Mueller Chocolate: Gross Profits

The Washington Post: “It’s a Saturday afternoon at Philadelphia’s popular Reading Terminal Market … On a busy day like this, Mueller Chocolate might serve 800 customers … As crowds of shoppers move past the Mueller stall, some stop to point, stare and whisper: ‘Oh, my goodness, what is that?’ Well ‘that’ is a display of kidneys (with candy kidney stones), brains, livers, eyes, hands, feet (with almonds as toenails) and noses — all edible, all chocolate.”

“It started, Glenn Jr. recalls, one Valentine’s Day in the late 1990s, when his mother decided that ‘these heart-shaped boxes are stupid.’ She had a mold created based on a drawing of a human heart in her son-in-law’s medical school textbook … When the chocolate heart made national news, orders came in from around he world, he said, and demand hasn’t slowed down.”

“The sweet stuff takes hundreds of forms at the Mueller stall, none more infamous than the chocolate-covered raw onion. It was created in 1983, when the creator of a local children’s television show, ‘Double Muppet Hold the Onions,’ asked the Muellers to make a chocolate-covered onion for Kermit to present to Miss Piggy.” Glenn Meuller Jr. explains: “The chocolate onion . . . is hideous, but we’ve been doing it for 30 years. It changed our trajectory.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Cover Story: Fashion That’s Fast But Not Loose

The Wall Street Journal: “In India, consumers want their fashion fast, but not so racy. So, for Cover Story—India’s first domestic fast-fashion chain—that often means censoring international looks … Many Indian women aren’t comfortable showing their midriffs, for example, so Cover Story began layering crop tops … Dresses with deep necks were deemed too daring, so the company’s designers added netting along the neckline.”

“Color is another point of difference: Indian consumers tend to favor brighter colors than Western apparel shoppers. When the Cover Story designers saw black, white and gray striped clothes on the runways they swapped out the shades for blue and red.”

“Cover Story plans to bring fresh styles to its shelves every week. It expects to open 100 outlets in the next five years, particularly in smaller towns where consumers are more likely to find the unedited international styles too provocative. Competing global chains say they don’t plan to open even half that number of stores.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Michaels: The Art & Craft of The Retail Experience

“We’re not Apple. We don’t make the new iPhone that people will line up in advance for. We need products that people want in an environment they want to shop in,” says Chuck Rubin, CEO of Michaels, in Forbes.

“Michaels is one of the most surprising retail successes of recent years. It has stuck to transforming its brick-and-mortar stores while almost completely ignoring e-commerce … While the company’s core hasn’t changed–it sells cheap craft supplies–Rubin has modified its stores to make it easier for novice crafters to find items. They’re bringing in more of those types of customers by moving beyond sewing-room basics, adding cooler items, like those coloring books, and Michaels-exclusive products, such as Isaac Mizrahi-branded yarn.”

“The most striking part of Michaels’ success is how it contradicts the digital era’s implied mandate for retailers–that survival hinges on selling online. But Michaels hasn’t wasted millions competing with Amazon.com on e-commerce. It’s grown while focusing squarely on improving what’s within its stores’ four walls … The Web remains a no-man’s-land for Michaels … Rubin knows all that stands between Michaels and Bezos is the in-store experience.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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.”

buenos-aires-bookstore-theatre-el-ateneo-grand-splendid-9

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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.’”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail