The big mess at Macy’s shakes my faith.

Shopping is a visceral and emotional experience, fulfilling deep-set gathering and social needs. So returning a gift and choosing another should be at least somewhat satisfying, right?

Not so much. Last week at a big Macy’s store at upscale Somerset Mall in Troy, Michigan, my deep-seated sense of the pleasure from the art of shopping in real life got a big fat negative jolt. Now I realize things get busy and therefore messy in retail at the holidays, but never have I seen store departments look like they looked on this trip.

My friend and I browsed the crowded store on December 29th.  In coats, one entire wall of jackets was blocked by hundreds of returned coats piled on the floor. I asked why, was told “no room in the back” to put them. Really? The pile was up to my knees.  My visceral nerves were on edge already.

Then we cruised quickly through kids apparel, and although we are both grandmothers, we quickly decided the crowds and very messy fixtures were a huge deterrent to the joy we might have in finding something adorable for our precious ones.  This decision prompted an emotional response of resentment of the mess, since I’ve loved shopping baby clothes bargains for 16 months now. When pleasure shopping is spoiled, resentment will linger on.

The most appalling mess was in pajamas and intimates,  The piles of returns on the floors were bad enough, but the associates were engulfed by merchandise strewn all over the counters. Other fixtures laden with new inventory looked as if the department had been recently ransacked. By now, I was really on edge, but was stuck in a long line as my friend was buying something.

Macys3 Macys Messmacys2

 

I know retailers have procedures and processes for managing the future status of returned merchandise, and this does take time, but never in my shopping life have I seen this kind of poor handling of returned merchandise. Or should I say mishandling of the shopper. I felt that I didn’t want to touch one thing in this department. These images will be seen by my mind’s eye for a long time, and while it will be a while before I visit another Macy’s, one thing I did learn is this:

If you don’t know what your loved one really wants for Christmas, go with a gift card. Then perhaps post-holiday shopping can return to a bit less chaos.

A new view on spending in December!

This is the first year I’ve used up all my healthcare pre-tax savings account. To be completely transparent, it was gone in August. And now it’s December. And I’m still spending!

I’m spending on healthcare this month like it was all I wanted for Christmas!

One might surmise that I’m not feeling well, or that I have some disease, but that’s not it. I’ve spent most of my money on wellness procedures to get some nagging aches and pains under control. And that worked. (insert smiley face here).

The new view on December spending is frankly this: I’ve met my deductible and can finally tap into my insurance.

Now I get why all the docs are so jammed in December. And I’m glad I had appointments booked in advance.

On my spending list this month is some shoulder therapy, which has helped my golf swing and is also prep work for a January trip that includes white water rafting and zip-line fun in Costa Rica. Today I go to pick out and pay for new glasses, that’s always an expensive treat given I’m now up to three layers of vision in the lenses!

And Monday the hubby and I are both off to the lab to prove to our interinst that our “number” are better and our health efforts have been worth it.

Too bad, Walmart, Target and the mall stores. Too bad Amazon Prime.  Our gift budgets are gone. But we’re making the best choices we can, given what our premiums and deductibles will be come January. Taking the long view has changed our December spending, but we are feeling like Santa came early!

Falling out of like with online shopping

DEAR OVERSTOCK.COM

Two weeks ago, I ordered an outdoor rug for my back deck from you.  I was so pleased to find the selection you offerred, and did a bit of exploring on your site to determine the size and style I wanted. I love that my chosen rug was a good price, the shipping date was very reasonable, and in less than three days the rug was on the deck, under the new table. Imagine how happy I was to have my neighbors over for dinner, collecting compliments on my style of outdoor entertaining.

So, why oh why, Overstock, do you continue to show up in my Facebook feed as a sponsored post with views and ads of all the other rugs I looked at but did not order???

Come on now, you know I bought one of the 5 styles I was looking at. Why do you now haunt (read as annoy) me with the other 4?

This the is most shopper-annoying part of technology.

It makes me want to delete my Overstock.com account. Instead of helping me, you are interrupting my life while I am trying to enjoy what I bought from you already.

WHEN WILL YOU LISTEN??

I;m falling out of like with you.

 

ShopperAnnie versus the Porn Star

Bet you didn’t know I chose @ShopperAnnie as my Twitter handle back in 2009 because there’s a porn star who calls herself Anne Howe. UGH!

Launching a professional consultant identity in the Shopper Marketing/Retail/Consumer Goods space is hard enough.  Competing with a nasty little porn star for a good ranking on a Google search for your real name – well that just gave me an incentive to work harder.

That’s why  when I chose my company name I added the word Associates – so I could use AHA! as part of my brand. I chose to expand my ShopperAnnie  “handle”  on my blog.

If I can slog it out on Google search with a porn star, think of what I can do for your business. Persistence pays off in the long run.

Bye, Bye Kiwi

Kiwi, you’ve been replaced by a banana. A peel of a banana, no less!

I recently read (in the AARP magazine, OMG did I just admit that?) that you can use a banana peel (the inside part) to polish leather shoes. Smear it on and buff it out after one minute with a soft cloth. A weird smell, banana on leather, but not as toxic as a whiff of chemical-laden polish out of that metal container.

As a marketer of consumer brands I feel somewhat guilty when I find a sure-fire organic no-cost solution to a problem. In this case, it means I will stop buying shoe polish, at least in brown.

As a consumer it’s frankly odd to rub banana peels on your $200 boots. But my last date with Kiwi ended badly when the color of an expensive and favorite pair of Ralph Lauren loafers turned into a blotchy mess of brown awfulness.

My boots look amazing, so do the ten year old Paul Green loafers I still love after all these years.  Oh what one banana peel can do!

And guess what else? The banana itself was a tasty treat in my greek yogurt smoothie! Now all I need is a white fruit option for my golf shoes!

Ice Chimes Ring in the New Year

ICE_HL

Usually, when I hear that pretty tinkling sound, it’s coming from my neighbor’s wind chimes that sing like the wind in Costa Rica.

Imagine my surprise in hearing the wind chime song from ice breaking up on a big lake on a cold gray windy New Year’s Eve.

The wind blew in from the north, and with temps in the high 20’s, a thin layer of ice on the west shore of Hubbard Lake began to crack and drift apart. I ventured out with my camera.

And while the pictures are cool, what I will always remember is how pretty that sound was on the lakeshore. I’ve never heard anything quite like that from a lake.

ICE_HL

Later that evening, the wind was howling and the ice changed to garish crunching and cracking which, despite a full moon, sent me back inside to find the memory of my special winter wind chimes that, to me, were singing Happy New Year!

Three AHA Moments – Words for 2013

This is the third year I’ve followed the advice of business leader Chris Brogan  – to select and post for all to see – three words that will guide the year ahead.

Last year I built my words around my business initials – AHA!

This year I’m jumping off with something that describes me and what I do very well. I got there because of a neighborly type newsletter Chris sends on Sunday mornings, which got me thinking  how nice it is to be centered, even in business, around human connections.  Chris is, and happily, so am I.

Homemade Soup. As a one person shop in consulting, I have mainly big organizations as clients, but I serve them in a most neighborly and personal way!

I blend solutions for them like homemade soup, getting it just right by referring to strategy recipes through lots of reading, research and combining of ingredients for a just right solution. So far the results have been quite tasty.

Impetus. Now here’s a word that has some oomph. Push, force, momentum and drive are all synonyms. If you know me, you’ll understand. I’m not one to let stuff lag. I can hear my biggest client laughing at this one. I’m all about looking out the front window of the bus and steering toward the future. This word will symbolize my intent to keep that focus forward.  Even if I have to pace myself sometimes.

Reflect. A calming word, but also a very stimulating concept. My creative muse is a huge part of my life; taking time for the art to balance the pace of strategic work is vitally important to my success, but also to my soul.  This is a year I plan to be more forthcoming about doing and sharing my artsy pursuits.  I’m also doing a lot more singing out loud. Praise songs do indeed lift my spirit high.

I’m starting by reposting the photo below, which I had made into a puzzle this Christmas for my relatives who own and graciously invite me frequently to their up-north lake home where this was taken.  I cannot thank them enough for being so generous.

Big Lake
Big Lake

I’m so excited by the energy that’s moving me forward into 2013.  I can feel it….2013 is going to be a fantastic journey. Amen.

 

 

 

High on Monster High

It’s hard to stay up on all the trends I need to know in retail, shopper marketing, culture…engagement, advocacy…you name it…I’m supposed to know about it.  Honey Boo Boo? Really? We’re over your gross lack of manners. Gangnam Style? Whatever…

My new curiosity is Monster High. I’m looking for a couple of ten year olds to play with. I’ll invest in the dolls and  sets of accessories to go with.  Really, I will. I also want to play dolls with all the moms. This is fertile ground for woman culture.

Just look at the branding. Is this the next gen Hello Kitty or what?

Branding at its finest!!

Be Yourself. Be Unique. Be A Monster.

Just ask my husband. I can be all of the above on any given day. And then I can go play with my dolls. Acting out stories. Like a ten year old.

Monsters? Or Zombies? Connections to apps with big glitzy keys on the packages…..

 

Clawdeen – the best seller

What ARE the stories the dolls act out for ten year olds today?Is Monster High a next-gen storyboard? Could it be a comic book reality show? Is it individually crafted visual story telling, or script some marketer is pushing?

Is this toy story, next chapter? Let’s play.

What’s the story behind this?

 

Branding at its finest!!

Peeking into Retail Windows

What ever happened to retail windows that could cause a shopper to pause and ponder?

These windows did just that.

Thank you, Louis Vuitton, for your design point of view – worth taking a moment to appreciate. Amidst the crowd on King St. in Charleston, you managed to not only bemuse, but also to reflect the scene on the street itself.

 

Louis Vuitton retail window – Charleston, SC

 

Retail Fitness? Off the scale……

My son, 23, can not afford a fancy gym membership, but he does pay for a basic workout membership at a local franchised Planet Fitness.

In the club, there’s a separate area with tanning beds, massage tables… you know…the spa side. It’s usually not very busy.

So, when he inquired about the option for a per-use visit fee, seeking to book a massage, he was told that basic members cannot buy services in the mostly empty spa side on a one-off basis.

Why?

“Because it’s too confusing for the employees.”

You tell me why “retail” is so unfit today!