trends: January 2009 Archives

All news is local

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As the main writer and journalist of Timely Demise, I've found a pair of interesting trends in the reporting of bankruptcy and store-closing information. Most interesting is the local angle that gets brought to national news.

Take, for example, Circuit City's impending shutdown. Nationally, this news affects 567 remaining stores, more than 30,000 employees and several billion dollars in lost shareholder value. But the spin on the closings often has a local, even hyperlocal, sensibility. It's almost as though the national news is not as significant as the neighborhood impact of said news. Which, in some ways, it may not be--but when doing research from a national perspective, the narrow focus is striking.

Consider these headlines from around the country, all taken from the same basic story, that Circuit City is closing its doors (links redacted to minimize redundancy):

  • Call 4 Action: Gift Card For Circuit City? Use It Now
  • Circuit City closings include 19 stores in Mass.
  • The Source by Circuit City Stores in Canada Not Included in US ...
  • Circuit City stores closing, 13 in area
  • Woodland Hills Firm Leads Circuit City Closure Efforts
  • Circuit City closing US stores, 7 in NH
  • Both Toledo Circuit City stores closing
  • Circuit City's collapse deals blow to Lake's economy
  • Circuit City closing - another loss for Westland
  • Closing sale jams Circuit City in LB
  • Circuit City Closure Worries Cheyenne
  • Circuit City's Waco location part of national closure
  • Circuit City plans to close its Visalia store by the end of March
  • Circuit City pulls the plug; 50 jobs lost here

Some of these headlines are borderline bizarre. Waco's Circuit City "part of national closure?" How could it not be?

But others are more understandable. Local news is important at its level, and presenting the local angle gives a story like Circuit City's a logical context. A stay-at-home mom in Toledo may not pay attention to Circuit City's business doings, but she knows the neighbor's son works at the one down the road. And now it's closing? Well, that's news.

The other trend I've noticed runs counter to this positioning. For some outlets, the news trickles out at an amazingly slow pace, doing a disservice to the local constituents its purportedly helps.

Goody's announced several weeks ago its intent to liquidate. I posted the news here January 6, the day it broke. A full two weeks later notable news outlets near Goody's stores were first sharing the same information.

I find this both confusing and disconcerting. Confusing because the news isn't hard to find; I have a handful of Google Alerts and friends with Bloomberg terminals that provide the bulk of my sourcing. Goody's is not a store I know well, yet I was aware of its liquidation within hours of the news breaking.

Which leads to the disconcerting part: people reliant on local news aren't getting useful information in a timely manner. No wonder the Internet is a potential death knell for local news. It's not because it's easier or more interesting--it's because the Internet is simply doing a better job.

Coming retail changes

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An excellent article on Monday explores what changes consumers will notice at retail as the recession alters the shopping landscape.

Among the expected trends: thinner racks of merchandise, with fewer unique items, in order to manage inventory; responsive staff with a customer-service mentality; lower price points on mid- to high-range items; and more private and promotional events.

Nationwide, companies and analysts are acknowledging the wholesale shift retailers are experiencing. Lower demand forces smaller product orders, which reduces inventory but also profits and expectations. The effects will be felt well beyond the current recessionary period.

Uncertain times, uncertain information

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One of the most difficult things to manage in the Great Recession of 2008-09 is the flow of misinformation. With communications vehicles so ubiquitous, rumors spread like wildfire, and quasi-accurate reports have to be corrected and amended continuously.

Last fall, the nation's email inboxes filled repeatedly with a list of struggling retailers and a warning not to buy gift cards at uncertain stores. Some of the items in the email were as much as a year old, but they sounded good, and the email looked authoritative enough, so it spread quickly.

This winter, rumors abound about stores and locations. The latest trend? Gossip that businesses are doomed, like this mall in Michigan that insists it's not going out of business.

The high degree of uncertainty makes its way up the chain, too. AccountingWeb published two opinion pieces for retailers on the same day this week. Their titles? What advice are retailers getting in these tough times? Close the doors and What advice are retailers getting in these tough times? Keep going!

"Keep going" is what everyone is, or should be, trying to do. The question, of course, is how hard it will become to do so.

Retail outlook, from retailers

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It's probably not a whole lot of fun at the Javits Center this week, where the National Retail Federation is having its annual meeting. One of the more interesting takeaways is the forecast for post-recession retailing given by several respected analysts. Among them: more one-stop shopping, less retailer loyalty, changes in locations from lease renegotiations and a bargain-hunting atmosphere that may last until 2010.

Timely Demise tracks the retail industry as it changes with our unprecedented economic environment. By David Wertheimer. Did I miss something? Drop me a line.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the trends category from January 2009.

trends: December 2008 is the previous archive.

trends: February 2009 is the next archive.

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