their smartphones while they’re on the go. And it’s a bid to figure out how to channel that behavior into an advantage — not a threat — to in-store shopping.”

“Macy’s is not the only retailer that is experimenting with some use of artificial intelligence. IBM Watson has already dabbled in using its tools to power other shopping experiences such as a collaboration with outdoor apparel brand North Face on a website that helps shoppers find the right jacket.”

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Baseball: These Are The Good Old Days

The Wall Street Journal: “Baseball’s nostalgia is often seen as a virtue when it’s more accurately a disease. Baseball is the one business—outside of perhaps politics—that considers it good strategy to tell you its product is less than what it used to be. Baseball is currently watched by more people than at any other time in human history, and played at a higher level that we have ever seen before.”

“If Mickey Mantle ever saw a Noah Syndergaard fastball, he would never stop crying. If Babe Ruth faced Clayton Kershaw, he would call the Dodgers lefty a witch and want him burned for black magic. There were no good old days. The good old days are now.” – Will Leitch, reviewing The Baseball Whisperer by Michael Tackett.

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Luxury: It’s Not What It Used To Be

USA Today: “People around the world who usually flock to luxury goods are worried about events that threaten global stability including terrorism fears, the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union and China’s slowdown. At the same time, luxury retailers are losing share to online sellers, the same issue bedeviling mainstream store chains. They’re also suffering at the hands of discounters and fast-fashion luxury lookalikes.”

Milton Pedraza, CEO of The Luxury Institute, comments: “The story with luxury is it’s just not as a exclusive and it doesn’t justify the price like it used to. Too many of them are discounting and there’s not enough consumer demand.”

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Cultural Evolution: Nintendo Goes With Partnerships

The New York Times: “Nintendo — which took an early lead in mobile gaming and then proceeded to blow it — offers a lesson in how corporate cultures can make or break a company, especially those that are pioneers in a field … If Nintendo is easily likened to Apple for its autocratic insistence on groundbreaking innovation, it is also like Xerox in that it has failed to take advantage of ideas as valuable as the mouse.”

“Pokémon Go, this month’s gaming phenomenon, came about only because Nintendo has gone years without a hit and was forced to find partners … Pokémon Go demonstrates that Nintendo’s stable of characters … can form the basis for others to develop lucrative mobile games. But that would turn Nintendo into a different kind of company — one … that is content to hit singles and doubles rather than swing for the fences.”

“Nintendo has shown before that it can adapt. It got its start making playing cards in 1889. By the 1970s it was designing video games, leading to the release of the Donkey Kong video game machine in 1981 … In 1983, it added a modem port to the home video game console that would eventually become the popular Nintendo Entertainment System, decades ahead of a time when Xbox and PlayStation gamers connect with one another around the world.”

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Theater as Retail: El Ateneo Grand Splendid

Boredpanda: “Tucked away in Barrio Norte, Buenos Aires is a beautiful bookshop called El Ateneo Grand Splendid … which currently welcomes over one million visitors each year … It is built within the almost 100-year-old Grand Splendid Theater, which opened in 1919.”

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The Strand: A Culture of Quizzes

The New York Times: “The Strand is the undisputed king of the city’s independent bookstores, a giant in an ever-shrinking field … The Strand employees are known for being ‘curmudgeonly’ but also clever, even cool: Former employees include Patti Smith … For about four decades, however, applicants have confronted a final hurdle to enter its ranks: the literary matching quiz.”

“Over time, the reputation of the Strand’s quiz has grown … The legend has become larger, in fact, than the quiz itself, which is only 10 lines long, covering a few inches of the photocopied application … Fred Bass, who with his daughter, Nancy Bass Wyden, owns the Strand, called the quiz ‘a very good way to find good employees,’ regardless of their duties.”

Carson Moss of The Strand says the quiz is not a make or break for applicants: “In a sense we feel it’s a reward for passionate readers, after they’ve slogged through an application,” he said. The Strand’s Constance Fox comments: “What I find most interesting is when people don’t answer, but then write: ‘I’m an artist. I know all about Picasso,’ or ‘Here’s what I know about children’s books.’”

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