Macy’s American Icons window displays bear looking into.

Posted on July 6, 2014. Filed under: Doug Hovelson Photography, Minneapolis, Ramblings, Retail, Retail window displays, Twin Cities region | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

It’s time to update the world on what’s going on with Macy’s window displays at its big Nicollet Mall store in downtown Minneapolis. It’s the American Icons series, featuring Ralph Lauren apparel — and a host of references to other American icons such as the open road, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg and mid-20th century America. These are windows well worth looking into — as I discovered while strolling the Mall, camera in hand, recently.

Macy's window display - Iconic

Styled All American look at Macy’s.

An all-American look at Macy's, complete with references to artist Jasper Johns and other

An all-American look at Macy’s, complete with references to artist Jasper Johns, as part of the American Icons series of window displays at the Macy’s Downtown Minneapolis store.

Macy's American Icon window display

The enduring appeal of denim, with artistic notations by Jasper Johns (the American flag), and a sign for Route 66 — America’s highway — for the American Icons series — it’s a series, after all — of window displays at the Macy’s Downtown Minneapolis store.

American flag is part of the American Icons - Ralph Lauren display at Macy's

Macy’s goes with the red white and blue theme for summer style promotion, in Macy’s Downtown Minneapolis store.


Denim is iconic style featured in Macy's window display.

Iconic America, with denim, at Macy’s Downtown Minneapolis store.

Sunglasses give cool look at Macy's

Sunglasses are so cool at Macy’s Downtown Minneapolis store this summer.

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Target’s Foray Into Subscriptions Begs The Question: What About Your Business?

Posted on April 18, 2014. Filed under: Creative Marketing, Public Relations, Public relations practices, Retail, Small Business in Minnesota | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Probably no Twin Cities-based company is more closely watched by business locals than Target Corporation. Not that the Twin Cities is a one-horse town, corporately speaking — far from it! Rather, Target is the odds-on favorite in a multi-horse lineup of big hitters. So it’s interesting to us locally — and surely to many marketers nationally as well — when Target announces that it is pursuing more online sales by bolstering its subscription business. See Target Expands Online Subscription Sales.

Subscriptions Can Be A Sweet Addition To A Business

Subscription sales by major marketers is a hot topic at present. General Mills, for example, is building out a subscription business with a line of unique culinary treats — a healthy sweet treat a day keeps the dogs of want away, might be the underlying idea there.

Target’s idea is to motivate consumers and businesses alike to sign up for regular shipments of everyday products such as washing detergents, paper goods, cleaning products — the mundane stuff that no home or business can afford to be without. Purchase online, add them to your account, specify delivery intervals, and voila – your life simplified. It’s a good idea, not new, but good all the same. Many, many companies pursue a similar strategy of course.

But the question is, why aren’t even more companies doing it? Specifically, small to medium sized businesses — and non-profits too — with both products and services to sell? Why couldn’t a hair stylist offer to cut and beautify hair on a subscription basis – 12 sessions per year, sign on for the subscription to the service and get a 10% discount? A florist could initiate a bouquet-of-the-month club for consumers and businesses alike. Specialty food businesses are obviously ideal for this type of business development model — especially if they’re willing and able to partner with other food products marketers to provide customized food baskets.

A Little Creative Thought Can Reveal A Powerful New Marketing Niche

Even professional services companies could benefit from the subscription approach to client retention. A competitive-landscape-analysis-of-the-month club for clients of a public relations or advertising firm, for example. Or a monthly webinar providing an in-depth, value-added look at a topic of deep relevance to clients. This kind of approach could also benefit law firms, accounting firms, non-profits — the potential is limitless.

The moral of the story is, if it’s good enough for the likes of a mass merchandising giant like Target, it’s probably good enough for your business too.

Willing To Help

If you’d like to discuss such issues with an experienced marketing industry pro, feel free to get in touch with me. No fee for a brainstorming sounding out of ideas here.

Now then, Target as noted is not the only major retailer ramping up online sales. Home Depot is, by report of the Wall Street Journal, reducing its new-store openings drastically while promoting much more aggressively it’s online sales site. That’s a huge switch for the retailer, whose main growth strategy in the past has been based on new store growth. But the bricks-and-mortar segment of the business is over-crowded with competition, say Home Depot executives. And even the vastness of the Home Depot stores can only contain about 35,000 products versus the 600,000 offered on the retailer’s website.

Home Depot makes it easy for consumers to order online — and pickup goods at a local Home Depot bricks-and-mortar location. That’s called killing two birds, one virtual, one physically present, with one giant marketing stone.


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Just-in-time Zen Moment For Holiday Shopper

Posted on December 20, 2013. Filed under: Public Relations, Retail, Society | Tags: , , , , , , |

Traffic lights

Traffic lights (Photo credit: Vít ‘tasuki’ Brunner)

A mobile holiday shopper in Los Angeles tweets this morning of driving around in the city for two hours in search of holiday gifts. She had a list of gifts that she wanted to buy, from the sounds of it.

None of the stores she visited in person had the merchandise in stock.

Then, a moment of digital satori arrived while she  paused at a traffic light. She grabbed her smart phone, jumped online and got her shopping done in the span of a Beverly Drive minute or two.

No telling what stores she patronized online, unless she covered that in a subsequent tweet unseen by me.

Obviously, she was making a statement about her shopping experience or lack thereof with the bricks-and-mortar retailers she attempted to buy from during her odyssey on wheels. The statement being, if I interpret correctly, that she was fed up with the whole thing – and probably not going to be doing so much drive-by shopping in the future.

Reading her tweet – which showed up as a random posting in my Twitter stream, sandwiched in between various notes of more earth-shaking news – made me think about an infographic I saw recently predicting continued massive growth in digital interactions of all kinds, including mobile shopping. If it — the sudden discovery that it’s easier, smarter and above all else more practical to shop online than to motor desperately and for hours on end from one outlet to another — can happen in-between traffic light stops in retail saturated LA, then this revolution in mobile retail is just beginning.

It occurs to me that our friendly LA tweeter could have phoned ahead to ask if the products she sought were in stock at the retailers she had on her radar. But she apparently didn’t.

One can only surmise why that was.

One guess is that making phone calls of that nature is kind of a pain in the ass. Maybe not as much of a pain in the ass as driving for hours in a fog of holiday desperation, but still…a pain. And who knows who or what is going to answer the phone when you call a business these days? Besides, what fun is that – calling up retailers to find out if they’ve got what you want in stock? Better to foray into the unknown, testing the limits of the physical world to meet one’s needs. And then, when all else fails, go online. Or maybe not. Maybe just sit at home in front of the computer for a bit buying stuff off of retail websites. But then, what fun is that? It’s kind of hard to feel the holiday spirit when you’re mixing it up with your keyboard and a monitor — no Christmas bells merrily jingling, no stimulation from the madding crowds and festive festooning of the stores themselves. No sense of awe, in short.

Ah well. it’s a dilemma. To mingle with the masses of the malls, or to commune in silent ecstasy with the online retailers.

But why choose? Slide that mobile device into your coat pocket while you’re heading out the door to hit the bricks — if the mall lets you down, you just might find yourself stopped before a long-winded red traffic light punching in online orders.

That would be me, behind you, leaning on the horn of my car as the traffic light turns from red to green.

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New McDonald’s In Town (Minneapolis)

Posted on September 7, 2012. Filed under: Public Relations, Ramblings, Retail, Society, Twin Cities region | Tags: , , |


New McDonald's opens on East Lake Street in Minneapolis - photo by Doug Hovelson

Spiffy new McDonald’s opens in Minneapolis

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Sneak Peek – New Minneapolis McDonald’s

Posted on August 25, 2012. Filed under: Doug Hovelson Photography, Minneapolis, Public Relations, Retail, Twin Cities region | Tags: , , , , |

Workers toiled into the evening recently in preparation for opening of new McDonald’s on East Lake Street in Minneapolis. The new store was built on the site of an older store, torn down earlier this summer to make way for the new and much-modernized store. Judging from the looks of it, McDonald’s is going for a more diner-friendly atmosphere inside. The façade includes a limestone motif that reflects an architectural style common to the surrounding neighborhood. Interesting…

Newly built McDonald's being made ready to open soon; photo credit: Doug Hovelson

Newlly built McDonald’s on East Lake Street in Minneapolis, nearly ready for business. Built on site of old store.

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Macy’s Makes The Grade

Posted on August 1, 2012. Filed under: Doug Hovelson Photography, Minneapolis, Public Relations, Retail, Retail window displays, Society | Tags: , , , , , , |

Window display of fall fashion theme, Social Studies, kids fashions, at Macy's Department Store in downtown Minneapolis

What’s cool for fall colors and clothing – Social Studies for the younger set, featured in Macy’s Department Store window display in downtown Minneapolis.

Fall fashions at Macy’s on view in window display of downtown Minneapolis store. The department store retailer is making a fashionable statement about fall colors with its Social Studies-themed displays this year.

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Sign O’ The Times Ahead At Macy’s

Posted on July 15, 2012. Filed under: Doug Hovelson Photography, Minneapolis, Public Relations, Retail | Tags: , , , , , , |

Window display from Macy's, back-to-school-theme "Social Studies," mannequins sporting colorful fall fashion; photo © Doug Hovelson 2012

Macy’s window display “Social Studies” heralds back-to-school retail season – at the downtown Minneapolis Macy’s

Colorful window display at the Minneapolis Macy’s in mid-July, the youth look for fall.

Abreast with the unveiling of the new fall fashion themes at Macy’s is the news today that retail sales in the U.S. slowed across a broad swatch of industry segments recently. Seen as a sign of economic downshifting – again! Retail sales fall – Reuters.

Humpty-Dumpty II, also known herein as the American economy, suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome. Every loud bang in the global economy sends HDII scrambling for cover. Incoming! What’s to be done? Stick to your knitting, amp up the emphasis on vivid colors and dramatic imagery, shoot for the youth market — the kids will be alright — they still need to make brave fashion statements no matter what the economic situation. Can the kids put HDII back together again? We’ll see.

Meanwhile, enjoy the creative merchandising show from retailers like Macy’s.

[Editor’s note: the writer not once mentioned Lady Gaga in this fashion-forward piece.]

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Swept Away: Failed Romance At J.C. Penney

Posted on June 21, 2012. Filed under: Public Relations, Retail | Tags: , , , |

JCPenney in Frisco, TX

JCPenney in Frisco, TX (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First take on the J.C. Penney marketing mess: the company got ahead of itself in the advertising, looking to establish a pre-emptive position as the best everyday value in fashion merchandising. Part of the problem was that the advertising was too much about romancing the brand as it tried to change to an iconic “Fair and Square” platform.

Consumers walked away, confused about what the company was doing. First quarter sales at J.C. Penney stores open more than a year fell 19%, according to Bloomberg Business News. Store traffic dropped by 10% over that time frame.

What’s The Deal Here?

“Fair and Square” is fine and dandy, but what does it really mean? Sure, it bespeaks traditional American values – the fair and square dealer of dry goods was the hero of early American mass merchandising. But middle-class consumers need a lot of convincing on that kind of over-arching message. JC Penney neglected to tell consumers what this new era of fair-dealing meant to them, price-wise.

Get me into the store. Convince me that not only do you have great merchandising selection, you also have the best prices on what I want and need.

Penney’s executives were looking to radically revamp the store’s marketing message. Unfortunately, fair and square came off sounding as if it was taking something away from the consumer – the everyday mark-down.

Maybe Penney’s should take a page from French retailer Carrefour, which plans to put the money it would normally spend on advertising into improving its bricks-and mortar-stores in Europe. So said Georges Plassat, the company’s recently appointed CEO, as recently reported by The Wall Street Journal. Of course, Europe is mired in a seemingly endless recessionary malaise. Investing in store rehabs makes some sense. It’s akin to the fisherman who mends his nets in the off-season. Upping the ante on advertising would seem counter-productive for a well-known brand at a time when consumers are retrenching in the face of rising economic uncertainty.

In the meantime, it will be interesting to see what steps J.C. Penney takes to get its game back. One thing seems certain: we’ll see more of the good old-fashioned hard-sell from the retailer in its next marketing phase, and less of the sweet-talking romantic side of the company.

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Scenes from a mall: kinetic craze

Posted on November 27, 2010. Filed under: Economic Trends, Public Relations, Retail |

Playing the Microsoft X-Box 360 kinetic at the Mall of America

Drawing a crowd: the action at the display for the Microsoft X-Box 360 kinetic system at the Mall of America on Black Friday

People lined up to play at Microsoft’s XBox 360 kinetic demonstration stand at the Mall of America in Bloomington, MN on Black Friday. I want one of those things.

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