Hey, Chuck Taylor is celebrating 100 years. Not the guy. The kicks. Also, Kohl's tries smaller stores; UPS tries drones and Bayard Winthrop kills it.

Kohl’s to stores: Let’s get small

In an era when traditional brick-and-mortar retailers are struggling for a clear-eyed view of their futures, Kohl’s has come up with a tantalizing approach.

During an analysts call this week, Kohl’s CEO Kevin Mansell said the retailer would push to downsize some of its big stores, opening instead stores as small as one-third or so the size of its largest stores, CNBC reported.

Part of the idea, according to the CNBC report, was to avoid the loss in online sales that accompanies the outright closing of a store. Apparently, consumers are less likely to buy online from a retailer that doesn’t have a physical store nearby where shoppers can return items.

Meantime, JCPenney is intensifying its focus on online commerce. The Texas-based retailer said today that would close between 130 and 140 stores as a way to focus on the company’s better performing stores.

“We believe closing stores will also allow us to adjust our business to effectively compete against the growing threat of online retailers,” Penneys CEO Marvin R. Ellison said in a news release announcing the moves.

And Nordstrom is seeing its investment in bargain outlet The Rack pay off, even as its original nameplate struggles in an era that has been hard on department stores, the Washington Post reports. In fact, the Seattle-based retailers’ earnings report indicated that the future in on the outlet and online.

The Rack delivered a 10.7 percent boost in sales, helped considerably by online sales, the Post reported. And when it came to online sales, e-commerce was also a bright spot for Nordstrom itself.

The Post said Nordstrom.com made up 25 percent of the company’s full-price sales.

Allentown Kohl's Whitehall Mall

As for Kohl’s, CNBC said Mansell spoke with analysts after an earnings call that, according to Business Insider, contained some good news, relatively speaking. The Wisconsin-based retailer beat Wall Street expectations, reporting better than predicted profits thanks to improved margins, BI reported.

The Kohl’s report was among a batch of recent earnings reports that shed light on the 2016 holiday shopping season. It turns out there were a number of winners besides Amazon, during the fourth quarter.

Wal-Mart, Home Depot and TJX, for instance all had strong elements in their reports, CNBC says. Wal-Mart attributed its success to attracting more shoppers who spent more during the holiday period, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Home Depot’s same-store sales were up nearly 6 percent, the Journal reported, in part because of the hot housing market. More housing sales means more new homeowners fixing their places up.  (The Wall Street Journal online story requires a subscription, but you can get some of the details on the WSJ podcast.)


In telling the story HSN’s reinvention, Associated Press retail writer Anne D’Innocenzio presents a nice microcosm of retail’s ongoing evolution. We at the BRRR are a sucker for little stories that tell a larger story and this is one.

HSN (as in the Home Shopping Network) knows that consumers aren’t so much shopping at home (at least in front of the TV) but are now much more mobile — physically speaking and device-wise.

D’Innocenzio explains that more than half of HSN’s sales come not from T.V., but from online sales. And we all know where online is going. Yep. Nearly half of HSN’s online sales come from shoppers on mobile devices.

And so, the retailer is pushing to draw in more women in their 30s and 40s, while building traffic on its mobile app, the AP story says. Furthermore, it’s working on stocking more exclusive inventory, a hedge against Amazon.

And it seems HSN is making a play for millennials. The AP notes that the company is launching short, shoppable Facebook videos. (Known as SSFVs in the business. OK, they’re not known as that.)

So to review: HSN is losing ground with its legacy business and so it is beefing up mobile, creating a better experience for shoppers and bulking up on exclusive inventory.

Sound familiar? We thought so.

The 1980s are calling and they want your Chuck Taylors back


The BRRR is celebrating the 100th anniversary of Converse’s Chuck Taylor All-Stars.

Not the brand, the pair of high-tops we have in our closet. Ba-da-boom.

So seriously, legend has it (well, Wikipedia has it) that a basketball player cum shoe salesman named Chuck Taylor designed the iconic shoe in 1917. Nike, which now owns Converse, is going all-in with promotions on YouTube, Instagram stories and Snapchat, brandchannel reports.

The campaign, which comes along with an update to Chucks look and feel, will focus on Chucks in cinema, not their basketball legacy. Makes some sense as a canvass pair of Chucks hasn’t hit the NBA hardwood since 1980, bc reports.

Check it out.

Yes, Bayard Winthrop is the best-hoodie-ever guy

Tired of reading and want to do some listening? My one-time colleague Jon Fortt has an all-American, made-in-America story about a guy inspired by tech to go into the apparel business.

Fortt writes that his guest, American Giant’s Bayard Winthrop, was inspired by Silicon Valley when he launched his U.S.-made clothing line. (And yes, this is the company that all those posts about “the best hoodie ever” are talking about.) Given the money sloshing around Silicon Valley and the fact that clothes are made out of cloth, do you think we can call this a “riches to rags story?”

Quote of the week

“Drones won’t replace our uniformed service providers. That’s key, but in this case, it really is there to assist.”— Mark Wallace, UPS senior vice president of global engineering and sustainability to Bloomberg, regarding the company’s foray into drone delivery.

Photo of the Converse All-Stars by Gerald Angeles published under Creative Commons license.

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