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.

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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.

Falling out of like with online shopping


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 account. Instead of helping me, you are interrupting my life while I am trying to enjoy what I bought from you already.


I;m falling out of like with you.


Publix rethinks the ubiquitous Retail Endcap

Yes, it’s true. I took a dozen in-store pictures in a grocery store while on vacation. But, it’s rare for @ShopperAnnie to get a chance to shop in a brand spanking new major grocery store. Overall, I’d rate this newly constructed Publix store a ten!

What impressed me the most? The front of store endcaps, which were clearly designed with plenty of shopper logic. If you’re in the shopper business, you might remember that traditionally, grocers want to draw shoppers to the back endcaps, to get them down more aisles.

Shoppers, however, want easy and fast access to the items they want most often, seeking to shorten the time they spend in the store, especially as trips change to more quick-trips and less time-consuming stock-up trips.

The best example of new thinking in endcap display is shown below  in what I’ll call the breakfast bar. Note the cooler with an areas for eggs, yogurt, meats and juice. Starbucks gets a great spot on the upper right and Qia – a new gluten-free superfood cereal from Nature’s Path is featured on the left.


Near the end of our trip, a co-traveler went to the Publix store at 7am to get a newspaper,  saw the butcher stocking a rolling  refrigerated case set at the front door with fresh cut pork chops surrounded by fresh broccoli and seasonal fruit. Over breakfast at the condo, he made the suggestion that we stop by Publix later to pick up that fresh pork for dinner. When we arrived at 4:00PM, the meat was being restocked and we were told the fresh chops had been cut only minutes before we arrived.

The Grabbing Power of Visual Icons

During a recent visit to Target in search of new earbuds to replace a pair that got stepped on, I found myself standing at the electronics counter making a purchase. While I am in fact a shopper that notices many things, clutter around a retail counter rarely gets any attention. Mainly I think its annoying and in the way.

But, in the midst of paying, SOMETHING ICONIC caught my eye. It was on a typical rack of gift cards –  a sea of clutter that’s hard to read and impossible to shop, in my humble opinion.

But these babies jumped out at me big time. Why?

These icons spell “pleasure” to the brain!!


Because my brain is patterned to recognize the two images as associated with pleasure. So, while out of context in a store versus on a screen, they break through the clutter and get noticed.

Nice work, Apple.  I almost gifted myself on the spot. Almost.

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


We Dig the Pig

We travel to the Carolina’s three or four times a year, have been doing so for years. Our relationship with the Pig, (a.k.a. Piggly Wiggly grocery chain) began on Hilton Head Island.

We got the loyalty card the first year we all (7 family families) took the kids down for Easter break. When you have to feed 26 kids and 16 adults for a week, you get the card…and buy the shirts.  Believe me, when one cousin comes home from a trip to the grocery with this shirt on, the other 25 start begging……

P. S. – the same thing happens at The Salty Dog restaurant on Sea Pines Plantation. Sigh.

But times have changed and now my kids are all grown up. This week, we’re all at the beach again, this time it’s Folly Beach,  just south of Charleston, SC.

The ubiquitous “I Dig the Pig” shirts are still at the entrance of the store. But the world has changed, my kids have “been there, done that, got the shirt” and even the grocer itself lives in a post-modern world.

The good news…the Pig still has a sense of whimsy!!

Happy Thanksgiving!!

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.


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

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


Walmart on the move – to your doorstep

Retailing today is at an inflection point unlike I’ve ever seen in my “too many to count” years in the business. No retailer has as much at risk or to gain than Walmart. The company is one of the most fascinating stories to follow and talk about in the industry today.

As you might know by now, one of my retail/shopper marketing industry opportunities is being a panelist on the Retail Wire portal
where I post comments regularly on one or more of three discussion topics listed every weekday.

Today, we have a story about Walmart on the move, this time with a courier to your doorstep, delivering on the incessant need we have for instant gratification from the online shopping experience. Walmart, with logistics rigor, and stores galore, can and will deliver happiness to you the same day you click. (in some markets, they are in test expansion mode).

Is this the BIG opportunity in the making  for Walmart or a desperate reaction to the muscle of Amazon as it flexes to deliver same day to the 45% of US adult shoppers who name them as the number one place they shop online?

I believe Walmart is one of the bravest retailers  out there, with a renewed interest in testing and learning what’s good for the shoppers and good for their business too. I support this move, and I think it has HUGE potential upside in the two most important consumer groups to retail – Boomer and Gen Y consumers.  Read why….

Then read what everyone has to say on this critical topic. I believe that I’ve gained more insight and intellect from the power of the group discussion than from any other form of media in this business.

Join the movers and shakers and read RetailWire. Add your comments and raise the level of insight even higher! It’s not just Walmart on the move. Retail is racing to a tipping point, it’s critical for more thought leaders, like you, to join the discussion.



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!

Be. Very. Afraid.

Just take a look at this chart.


What shoppers had to say in Q1 2012 about their method of shopping.

Shoppers said shopping in bricks and mortar retailers is reliable and safe.

Reliable and Safe. Reminds me of the guys my parents used to tell me to date when I was seventeen. I then brought home guys of whom they were very afraid.

Reliable and Safe. Major brick and mortar retailers in the U. S. should be very afraid.  These words are not the hallmarks of the future of in-store retail, in my humble opinion.

The kids are bringing home convenient, easy and favorite.

Recently, I was reading The Buying Brain, which has a chapter about several types of in-store experiences that engage shoppers’  brains, causing them to rate that experience as more superior. In this neuroscience research, conducted by Nielsen-owned NeuroFocus, the types of experiences shoppers connect with in brick and mortar stores have one of the following elements:


Information. (as in findability)


Social/Self Worth.


We need to ask shoppers about these words. But, first, we need to deliver on them in store-based retail. It’s not impossible, but it takes commitment and investment in more than just the goods on the shelf.

Reliable and Safe. These words are a hint to the kiss of death, not the kiss of a passionate connection.

Real live retail without a passionate connection to the shopper?

Be. Very. Afraid.