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.


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


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!.


My Invisible Hand is choking me.

Last week I read about an extension for Google Chrome browser called Invisible Hand, which can inform me when items I am searching for online can be purchased cheaper on another site. Sounds like a good plan for a savvy shopper, right? I installed the extension and have been test driving it.

My experience in the first 48 hours was interesting. Without a doubt, Amazon is the winner of this shopping game. And most often, the lowest prices are from resellers that are in fact paying Amazon for the opportunity to undercut all the classic retailers websites. This is especially true in cosmetics and beauty care.  Note at the bottom of the picture below, the item is being sold by “BeingJoli” (WHO?) for $30.60 which is $7.00 cheaper than anywhere else.


Specialty beauty retailer Ulta has it online for $42.00, which is the same price as the website offers. Plus shipping.  I’m not sure of the in-store price at Ulta and the nearest Ulta store is a 20 minute drive from my house. My experience tells me the in-store price will not be less that $42.

My Amazon Prime membership offers me two day free shipping on everything I buy. I want this product, I use this product and I’m not really ready to pay $12 more.

But I’ve yet to hit the “1-Click” order button because frankly, because of my profession, I feel like I’m being choked by an Invisible Hand.

The traditional retail industry feels the same tightness around their throats. The time to solve is now.


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!

Why is your refrigerator so empty?

I was asked this question by my 24 year old nephew yesterday.  It’s been bugging me, since just this week I made an internal promise to back off the amount of money I spend on groceries.

The easy answer is that I have a 48″ double wide built in refrigerator. It holds about as much as a small Kroger store.

But this morning I’ve been thinking about the real issue. And that is quality.

The four containers of yogurt are Fage greek, more expensive but more nutritious. The fruit and veggies are largely organic, and usually replenished at the farmer’s market. The eggs are Eggland’s Best, healthier, but pricier too. The R. W. Knudsen cranberry juice is pure, highly concentrated and mixed with water. The milk, however is Kroger’s new private label fat-free variety, which recently replaced Horizon Organic on the shelf, and by default, ended up in my cart. The meat we currently have on hand is fresh organic lamb from a local farmer friend of mine, Otto’s Chicken and some Boar’s Head ham.

You get the idea. I’m a label reader, and most of our food is fresh, healthy, low in sodium, fat and chemicals. It’s also budget busting, so we don’t really buy a lot of it.

And, really, even if I spent three hours a week (like most consumers in the country d0) looking for coupons online, I’m not likely to find coupons for the things I often buy. But in 2012 I’m going to give it a whirl.

It’s a conundrum, really. Am I a food snob living in an unreal world? Or am I faithfully watching the foods we eat to make certain they aren’t contributing to the load of disease-causing chemicals our bodies can’t process? The numbers of people I know with disease is slowly outnumbering those I know who are healthy, especially in the over 50 set.

So, while I do plan to cut food costs in 2012, I don’t plan to reduce quality. It’s likely my refrigerator is going to look even more empty the next time my nephew stops by. It will likely be minus a couple bottles of decent white wine.



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.

How Dare They! on Christmas Day?

WELL. Now I’ve seen everything. Below is the content from the e-mail I got from Amazon today. I admit, I did buy and read Daniel Pink’s book DRIVE. Loved it. But still. I find this e-mail inappropriate to send on Christmas Day, the one day we are supposed to leave the guilt behind, indulge ourselves, and be thankful to the Lord. Geez, Amazon, give it a rest.
Dear Customer,

Customers who have purchased or rated Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink might like to know that We Have Met the Enemy: Self-Control in an Age of Excess will be released on January 6, 2011.  You can pre-order yours at a savings of $10.32 by following the link below.

We Have Met the Enemy: Self-Control in an Age of Excess
Daniel Akst
List Price:    $26.95
Price:    $16.63
You Save:    $10.32 (38%)
Release Date: January 6, 2011

Product Description
A witty and wide-ranging investigation of the central problem of our time: how to save ourselves from what we want.

Freedom is dangerous. Half of all deaths in America come from overeating, smoking, drinking too much, failing to exercise and other deadly behaviors that we indulge against our own better judgment. Why are we on a campaign of slow- motion suicide? The simple answer is that self-control is tough-especially now, when more calories, sex and intoxicants are more readily and privately available than at any time in memory. Gambling, once against the law almost everywhere, is now legal and ubiquitous. Trying to work? If so, chances are you’re also struggling to resist the siren call of the Internet-to say nothing of … Read more

Black Friday is a shopper marketer’s nightmare.

I’ve been in shopper marketing for two decades. I have thousands of peers across the nation. One of the things we have in common is an understanding of how “broken” the holiday retail model has become over the years.

The model’s basic problem begins with delivery of seasonal goods to stores two to three months earlier than the shoppers are really ready to buy them. Think bathing suits in February and back to school  merchandise on the 5th of July. Christmas decor in full swing on shelves before Halloween.  Merchandise on shelves is supposed to turn, therefore merchants create ways to force turn even before shoppers are ready to buy.

The turn mechanism is all too often a deal price, designed to create traffic at the expense of profit margins. Marketing and advertising dollars support the deal. Theoretically, the other items sold on the same trip make the loss leader sale items “worth it” for the retailer. On Black Friday, retailers began to turn a profit. The thrill of the deal helped create loyal shoppers. Twenty years ago, this model worked.

Stop and think about that for a minute. An industry that operates in the red for 11 of 12 months of every year. Hmmmm. Now, all parts of the standard retail promotions model have become ubiquitous, overused and out-dated. And the culture/economic shift that has accelerated consumer deal-seeking into a sport no longer translates to loyalty for either retailer or manufacturer. This IS the new normal.

But leading up to Black Friday, virtually everyone in the system continues to cave in to the madness.  Remember the book wars of Holiday 2009? This year the toy wars began in September, wringing profit out of the picture for everyone. Ditto for consumer electronics., in particular the tablets. TJMaxx took a $100 hit on iPads they sold at $399 just for the value of the buzz it generated in stores. Did they anger shoppers because they had so few to sell? I wonder.

Black Friday is the ultimate representation of just how bad it is. Many manufacturers are sucked in unwillingly when their competitors join the circus. It’s ludicrous for employees and shoppers to be in a crowded store at 4:00 A.M.  Yet, 25% of over 200 million shoppers were in stores by 4:00 A.M. It’s insane to think shopper dollars are the fuel to fan the flames of a discounting war in which no-one makes money. It’s scary to realize how the spirit of gift-giving is changing amidst this madness.

This shopper marketer is going to spend Friday in a kayak. I’d like to spend the time thinking about shopper experiences in a much different manner.