reporter's notebooks in a trash can

BloomReach Relevance Report: Two bit version

It’s been a long week. How about a short BloomReach Relevance Report? Read it during the commercials.

Who’s buying Macy’s this week?

Macy's and traffic and pedestrians at 34th Street in Manhattan

Last week it was Hudson’s Bay. This week it’s Amazon that’s buying Macy’s.

OK, this week’s Macy’s rumor (or is it this week’s Amazon rumor?) is maybe not even a rumor. It’s more like one analyst’s speculation — intriguing speculation, we’ll grant you, but speculation that doesn’t appear to be attached to any facts on the ground.

In fact, CNN reports that Cowen analyst Oliver Chen laid out the pros and cons of Amazon gobbling up the ailing Macy’s and eventually came out on the side of it not making complete sense.

That assessment was seconded by friend of the BRRR, Carl Boutet, a retail strategist with Canada’s Mega Group.

“Amazon doesn’t take on other retailers’ problems,” Boutet told the BRRR. “When it decides to roll out whatever format of store it chooses, it will do it on its own terms and not look to ‘retrofit’ any existing retailer’s footprint.”

Boutet says Macy’s is the latest star in a series of Amazon-to-the-rescue stories. Radio Shack and Best Buy, among others, have at times been said to be on Amazon’s shopping list.

And it is a little hard to swallow this notion of Amazon swallowing Macy’s. The venerable brick-and-mortar retailer is in a world of hurt, to use the technical term. It’s been pivoting and closing stores and talking about selling real estate, of which it has a lot.

And it’s been laying off thousands and eliminating jobs

The CNN story tries to give the Amazon-buying-Macy’s idea a little shove by pointing out that Amazon is known for making big bets. It started a hugely successful cloud business, Amazon Web Services, and it moved into entertainment with music and video offerings. It also expanded into hardware with the ill-fated Fire phone and the incredibly successful Kindle and Echo.

But that’s just it: Those big bets were in new markets, not a variation on retail, where Amazon has struggled historically to make a profit. Why take on a wheezing brick-and-mortar retailer just when it looks like its retail wing might be on solid (if thin) profit-margin ground?

Then again, Jeff Bezos was crazy enough to buy an old-school newspaper in this era of digital transformation. Why not go for a miracle on 34th Street?

You thought we were going to go a whole Macy’s piece without the MO34thSt. reference, didn’t you? No such luck.

Don’t Dump Ivanka Trump

Nordstrom on Market Street in San Francisco

Let’s set aside the question of whether a plug by someone who dresses like a greeter at Disneyland’s Fourth of July parade is good or bad for a fashion business.

The real question is, when is it OK for the White House to attack a retailer for deciding it was dropping a line that wasn’t performing.

What are we talking about? Half the time we don’t know. But in this case we’re talking about the retail drama gripping the nation. OK, gripping the BRRR. You might recall that Nordstrom announced some time ago that it would no longer sell first daughter Ivanka Trump’s fashion line because the stuff was not a big seller.

This did not go over well with the Tweeter-in-Chief.


That raised some eyebrows — and some questions from ethicists who said President Trump shouldn’t be advocating for his family members’ businesses from the Oval Office or from wherever it is he tweets.

But Trump’s message was far subtler than that of his right-hand woman, Conway. (Wait. Did we just use Trump and subtler in the same sentence?) She basically provided one of those late-night commercials with the screaming car sales guy during an interview on Fox & Friends (and yes, the Trump White House is friends with Fox).

“Go buy Ivanka’s stuff,” Conway, flanked by a U.S. flag and a White House plaque, said into the camera. “I’m going to give a free commercial here. Buy it today everybody. You can find it online.”

What happened next is hard to say. Of course Twitter blew up. It seems President Trump did not. The official word was that Conway had been “counseled.” By whom or for what was not clear.

As for Nordstrom, other than to say that its decision to drop the Ivanka Trump line was based on poor performance, it hasn’t said a lot about how it feels to be attacked by the president of the United States.

Matthew Shay, CEO of the National Retail Federation, was diplomatic in speaking to the Associated Press.

‘‘What we are seeing is that we are living in a world with a different kind of chief executive in the White House,’’ he told the AP. ‘‘He has a strong opinion on issues. We are learning to work in the environment.’’

Maybe if the Seattle-based retailer asked nicely, it could get an administration staffer of its own to give Nordstrom a little plug from the White House.

Quote of the week

“Sales associates are the front-line representatives for retailers, and how they engage with customers can make or break the shopping experience and impact sales.”  — Cheryl Flink, chief strategy officer for Market Force Information, to Women’s Wear Daily regarding the agency’s survey that found Nordstrom to be the most popular retailer in the United States.
Photos by Mike Cassidy

Mike Cassidy is BloomReach’s storyteller. Contact him at mike.cassidy@bloomreach.com; follow him on Twitter at @mikecassidy.