Retail took another hit recently with Payless Shoesource announcing it would shutter all its stores and shutdown its online site. The failure of Payless, a brand that was started over 62 years ago, is one of the biggest retailer liquidations to date in the U.S., with more than 16,000 jobs lost, according to CNN.
The country is no stranger to once storied brands falling from grace and ending up out of business, with Toys R Us closing its stores in 2018 and once perennial brand Sears barely hanging on.
In a world where Amazon rules retail, how can retailers compete and what has been the turning point for other brands that were close to failing?
The Sharper Image
The Sharper Image filed for bankruptcy in 2008 and liquidated its 180-plus stores. The brand had once been a mall staple but struggled mightily to finds its place in modern retail. So, without stores full of nifty gadgets, where could the brand go? It’s been resurrected. The brand was relaunched in 2010 as an e-commerce and catalog retailer, which is how it began.
Further, a deal was made in 2016 to develop products under the brand name to sell at retailers such as Target, Macy’s, and Bed Bath & Beyond. The Sharper Image always had a unique brand story with leading-tech and gadgets. It simply could not sustain itself as a brand that depended solely on the in-store experience. The brand was not particularly tied to the traditional store platform. It was really a concept, one that is now back in the hands of consumers.
How has Best Buy been able to stay relevant when most of its peers are in the retail graveyard? Best Buy is the world’s largest brick-and-mortar electronics store, but it has always been a revenue generator. Only a few years ago, it was seeing profits going down and dealing with scandals involving its former CEO. The company was making the news, but for all the wrong reasons.
New leadership came into the company and pumped it full of new life by reorganizing store layouts, closing underperforming locations, and focusing on service. The chain also successfully integrated the online and in-store experience. Visitors can more easily research products online then come into the store and talk to associates that are also experts in that tech.
Also offering computer support and repair means they often can be part of the full life cycle of a product purchase from customers. A consumer buys the product from the store and may add an extended warranty or service package. If something goes wrong with the product, consumers can bring it straight into the store for help.
The age of the department store has begun to diminish. While visiting a department store 50 years ago was memorable and exciting, many of them became too bloated and disorganized to offer a modern customer experience.
Kohl’s, a department store that carries both its own private labels and well-known brands like Nike and Levi’s, always sought to be different from the rest. The brand, however, had been slow to innovate, as it did not want to upset its successful formula of having smaller stores, convenient locations outside of malls, and lean staffing.
While this had been a winning strategy for years, everything must evolve. It found itself unable to attract new customers. That all changed when they took a new perspective while also being true to their core values of offering shoppers convenience and quality products at a fair price. The company upped its e-commerce game and easily integrated it into its physical stores, offering pick-up of online orders and placing kiosks in stores so that shoppers could find the size or color they needed that was not available at the location.
They also bet big on loyalty with a new program called Yes2You rewards, which helped engage customers that do not want or do not qualify for the brand’s credit card. Kohl’s is also very well-known for its Kohl’s Cash, which is available throughout the year, offering shoppers a certain amount off on their next purchase based on what they just spent. Kohl’s Cash is open to all shoppers, too, and is not relegated to only cardholders, as with many other retailers. Today, Kohl’s is holding strong and recently beat earnings estimates.
There is no secret ingredient that makes one retailer survive and others not. Much of what it comes down to is flexibility and agility. Retail is and always has been a fairly volatile industry. What makes these comebacks stories great is that these brands evolved based on the market itself and also stayed true to their brand while engaging more consumers.
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