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will-work-for-foodI’m in Seattle today – walked a couple blocks from my hotel to a salon. In those two blocks I was panhandled six times. Times are tough.

But it got me thinking. This is a form of marketing (and I mean no disrespect to the growing homeless problem). But if you are forced (or is many cases choose) to work the streets for cash, you have lots of competition. Here’s what I saw:

1. A kind of scary looking guy holding out a cup.
2. Two teenagers with a cardboard sign that read “Conducting Human Compassion Experiment”. Clever.
3. A very jovial man who complimented everyone that walked by. Big smile, and holding out the lid of a cardboard box (like the kind printer paper comes in). He loved my hair (told me that coming and going) but it felt weird to “tip” the guy for a compliment. Right?
4. A young girl with career limiting facial piercings and tattoos and wild wild hair (even by my standards) playing the violin that could land her a symphony position. She was amazing! Also had an adorable dog with a red bandana around his neck.
5. Cardboard sign that read: Cold and broke.

I could see all five of these people if I stood in the middle of the intersection (which would not be a good idea) but you get the point.

Again, I am hesitant to write about this, and even ran it by some friends last night who encouraged me to do so – to make a point.

Brand is your reputation. Period. We all have a brand. And in this economy it’s important to figure out what that is – not only for your business, but for yourself.

Happy Thanksgiving y’all…..Turkeys know the answer to this question.
Nothing like sitting around the kitchen table to get inspiration for your next blog post. It began simple enough. I was in Portland, Oregon visiting my family when I mentioned to my brother that my favorite bar had closed. The Brasserie Montmarte. They were not only known for amazing French food, but they had this magician that could somehow flip a card onto the very high ceiling with your signature on it……creepy and cool. How could this place close? It was always crazy busy.
Some googling lead me to a blog…where it was revealed that the BM had some inspection issues – word on the street Abestos, black mold and lead paint,” The trifecta of badness. Maybe that’s why the cards stuck?

My brother went onto tell me that Foot Locker, Ann Taylor, Wilson’s Leather and Linens-n-Things had all closed their doors recently. Holy crap! What’s left at the mall…….crickets….crickets……so we got to talking about the companies that will survive this Great Recession and those that deserve to die.

One google search led me to a great site with an up-to-date list of retail closures and a “watch list” where over 5000 people wrote in and talked about stores that deserve to fail.

Here are a few of the closures with commentary:

1. Home Depot – for the first time ever – closing 15 underperforming stores in the US.
DOUBLE DOG DARE: Go ask a Home Depot employee (if you can find one) where the wood glue is. Hint: Aisle 11. Still can’t find it? Neither could I.

2. Ann Taylor – closing 117 stores in an attempt to make retailer “more agile”….
IMHO Ann Taylor has been selling the same slacks, blouses and jackets for 20 years.

3. Lillian Vernon – This holiday shopping season was not bright enough so LV filed for bankruptcy in February citing rising shipping and inventory costs. (Have you ever seen the Lilian Verner Mad TV skit?) WARNING: Sexual content and total weirdness.

4. Movie Gallery and Hollywood Video – Closing 400 of 3500 stores, in addition to the 520 stores closed last fall.
One word – Netflix.

5. Saks – Fort Lauderdale store to close.
Boo hoo.

6.Circuit City.
Big Box Blah……

7.Sprint Nextel Corp. Closing 125 stores reacting to a steep drop in its customer base. Good riddance.
Does anyone else think it’s ironic that you can never get a phone company ON THE PHONE?

Here’s the list of stores that the AOL Money & Finance readers THINK will fail and possibly could….

1. Starbucks – expanded too fast, partnered with the devil (grocery stores, airlines, bookstores)

sears-kmart-to-45072. KMart – Animated Blue Light is just creepy. Merged with Sears. In some markets they are now K-Mart/SEARS…..that would be like MACY’S/JCPenney – what’s the point?

3. Sears – See KMart above.

4. JC Penney – See KMart above.

5. Macy’s – see Kmart above AND they gobbled up Meier & Frank and Bon Marche’ just to get bigger……many loyal shoppers (including me) fled.

6. Kentucky Taco Hut – Okay, this one was contributed by my niece. They just got one of these in their town (thanks to the parent company Yum Brands). I hate to mix my smells – friend chicken, pizza and tacos….messes me up.

7. The Gap – Anytime you get spoofed on SNL – it’s good for your brand but ultimately bad for your business…..tried to stay young and hip and then detoured into “preppy” when we’d all moved onto Chicos…….or maybe that’s just me.

8. Mervyn’s of California….and therein lies their problem. Especially when they moved into Oregon where we are trained to hate Californians on principle.

9. Radio Shack – According to the website: “What a dinosaur. Poor service, crappy selection and commissioned sales clerks that don’t know anything. Has anyone bought anything from Radio Shack since the 1980’s? You want to talk about a store with product lines that need to be updated, it’s gotta be them. How many people need a new rotary phone?

One thing I think all of these have in common – inertia. We had a great idea say 20-30 years ago, so why change? I mean, if it ain’t broke, why fix it, right? (I HATE that saying btw).

This Great Recession that we’re in is definitely going to thin the herd. For that I am thankful. It’s going to be survival of the fittest. And not just lean and mean – but those that focus on customer service, a target audience, and the business they are in. The survivors are going to look like Southwest Airlines, Apple, Smith & Wesson, Absolut Vodka and WalMart.

Ahhh….back to basics.

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May 2023