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The Flood of Closures

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When I thought about writing a post last week, I didn’t expect that I would suddenly see so much retail news happen in a single day.  I decided to wait until some of the dust settled before I wrote this.

So here we go…

Over the last couple of weeks, the company Aeropostale closed some of their stores permanently while giving others an inventory reboot.  After almost looking like a going out of business sale, the company has reopened many of their stores.  Over the last few years, Eddie Bauer and Brookstone have done similar.

 Macy’s announced that it was closing nearly 70 stores, eliminating about 10,000 jobs.  Among the closures is the Bangor, Maine store.  Not surprised by this because this location was originally a Filene’s location acquired several years ago and never seemed busy when I visited this mall over the years.

Bangor is also losing its Kmart store as well.  This is only one of the 150 Kmart/Sears closures for early 2017.  While I have never visited this Kmart, I have visited the Augusta Turnpike Mall Sears store in the past, which is also closing.  I consider this more like a strip mall with a covering over it.  The last time I visited this mall, Ames was still the anchor store on the other side.  The interesting thing about that store was that it’s mall entrance had a set of stairs that needed to be climbed to get to the store.  While it was less than 6 steps up, the entrance was never handicap accessible.  However, the Sears store had its own issue as it had only one restroom.   This means that this was a single person unisex bathroom.  Unfortunately, this bathroom was hardly ever clean the few times that I visited this mall.  Overall, this was a very small store and surprised that it lasted as long as it did.  

With so many store closings, the ghost mall will almost be commonplace.  Is there any way to stop this endless cycle?

The Maine Mall, just a couple of miles from where I live is also seeing its own store closures.  While the Sears and Macy’s stores are safe for now, a couple of others are not so lucky.  The f.y.e. video store started its liquidation sale before Thanksgiving day and is now about 1/4 empty and is at the 40-60% reduction price level.  I expect that this store will be gone by month’s end.  While talking to the manager of this store, who had been manager for 36 years (an eternity in retail management), she was surprised that this store would be closing because it always seemed fairly busy.  This store has been in the mall since the “new” section was built in the early 1980’s.  It may have seen massive size reductions but only in the last couple of years has the inventory changed from selling a lot of media to selling clothes and electronic accessories.  This is only one of a couple stores in the mall that I actually shopped in recent years.  It will be sad when it goes away.

Another store that has left but not surprisingly is the Go! toy store. As I mentioned in a previous post that this store took over only the front half of the former Gap store, so it was not utilizing the property as well as it could.  Now the entire side wing is all boarded up with a blank white boards with no indication of a future tenant.  

So now there are several empty store fronts in my local mall and some have been empty for over a year now.  Is this a future dead mall?  I will take that idea up in a future post.

In other closure news, The Limited is closing all its retail stores.  While the nearest store is in Nashua New Hampshire, it still has about 250 stores that will be eliminated.  They claim that online sales were 3 times better than store sales, but I wonder how well that will be after their physical stores close?  After all how many people visit sites like Service Merchandise or Circuit City’s websites now?

Finally, other companies announcing closures include but not limited to:

  • Office Depot closing about 450 stores
  • Children’s Place closing about 100+ stores
  • Foot Locker unknown number of closures
  • Chico’s unknown number of closures

Overall, we are hardly into the new year and the outlook in the retail world already looks pretty dim.  I expect to hear of more closures over the next few months as holiday sales roll in and companies rethink their physical stores.  I only wish that so much bad news didn’t come at once as this could create a domino effect of more malls becoming ghost malls.  

Is real retail dead?  It doesn’t look good for anybody anymore.

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Shocking Shrunken Staples

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A couple of weeks ago, I took my annual trip through 3 malls in New Hampshire. 

Admingly, each year these malls in Nashua, Manchester, and Newington get more and more depressing and have fewer stores that I actually care about shopping in.

All those great stores that I have loved in the past have all but disappeared, just as they have in my local Maine Mall.  Much is dying in my mall as it is in these malls as well.

While there didn’t seem to be many shoppers in any of these malls given that it was post-Thanksgiving week, the stores seem desperate to get sales.

However, my big reason to take this trip was to get my diary and flip calendar, which unfortunately, can only be found at Staples.

As usual, I never stop at the Staples in the area of the Nashua mall, as it is not convenient to get in or out of this location.  So my first Staples stop was the store in Manchester.  This store is located across the street from the Mall of New Hampshire.  Because it is near the end of a long road that contains a strip mall, it really is almost in an inconvenient location.

 

The picture above shows the store as it appeared in 2015.

The picture below shows what the area looks like now.

As you can see from the pictures above, several things have happened:

  1. The business to the left in the top picture of Staples either moved or closed.
  2. Harbor Freight now occupies a good chunk of what was Staples property.
  3. The Staples sign changed deleting the words “The Office Superstore”.

I did not go into the Harbor Freight store as I had no interest in checking out that store.

However going into this Staples store was nothing short of shocking and leads me to think that this is the future direction of future remodels.

This store, obviously, now is significantly smaller than a typical Staples store.  

When you first enter this store, you notice that the entire front half of the store is dedicated to technology.  While this has been the standard approach for many years, it is the back half of the store that is different.  The back section is dedicated solely to the red rack shelving that contain the general office supplies.  

What is missing from this store is a furniture section.  No desks, tables or other furniture items to be found.  Only a couple of chairs in the center of the store with a few boxes up next to a single display chair could be found.  The middle section also had a few holiday items there as well.  Apparently if you want furniture, you have to have it delivered or go to a larger store a few miles away.

Also missing from this store is a dedicated tech repair center.  The tech center used to be located just to the left as you walked in the store.  It used be an entirely enclosed area where techs could work on projects away from customer view.

The copy center area remained largely unchanged in this store reduction, but the cashier area has changed greatly.

No longer is there a dedicated customer service desk or any sign saying where to find it, instead customers are greeted with a sign only for checkouts.

This is where things get even worse.  No longer are there any lane registers in the store, but the registers have changed to one long counter where 3 cashiers stand together.  Each register area has about 12 inches of counter space, which means that very few products could be placed on the counter at a time. 

While I was waiting to get checked out at the second register, the line grew longer and the sole cashier called for additional help.  One guy did come, but instead of going through the small swinging door, he decided to leap over the counter by the first register.  I found this to be unprofessional and somewhat dangerous given the small area he had for clearance.

I don’t think that these type of counter registers work except for maybe bookstores.  They never worked back in the days of Woolworth as employees were continously bumping into each other, but were used only to save space.

Overall, I found this store reduction a very bad thing but only shows that the company is heading in the wrong direction.

I also stopped at the Newington store as well and saw no changes to that store at all.  Apparently, that store has not received the store remodel yet.

However, one thing was missing from both stores were floor associates.  I saw no sales associates in either store on the salesfloor.  This is bothersome because when I was employed by them having someone on the floor was the upmost importance.  My how things have changed for the worse especially what should be a very busy time of year.  

This leads me to my final point and that is that Staples doesn’t seem to be doing much print or television advertising during this time of year since they used to do significantly more.  It might explain why there weren’t many shoppers in either store I went to.

Maybe next year, both stores will become even smaller than they are now.  I will write about any change next December.

Note:  This will be my last post to this blog for 2016.  I will return in January with hopefully something interesting to write about.

In the meantime, follow me on Twitter or join me @retaillandusa on Facebook.  You can also friend me on Facebook as well @louisbrownusa.

Until next year, enjoy the rest of the year.

Back From The Dead (For Now…)

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Yes, I am still alive much to the disappointment of many of you.

The last few months have been extremely difficult for me as I had given up most everything because of a medical condition.
This was not a simple problem:  I was basically blind in one eye and was quickly losing vision in the other.  Whether I liked it or not, I needed surgery to reattach my retina in my left eye and fill holes in my right eye.

The recovery process has been long, lonely and very difficult.  I spent many hours watching YouTube videos on my phone to pass some time as I could not see my laptop.

It is ironic that right after I was getting my laptop back to a working version of Windows 10 again and much lost on it, my health would immediately take a nosedive.

What happened to me basically happened overnight and was very frustrating along with scary.  While I have regained most of my sight back, I still need another procedure done on my right eye early next year. 

Now onto the business at hand:

My plans right now is to continue my postings alternating between my 2 blogs on a weekly basis.  I will, however, be not doing any postings during the last 2 weeks of the year, as I normally never post during those weeks.

My plan is also to resume where I initially left off and that was with trip to Florida earlier this year.  

I will also be doing my annual predictions in early January as I normally do.  However, this year they will be posted exclusively to my rants blog.  I also plan on discussing some post election thoughts as well in early 2017.

Now for some changes that will happen.  I am officially renaming the “Staples blog” to “Retail Land”.  The reason is that I find myself writing more about other retailers than I do about Staples.  This does not mean that I will not write about Staples is that they are dying whether they want to admit to it or not.  I plan on writing my next post about what I found shocking on a recent visit to a Staples store.  To some it may not be, but I look at it as the dismal future of the company.

I am also changing the name of my Facebook page as well to “Retail Land”.  I am hoping that it will grow more than the very few who liked it in the past.

Eventually, I may change the page format to each of my blogs to make them different from one another, but that it is the future.

For now, until next week, email me or leave me a comment below, or visit me on Facebook and become friends with me.  Don’t forget to like my Facebook page as well.

Good bye for now.

Unwanted Hiatus

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​Due to a medical condition, I will not be doing anymore blog posts until further notice.  Additional information is available on my Facebook page.  Thank you for your continued support.

Unwanted Hiatus

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I have some bad news.

Last week, I tried to update to the latest build of Windows 10.  After nearly 3 weeks of failure, it finally downloaded and unfortunately it caused one major problem.

My computer kept crashing not allowing me to do anything with it.  I could not even rollback to the previous build of the operating system.  So I had to do the worst thing possible: boot to the recovery system and backtrack to Windows 7.

In doing this, I lost everything on my computer or at least on the surface.  I am going to try to recover most of my important files, if I can and then reinstall the programs I use to write my blogs.  

This means that I will be dedicating most of my computer time to repairing my system, hopefully and getting back within a month.  Until then I will not be writing any posts to either blog, however when I do return I plan to start with the topics that I previously announced.

Let me say in closing that I have never experienced an incident that caused an upgrade to fail like it did in all the years that I have been using Windows, but there is a first for everything.

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, I will keep you posted on my return.

Until then, happy computing.

Half Year Review

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This week’s blog post is being presented in both of my blogs as the information is relevant to both blogs.

 

Tomorrow, we will be exactly half way through the calendar year.

 

This means at this point that I look back at what has transpired over the last 6 months.

 

On the Staples blog side, the merger that didn’t happen was the big story and appears that the company has suffered greatly because of it.  Whether or not the back to school season will save them is yet to be seen, but if it continues to be as bad as what it has become in recent years, I predict more closures will result along with more cutbacks.

 

On my other blog, no topic was really a standout topic with the possible exception of the Time Warner Cable/Charter merger.  Another topic gaining some traction is the continued problems with the ongoing updates to Windows 10.  As I write this, I am still awaiting the download of the latest build.  Each build seems to be getting less stable as features seem to crash more frequently.  I will report on both of these topics as the need arises.

 

Now for the overall state of both blogs, I must say that I am disappointed.

 

While both blogs seem to have at least 50 followers, it seems that nobody ever seems to comment on either blog much anymore.  Maybe it might be that the topics are not interesting or maybe the inconsistent updates of my posts.  It could also be the length of the posts as well.

 

Recently many of my posts have become much shorter on average.  The reason is that I feel that people may be more engaged if the posts were shorter.  I would appreciate hearing from my followers if they prefer longer posts or shorter ones.  My preference would be to take long topics and break them down into several posts if it is a long topic, but I would like to hear from you.

 

While I do have some disappointed about how things have been in the past, I do have a couple of topics of interest on the upcoming docket.

 

Up first, which will be on the next post to both blogs and run for a few weeks, will be my recent trip to Orlando, Florida.  In case you wondered where I was the first couple of weeks back in early June, I was with my family on their anniversary trip to Orlando for the umpteen times.  Granted I left just hours before the weekend of horror happened with the 3 major events that rocked the city.  Since we drove down there, I have much to share about things that happened along the way and down there.  Yes, nothing really went as smooth as one would think.  This topic will be of interest to both blogs and I hope that it will be interesting as well.

 

After I complete that topic, my plan is to bring the topic of the game show revival that is happening this summer.  I have recorded these new shows, but have yet to watch any and am anxious to compare them to their older versions and how they stack up.  On the Staples blog side, I plan on discussing more of the retail downturn and what companies may be next to bite the bullet.

 

Overall, I think that the topics upcoming will bring great interest to both blogs.  As always I appreciate any comments and any topic suggestions.  You may reach me here or by becoming my friend on Facebook.

 

Until then, enjoy the upcoming holiday weekend.

 

 

 

News After the Divorce

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This week’s post is fairly short only because there is not a lot of news to talk about that happened in the last couple of weeks.

 

The most important Staples event that is happening is that chairman Ron Sargent is stepping down from the company.  This one left me thinking that this ship is about to sink and he doesn’t want to be at the helm anymore.  After all, the $250 million payout to OfficeDepot was hardly pocket change.  Chances are that this took a huge toll on the upper company management and ultimately close more stores.

 

Secondly, I read that Staples was looking to sell its European unit.  Given the near collapse in that area, I am not the least bit surprised over this idea.  I expect that eventually the company will sell all its units except for its North American division.  With how companies like Target and Best Buy closing divisions outside the U.S., this sort of move is expected.

 

Finally, Staples wants to introduce same day delivery in large metropolitan areas.  The cost of this service is rumored to be $14.99 and will allow customers who order before 3pm Monday thru Friday to get their order delivered by 7pm.  I wonder if this service will be by store associates, special courier, or by Staples own courier service.  I see this as a major failure as many businesses don’t stay open until 7pm and no indication was given as to how fast the delivery was.

 

With these 3 items, I see Staples trying to survive despite that much of its business model is pretty much dead.  I expect to see more desperate moves as we get closer to the upcoming back-to-school season.  If this year is as bad as years past are becoming, I expect more drastic measures to be taken to survive.

 

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