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.

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Kiwi, you’ve been replaced by a banana.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!

The Maxxinista in Me

If you are female, you have it in your DNA. If you are male and have it too, shopping is never a drudgery. We, the shoppers, create our own fun and games in the stores, especially when we’re on adventure mission mode for a bargain.

Enter the Maxxinista. She reads the September issues. If  you have to ask, stop now and thanks for stopping by.

She seeks silhouettes, colors, fabrics. This is not about brands, it’s all about style, tempered by what you can get away with for dates, work, conferences, you know…the cleavage factor…a.k.a. how short IS that skirt.

In a lot of high end retail, the selection is curated and adapted from the runway collections. In TJ Maxx, it’s great knock offs and prizes galore. At half the price or less. Mastering the experience is part of the empowerment, right?

This retailer knows their shopper psyche, enhancing the experience with better merchandising, nicer dressing rooms with a limit of TEN garments, not 6, and don’t forget they have year-round layaway!

Only yesterday, which was Labor Day, I overhead a well-heeled woman in a very busy TJ’s store exclaiming delight at finding current Nordstrom dresses at half the price. She was beaming, I might add.

Those Ellen Tracy “Spartan Green” skinny jeans for $39.99?  Those Vince Camuto slim fit spot-on trendy blue ankle pants for $24.99? Searching and finding trendy Michael Kors key pieces that fit?

What’s not to love? Half off. What’s not to inspire more shopping?

Now stop and think about the 60% of the population that hasn’t had a raise effectively since Lyndon Johnson was President. Welcome to the largest shopper segment in America.

What’s your strategy to win her over?




The Primal Urge

It’s August and I’m shopping. Like a siren, the back-to-school shopping crave pulls me into Nordstrom.  But my kids are out of school and I’m not in school. I saw no ads, I have no flyers from the postman. I should resist the primal urge. But the bell’s ringing in my head and I want to be in the stores.

I have rationale, believe me! Industry conference season is coming up and I’m a consultant. That equals a need, but really, a desire to be in the stores browsing all the new arrivals is the real pull.

I have yet another rationale! This one involves upcoming  travel to the Caribbean and summer sale racks. This means nice clothes without sticker shock. Works for me, and is surely the reason the for a jam packed parking lot.

I know why July retail sales were up, and why Back-To_School forecasts f02 2012 are up. It’s just that we really WANT to be in the marketplace. It’s primal, and seasonal. Just like the urge to go to the farmer’s market for the late summer harvest, we are pulled to the mall.

For the sake of the industry of shopping, this pleases me.

So does this cute seasons’ hottest mustard skirt I bought.  And the shoes!  Nothing beats new red shoes!.


We are judging this man by his shoes!!

Meet Matt.

Matt’s looking all buttoned up this morning!

Yesterday some stranger took his bag off the train on the way to Newark Airport. As any traveler knows, Newark Airport can barely feed a traveler well, let alone replace everything Matt needed to complete his business trip to the Mosaic office in Chicago.

So Matt, while enduring the inevitable flight delay out of Newark, figured out a plan that would prevent him from wearing shorts and a t-shirt for three days. He called four Target stores in Chicagoland, and found one that stays open until 11:00 PM.

Landing at O’Hare, Matt jumps in a cab, arriving at Target only 15 minutes before it closes. Like the game show where one races through the store on a stop-watch, Matt tosses in the cart boxers, socks, shoes, jeans, two oxford shirts, travel sized shampoo, facewash, toothpaste…you get the picture.

This morning, he realized he forgot to buy a bag to take it all home. We think Target should donate a duffel bag!  Frankly, this group of shopper marketers are duly impressed with Matt’s initiative. So impressed that we are about to vote his $256 tab as “shopper research”. Plus, the women in the room love his new shoes!

You can always judge a man by his shoes!

Free Puppies for Christmas!

Last year our three adult children, assuming we were so lonely without them, were scheming to get us a puppy. For Christmas.  Little did they know we (the ‘rents) had already discussed and agreed on no puppy, we’d rather golf and travel more and not have to pay for doggie care so soon after paying for all that college.  Good thing we overheard the whispering and instead we received an awesome new HD television for the family room.

Buying or giving (from a shelter) a puppy as a surprise holiday gift, is crazy, in my opinion.

But the power of the concept of a free puppy is a strong emotional tug, and the feeling is so warm and happy…..

And that is why Eddie Bauer Stores gets my favorite 2011 in-store holiday merchandising award this December. I’ll take a free plush “Little Eddie” puppy with a gift card purchase any day of the year. Merry Christmas!

A retail offer that feels like a kiss from a warm puppy!

My Missoni Mistake

I’m no rookie when it comes to shopping. This morning, while commenting on shopper behavior on the RetailWire site where I’m an “expert panelist” I made the decision to switch my planned grocery trip to Target (not Meijer) and go check out the Missoni apparel scene. The discussion topic was about the shopper quest for a trophy purchase, and I used the Missoni collection at Target as an example.

Before heading out, I browsed the collection on, noting a few sweaters I might consider as my personal trophy purchase.  The “out of stock” notices on much of the apparel online should have been my first clue.

Indeed, only one day after the launch,  every rack of Missoni at my local Target was already re-stocked with Merona, Xhiliration and Mossimo items. Even the kids area and the accessories areas were bare. The only Missoni item left in the entire store was a plastic headband, hardly the statement piece I thought I might acquire.

Target got an $86.00 basket ring from my journey for a fashion find. The closest thing to fashion in the cart, however, was Maybeline mascara.

Savvy shopper that I am,  I tracked down an “in-the-know” associate who gave me the story ( it ALL sold out in 30 minutes, she reported) AND whispered to me the date that the store will have more Missoni. That date is not advertised and will remain my dirtly little secret until I rectify that mistake and get my trophy Missoni sweater.

I can’t remember the last time a retail event made me note my calendar, set an alarm alert and will get me in the store the minute they unlock the door.


PLEASE help me say YES to the Mother of Bride dress!

So, the short story is that the custom dress is a no-go, and there’s only 7 weeks left till the big day. I’m back on the Shopper’s Journey.

Help me fashionistas. My vision was lightweight, swingy, breezy but in a sophisticated way befitting for the mother, not the gorgeous bride and her maids, all of whom are young, fit, and stunning in their own right.

This dress is on order as of last night from Saks at the price of $310 plus $15 shipping. It’s really pretty on, despite the super intensity of the Melon color. It’s kind of heavy and no swing. Yes or No?

This next one I already own. It’s a Sadashi Toji and fits nicely, especially when the Spanx are on! Not crazy about the jewels, could change them, and it too is not swingy. I have  other May and August weddings to attend, so this was the back-up and I know I’ll wear it. It was $258, when I ordered I did not know it was unreturnable. Note to self, read the fine print, ShopperAnnie! Yes or No as the MOB dress?

And now for some real fun. My bride daughter is HOOKED on and she orders from them almost weekly for her social life, which is pretty darn active! So I signed up, and have been shopping for jewelry to rent for the wedding.

When the custom dress disaster happened, I posted a help notice and some parameters to the @RentTheRunway twitter account. Yes, I do these things all the time. Twitter is the BEST for customer service! So, I get a posted reply this morning with 4 links, one of which I fall in love with. What do you think? Mother of groom wearing blue, intense shade, and all the men are in custom made light grey suits. So the neckline is PERFECT, right? Yes or No?

Oh, and the rental price is $100. Not bad, eh? I’m getting this one shipped ASAP for a test trial. PS – if you want to sign up for RTR, let me know your e-mail and I’ll refer you. The referral bonus is a great program!

And, there’s one more I found while browsing the RentTheRunway site. Might be an option too, and is only $50 to rent. I like this brand, Robert Rodriguez, the fabrics have a nice hand. But still no swing in the skirt…  Yes or No on getting this one in for a test run?

Fashionistas and friends, weigh in now and help me say Yes to the dress! Many thanks in advance for your collective wisdom.

Unwrapping Victoria’s Secret – Holiday Merchandising

This is post #4 in a series of ShopperAnnie reviews on holiday merchandising/display from a range of different retailers!

If there’s one thing Victoria’s Secret does best, it’s merchandising. What male with a pulse doesn’t want this window display to come to life in his abode over the holidays? I give this window display a Better rating, because it’s sexy, creates anticipation and is NOT in poor taste unless you’re a real prude. My only shopper marketing advice for this effort is that it should have been visible in the department, (or “room” as VS staffers call it). When the merchandise is this cute, it’s a bit of a missed opportunity not to display it where the actual buying decision takes place.

Jingle Bells!!

This next photo is one of at least ten I could post, and it represents a very recognizable, visceral understanding of “product as merchandising” strategy. VS is masterful at suggesting intimate fun. I give Victoria’s Secret a BEST rating for this overall form of retail merchandising, and especially like this nightshirt below as a representative sample. Did I buy this? Never you mind….

Unwrap Me!

And finally, Victoria’s Secret makes it pretty painless for the shy, with this rack of Gift Cards. Choosing this option can get shoppers in and out of the store in minutes, before that “pink” flush of  embarrassment spreads visibly. This display was one of many like it I found in the store, and I rated it Good because it represents a fairly ubiquitous tactic in retail promotion.

Grab and Go PINK.

My final comments about the visit to Victoria’s Secret are personal. One, I thank my sales associate sister for her attentiveness in the fitting room. She’s a part-time holiday associate, but her former nursing “care nature” makes her an excellent personal sales star. Our only difference of opinion is this….I believe no woman over 40, regardless of size or shape, should EVER wear pants with words on the tushy! Not LOVE PINK, not JUICY, not ANYTHING. EVER. She wears it and I cringe.

Happy Holidays. Go Shopping and have some fun this year!

PacSun posts SEASON’S GREEDY on the window!

This is the third post in a series of Good, Better, Best (and Missed Opportunities) in retail merchandising for the Holiday 2010 season. If you’ve ever had to shop for a teen, enjoy this one!

Last weekend, PacSun in Tampa, FL had “Season’s Greedy” spray-painted on the store windows. Oh my! I laughed out loud and immediately gave them an A+ for understanding the mindset of their core shopper. Put yourself in the teen mindset – “it’s all about ME”  – how clever to translate the thought so appropriately! While it might be offensive to some, it gets a BEST holiday merchandising in my opinion.

Season's Greedy

In the Better merchandising category, again on the mall-facing window, were a series of posters, (which could have been bigger), of brand-sponsored athletes wearing select merchandise. Brand logos were evident and the posters made it much simpler for clueless parents to start somewhere when picking out a gift for the oh-so-discerning teen. Nice effort all around.

Celebrity Gift Suggestions

Not to be out-done by clever and cool, the window dressers at PacSun also delivered on the classic Buy, Get promotion in a unique way that is sure to appeal to the shopper who pays the bills and is seeking a reasonable price on all the coolness their teen might enjoy from PacSun’s overflowing racks. The graphic is well-designed to read “Free Tee’s” at first glance, and not mis-leading as it does identify for the would-be shopper that the official offer is “Buy Three, Get One Free.” I give this window cling a Better rating as well, mainly for the effective graphic design.

Tee's Free - Buy Three Get One Free

All things being equal, I would have entered the store and taken a look around for something my 21 year old son might like. But, the store was closing and the jail gates were dropping down at 9:15pm on a Saturday night. Probably better, since I had already dropped about $200 at Victoria’s Secret. But that’s another story.