Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Is the retail sky falling?

We find ourselves again considering the state of retail and predictions of its demise. This time around, it's hard to not think all hell is breaking loose.

We are at an inflection point. We are in flux.
The social, political and economic forces that bear down on each of us (and in aggregate–millennials, boomers, etc.) are resulting in fragmentation like we’ve never seen before. This is exposing attitudes and behaviors that can seem puzzling. I expect there is nothing predictable or normal about the new normal.
Is the sky falling in on retail? No. On stores? Perhaps.
I agree that the mediocre are getting squeezed out. When Marshall Field’s was absorbed into the Macy’s collective people were sad. Will anyone miss Sports Authority? When times are good, the OK are OK. When times are bad, the strong survive.
BUT, survival today doesn’t look like anything we’ve seen before. I think we will see more flux–closures and consolidations, loin-girding and chain-strengthening for the remainder of 2016, especially this summer as we witness the political conventions and as we elect a new president.
What comes from all of this uncertainty won’t be fundamentally different from what we know–retail isn’t really that vulnerable–but how, when and where will certainly continue to change.
(Here's a link to my original RetailWire comments:

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

So, I have this tumblr over at  You should check it out.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Apple Watch? Nope. Apple Pay.

My dad taught me to "make it as easy as possible to separate a man from his money." Apple is about to do just that.
This could quite possibly be the most consumer-centric product Apple has produced to date. Not because it is a wearable, but because it will leverage actual, natural behavior. And by behavior, I mean transactions.
This is not about telling time, or even tracking your heartbeat. This is about a new node in the Apple ecosystem that will transcend the iTunes universe.
Apple Pay.
Apple Pay starts with 800 MILLION iTunes accounts. It is essentially taking "friction" out of payments. And by friction, I mean the cumbersome act of pulling your card out of your wallet and swiping.
Behavior. Approve payment? Touch your wrist, tap your phone. Easy-peasey.
The watch, phone, tablet are just facilitating purchase behavior.
More and more, as new devices (Apple Ring? Samsung belt buckle?) connect with this platform the easier it will be to spend money.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Possibilities Along the Way

May 26, 2013
Like many, I imagine, I travel for two main reasons—work and play. I have had the good fortune to travel most of my life; from the Winnebago “camping” trips of my youth to the deserts of California and Nevada, the quiet shore of Lake Michigan, Brooklyn, one epic honeymoon to Paris and scores of places in between and along the way.

When I travel, I try to find something that is truly and uniquely of that place; something that wouldn't or couldn't have become real anywhere else. The Billy Goat in Chicago, KEXP in Seattle, General Store in San Francisco and Powell's Books in Portland all come to mind. These are the places and things that tell me about a place—who its people are and how they are, how they make their way and make their places.

As I'm writing this I'm in one of my favorite spots near my home in Grandview Heights, Ohio and that reminds me that these places are not always on the other end of plane ride. I have been coming to Stauf's Coffee Roasters for more than 15 years. They were one of the first places in central Ohio to offer free WiFi and I have used it a lot over the years. Stauf's is not fancy or even the best at food or customer service. What Stauf's IS good at is being what it is—a comfortable, accepting place to sit and have a coffee, read a book, write, hang with family and friends and be in the midst of people doing their things.

When I hit the road, I struggle with what to pack—I do the weather--meetings—events--comfort--”don't look like a tourist”--dance in my head. Do I really want to wear black for the next three days? I have a few Ro bags from that keep me organized and concise. There's something satisfying about getting all you need into a couple of beautiful matching bags. It says “hey fellow travelers, I got it together.”

I am, more often than not, guilty of over-packing and each time I think I'm getting better at it—flexible and expandable carry-on and messenger bags are indispensable because I inevitably bring back some piece of the place—t-shirts, rocks from beaches (yes, I have boxes of rocks that remind me of things) and gifts. So my next bag will be something rugged and flexible like the Ro Tribecca bag from

I do my research before a trip (I'm still looking for that one go-to resource that highlights the best places from my point-of-view) but to really find the best places, I ask locals and fellow travelers. I strike up conversations about what is good and interesting. Simple questions like “What do you do in your free time around here?” and “What's the best thing about this place?” can yield some interesting ideas and suggestions.

I have a collection of t-shirts that show off some hometown pride that I like to bring along with me. Occasionally they illicit a nod or start a conversation, but mostly they are a bit of home I can have with me. Chatting with the locals is how we found Hurricane Ridge in Washington's Olympic National Park—a breathtaking drive up through the park to a view my family and I will never forget. This is also how we discovered the famous Junior's in Brooklyn—the anti-loca-vore food heaven.

When I travel for business, I try to squeeze in what I call side trips. These little excursions to unique neighborhoods or events can really balance out hours-long meetings in skyscrapers or suburbs. Last summer on a day trip to Chicago, I took a short walk from my meetings in the Loop to Millennium Park. I expected just to be among people not talking about deadlines and what I got instead was a lovely few hours listening to the Chicago Symphony playing in the Frank Gehry-designed band shell. After that, I took a short walk to The Billy Goat—the cheeseburger place made famous by a 1970s Saturday Night Live skit. It's pretty much like the skit and these people were not acting.

Sometimes it's worth taking a later flight.

For spring break this year, and to celebrate our daughter's 16th birthday, we hung out in Brooklyn for a few days. We asked friends about their favorite places and things to do, checked as many online sources as we could to piece together a good time in the limited time we had there. A smart, sophisticated and generous with her experiences friend—Suzi West of CollierWest in Brooklyn—gave us a list of not only what to do, but why. Her perspective and opinion really helped us out.

For the big birthday dinner, we settled on Buttermilk Channel, a restaurant that sounded perfect—an innovative locally-sourced menu and an atmosphere that was special but not too fancy. It pretty much was perfect—except our 13 year old son's appetite wasn't quite satisfied. As we strolled back to our hotel, checked out the knitting store / coffee shop combo right next to the traditional butcher shops and the neighborhood where my wife lived after college with the statues of the Virgin Mary guarding the corners. Along the way son let us know that pizza would be a really good idea.

We found Vinny's that night—a Suzi West recommendation—a seemingly ordinary pizza place with a long counter, a few seats in the back and a HUGE screen showing the surfer/crime classic Point Break starring Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze. We couldn't leave. It was the climactic ending and the kids had never seen anything like it—a rare acting achievement—let alone had pizza of this magnitude. It was one of the most memorable moments in a trip filled with all manner of New York-ness. The guys working at Vinny's treated us like regulars and that's what made it so memorable. We felt like we could have hung out there all night if we wanted.

Ultimately, you bring back what you are open to experiencing. You can find the perfect bag, use the miles to get the best price and schedule and find the recommendations of friends and experts, but if you forget to take a moment to forget all those expectations you may miss out on the joy on your kid's face watching a perfectly cheesy movie while devouring their fourth piece of world-class pizza.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

cX Audit: CityTarget Chicago

<p>CX AUDIT CITYTARGET CHICAGO AUGUST 2012 from Chuck Palmer on Vimeo.</p>

Not only has Target nailed the urban big box, but they have done it in one of Chicago's landmark buildings. Special note for the middle west debut of Pret A Manger, the compelling fresh fast food purveyor.   


Posted via email from ConsumerX: cXChuck's Stuff

Monday, January 16, 2012

Content of Character

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character..."
-Dr. Martin Luther King

It happens rarely, but the universe has conspired to make MLK Day and my birthday, a day off work and school for the kids and Anne all happen today. I am grateful for that.

I am also grateful for the quiet time to reflect on Dr. King's influence on me. It's that quote above that continues to inspire me. In elementary school we were made to memorize this (along with the Gettysburg Address, the Emma Lazarus poem at the base of the Statue of liberty and others) and I am glad it is embedded in my mind.

It struck me then that character matters. It is a good aid in understanding the world around us. The trick is defining that content for yourself.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Be Where They Are: Retailers Fanning Out as They Chase Shoppers

from Business First - by Dan Eaton

Date: Friday, April 1, 2011, 6:00am EDT


Retailing & Restaurants, Agriculture

Retailers are expanding to a town not likely near you.

As the retail climate improves, some national and regional chains are revving up growth plans for the region, but the target is beyond Columbus and its suburbs.

“Convenience, value and choice play as well in more rural areas as it does in suburban areas,” said retail consultant Chuck Palmer of Grandview Heights-based ConsumerX Retail. “Everyone is looking for the ‘new normal.’ The suburban rings are saturated, so most are looking urban or rural.”

Hoffman Estates, Ill.-based Sears Holding Corp. and Rural King Supply Inc., out of Mattoon, Ill., are two companies looking beyond the suburbs. Sears opened a new Hometown division store in Johnstown this year and is planning as many as six more shops within a 50-mile radius of Columbus this year, while Rural King plans to open a store in Marion this summer.

“Our growth is dictated by demand,” said Gary Hoyle, Sears’ regional development director.

Outside opportunities

Sears had independently owned catalog stores until 1993, when it converted around 150 of them to the Hometown model, Hoyle said. Ohio is home to 23 of the stores, run by independent dealers of Sears’ most popular brands, and it’s looking at towns like Hillsboro, Wilmington and Circleville for new stores. The division has grown by 40 to 60 stores annually to reach 907 total, accounting for more than a third of the 2,191-store chain.

Hometown stores are authorized dealers of Sears products, not licensees or franchisees. Sears keeps the stores stocked, while the local owners run the operation, pay the bills and collect sales commissions. They don’t pay franchise fees or royalties.

The scaled-down stores typically are 8,000 square feet and are focused on four product areas – appliances, electronics, tools and home and garden. Owners can use Sears’ delivery and service network or opt to do their own.

“Brands like Kenmore, Craftsman, DieHard – there’s lots of loyalty there,” Hoyle said.

He said the Hometown model is a good expansion opportunity for Sears since the company incurs no overhead from running the stores.

“Rural growth makes sense because it’s not saturated,” Palmer said. “If you look at their buying power, you’ll probably see it’s an underserved market.”

Palmer said Walmart stores have long been dominant in rural markets, but its superstores can require customers to drive farther than they may want.

“This is as much about competition as it is about coverage,” Palmer said.

Land, lots of land

The rural movement may say as much about available real estate as it does about demographics.

Rural King is taking over a nearly 73,000-square-foot former Lowe’s home improvement store in Marion, said Eric Eldridge, an agent with Columbus-based Gilbert Group Inc. Lowe’s had moved its Marion store to a new site nearby.

The chain, which has 47 stores in seven Midwest states, has snatched up abandoned big boxes in the Louisville, Ky., market as well, according to a recent report by Columbus Business First sister publication Business First of Louisville. The company did not return calls for comment.

Rural King targets the agricultural market with livestock feed, farm equipment and parts, but also sells lawn mowers, work clothes, housewares and toys. Its Ohio footprint remains small, with the Marion location its third in the state following sites in Wooster and Van Wert.

Another home and hardware player with its sights on Central Ohio is Eau Claire, Wisc.-based Menard Inc., which has opened stores in Marion and Lancaster in recent years, but is moving toward urban and suburban areas rather than away.

“They’re another alternative,” Palmer said. “They’re going into some places where others are not going.”

The company is nearing the opening of its Northland Village store on Morse Road, on a site that once drew the interest of Home Depot, has purchased a site on East Broad Street near Reynoldsburg once intended to be a Walmart, and is in the rezoning process for a site near Polaris in Delaware County.

Palmer said discounted real estate opportunities are there for the taking. Hoyle said Sears tries to get Main Street-type locations in the towns it targets, but is open to strip centers and other sites.

“It’s a buyers’ market out there,” he said. “We’re definitely seeing better deals than we were three or four years ago.”

614-220-5462 |

Sears Hometown

  • Business: Independently owned stores in smaller markets that sell Sears’ appliances, electronics, lawn and garden products and hardware.
    Based: Hoffman Estates, Ill.
    Stores: 907
    Ohio stores: 23

Rural King Supply Inc.

  • Business: Retailer specializing in farm apparel and equipment, as well as work wear, housewares and hardware.
  • Based: Mattoon, Ill.
  • Stores: 47
  • Ohio stores: 3
  • Website:

Read more: Retailers fanning out as they chase real estate deals, willing shoppers | Business First

Posted via email from ConsumerX: cXChuck's Stuff

Friday, April 1, 2011

Experience Audit: Target PFresh Renovation

My Target now has a serious grocery offer. 

It includes fresh produce and an expanded frozen and packaged goods assortment.  This is part of the PFresh renovation project that Target has been undergoing, reconfiguring stores to capture more families’ food dollars and adjusting the floor plan to be more open and shoppable.

And by “MY” Target, I mean that.  I don’t usually get this personal in my store assessments, but this is a special case.  My family, friends and neighbors spend a good deal of time and money at this store.  Like many Target customers, we have an emotional connection to this store and are glad its gotten a broader offer and reorganization.

We live in Grandview Heights, Ohio, a first-ring suburb of Columbus.  This Target has been a godsend in this quasi-urban retail desert of the city’s core.  Opened in 1996 on an old HVAC manufacturing site, this Target at Lennox Town Center serves as an anchor on a strip that includes an AMC Theater, Staples and Barnes & Noble. 

Experience Shots


The main drive aisle terminates with the grocery offer.  It doesn’t look all that different, but feels fresher and more open.


Departmental feature walls take lifestyle message to the ceilings, providing easy sight lines and navigational cues.

New walls vary in height and give you a sense of the whole space without it feeling overwhelming.


Gondola configuration has gotten creative.  Feature areas and endcaps, varying heights stop the eye and invite you in.  This could seem chaotic and messy, but the variety is a welcome change.

 Fashion merchandising orients to the aisle and invites us in.  Low inventory levels at this time of year make it a bit easier to provide all that negative space, but it is a nice touch.  The use of photography in the large-format back wall display anchors each area within the department.


The perimeter walls of large format boxes are always a retail design challenge.  The use of tonal color variations and pendant lamps are a clever touch that elevates the fashion departments just enough.

The addition of touch-screen digital technology is a nice addition.  Appropriate in the gaming department, this display feels like it belongs at Target (in-store digital seldom is on-brand) delivers cross-platform/brand information and connects with you outside of store by offering to send you emails or texts about the products you were interested in during your experience.  We have yet to see a just-right integration of digital/mobile merchandising within the store or an appropriate promotion of those digital assets in the store.


Seriously? I don’t need to give Target any more kudos for design—that’s a given—but English is one of my pet peeves.  There are plenty of copywriters in the world that could have written a better question.


The new layout re-aligns departments nicely.  The new department adjacencies flow well one to the next, aiding in the overall customer journey.  My personal favorite is men’s fashion next to games next to electronics next to toys.  

Now that’s my kind of customer journey.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

ConsumerX: Brand + Consumer

ConsumerX Consumer+Brand.pdf Download this file

Portfolio of work.

Posted via email from ConsumerX: cXChuck's Stuff

Monday, March 28, 2011

Social Influence Marketing

Do you understand the reach and influence of your customers? Is your brand or your consumers at the center of all you do?