Category Archives: Retail

Budget Blinds boss on TV reality show next week

Budget Blinds of Hutchinson will celebrate the appearance of the company’s CEO on the TV show “Undercover Boss” with a viewing party.
Chad Hallock, who co-founded the California-based company with his brother and three friends, will appear on the CBS reality show at 7 p.m. April 13.
Linda Pinsker of Budget Blinds in Hutchinson said her business at 2409 Main is inviting customers and business colleagues to watch the episode at a party in the showroom.
For more information, contact Pnsker at 620-662-7500.

Bring back the old J.C. Penney’s

WICHITA – Took a little time Sunday afternoon to wander through JCP – you know, the retailer formerly known as J.C. Penney – in Towne West Square. It was my first trip since the company’s new CEO, former Apple wunderkind Ron Johnson, opined publicly that the retailer’s customers were “tired of all those sales offers,” a true warning shot that sounded an awful lot like an “uh-oh” to a now-former Penney’s regular like myself.

I used to frequent the store. Good clothing and the best prices in the market, along with friendly, knowledgeable clerks.

So much for all that.

Here’s the short tale for those of you who haven’t been to JCP: Prices are universally about 20 percent higher. Not a sale to be found, and about half the customers of a normal Sunday to boot. The store’s staff has also been cut in about half, and those who remain have been turned into shrinkage hawks, roaming the store demanding that shoppers account for that pair of pants they held in their hands five minutes ago.

In short, in at least one store the Apple genius has re-created Sears, and we all know how that one’s working out. Worse, there’s no cool whiz-bang electronic gadget with a fruit logo to be found to save the day, just the same Nike shirts that used to be $45 and are now selling for $60.

 

Fighting over Walmart

The Kansas City Star reports this morning about a feud between two Johnson County cities over where to locate a Walmart.

Roeland Park is accusing neighboring Mission of poaching its Walmart to jumpstart its long-delayed $200 million Gateway project. Roeland Park officials are complaining to state economic officials because the Gateway development has applied for STAR bonds from the state.

“The city of Roeland Park definitely supports redevelopment in any of our sister cities,” Mayor Adrienne Foster told the Star’s Kevin Collison. “What we do not support is when our Number 1 sales tax generator, Walmart, is removed from our city in order for another city’s development to move forward.”

 

What will the Black Friday deals be?

WICHITA — The economy’s late swoon has fooled many retailers and they will probably have to discount big at Christmas, starting with Black Friday, Nov. 25.  The ConsumerSearch blog is guessing Black Friday deals will include:

  • TVs: Mid-level performers, especially 3D models, may see a 50% price cut or be or be bundled with extras such as 3D glasses and 3D Blu-ray players at their lowest prices to date
  • Digital Cameras: The most basic (and poorly-reviewed) cameras will show up in store circulars – and average savings will only be about $10-$20 less than the regular retail price
  • Tablets: HTC Flyer and other similarly capable Android tablets as low as $199 or even less to stay competitive with the Kindle Fire

Products that should be re-released

One of my pals – despite what you hear from one side of the aisle, there actually are people who like journalists – was ruminating the other day about products from our youth that we’d like to see re-released.

She was talking about a skin cream; I, on the other hand, have loftier ambitions.

My choice: It’s time for Tudor to come back to life and re-release the Super Bowl electric football game.

The why is harder to explain, since I have to admit that was the one toy from my youth that had absolutely no practical application whatsoever.

Since childhood, I’ve been absolutely fascinated by the Xs and Os of football, so much that I collect authentic playbooks to this day. So I guess the appeal of electric football grows from that.

But the darn thing didn’t work. Even though Tudor invented turning bases for the offensive linemen, God help you if you tried to get your guys to run a power sweep or a trap. Try as I might, they always rattled over to the sidelines.

But I loved the kickers. You were ALWAYS in range for a field goal. My career best was an estimated 650 yards, estimated only because the attempt in question split the uprights and sailed across the living room – into the floor furnace.

The smell of burning felt isn’t a pretty thing.

I loved that electric football game. And skin cream’s not going to help this face.

Business tax breaks abound

There’s been a good deal of gnashing of teeth in Wichita about the idea of tax breaks to incentivize business.

So this piece from a rapidly growing metropolitan area serves as a reminder of how far some of Wichita’s competitors are willing to go to lure business – let alone a wildly profitable national big-box chain.

Preparing for development

Here’s one statistic that struck me this week in Chattanooga:

Staff at the RiverCity Company, which oversees the local revitalization effort: 12.

Staff at the Wichita Downtown Development Corp., the point organization for Wichita’s growth plan: 3, and sometimes 4.

One of the thoughts percolating through the Visioneering Wichita delegation Thursday was WDDC staffing. President Jeff Fluhr will need more bodies as the effort ramps up.

Philanthropy is going to be essential to get Wichita’s downtown program going. Chattanoogans talk a lot about “motivated local money.”

And one good starting point for a Wichitan who’d like to buy into downtown’s future would be to fund an increase in the WDDC staff.

Saturn dealer Davies in Wall Street Journal

Scott Davies, owner of Saturn of Wichita, was one of three Saturn dealers featured by the Wall Street Journal in a story today.

A big part of the story is about dealers who are playing up Roger Penske’s plan to buy the brand, and General Motors gentle admonition to them not to so as to not take “the spotlight off the brand itself,” the article says.

You can read more about Davies and the story here.

UPC bar code fans rejoice

barcodeWe get lots and lots of press releases in our inbox here at Business Casual Central. And frankly, a lot of them are junk. They come from this organization or that PR person based somewhere on a coast and have absolutely no relevance to Wichita, to Kansas, or to just about anything.

Normally, they are met with a quick press of the handy-dandy delete key, never to be seen again. But I got one this morning that caught my eye for some reason. Maybe I’m a little loopy after a restless night, but I found it interesting nonetheless: the 35th anniversary of the Universal Product Code will be celebrated on Wednesday.

How do you celebrate such an event? With a giant UPC-adorned birthday cake, of course.

From the release:

One of the world’s best-known symbols, the U.P.C. comprises a row of 59 machine-readable black and white bars and 12 human-readable digits. Both the bars and the digits convey the same information: the identity of a specific product and its manufacturer.

Originally developed to help supermarkets speed up the checkout process, the first live use of a U.P.C. took place in a Marsh Supermarkets store in Troy, Ohio, on June 26, 1974, when a cashier scanned a package of Wrigley’s gum. It ushered in extraordinary economic and productivity gains for shoppers, retailers and manufacturers alike, with estimated annual cost savings of $17 billion in the grocery sector alone, according to one study.

So when you go to Wal-Mart or Target or wherever on Wednesday, be sure to wish the bar codes a happy birthday.

Labor pains

I was chatting with a friend in retail over the Labor Day weekend, and he said it’s a tough time right now despite all the talk about the economy being good here. I mentioned that it’s probably a good time to check in with small local shops for a story on how they’re doing, but he said no one would want to talk. He said it’s hard to be known as a popular store or the “it’ store of the moment if you admit to problems.

Of course, it’s probably also hard to attract shoppers if you don’t let them know you need them.

As difficult a time it is for so many businesses — including newspapers — I have to admit I’m thankful not to be in retail.

Save the Westlink Starbucks

An online and paper petition campaign has been mounted to save the Westlink Starbucks location, one of 600 marked for closing by the struggling gourmet coffee chain.

Paper petitions asking the company to spare the store, which opened on May 23, are available at Westlink retailers.

And an online petition is available at www.ipetitions.com/petition/westlinkstarbucks.

Participants are asked to sign either the paper or online petitions, but not both. The drive is being coordinated by Benchmark Real Estate Group, property managers for Westlink Shopping Center.

Bass Pro: Doomed in Wichita?

Quietly, Wichita’s chances of landing a Bass Pro Shops store took another hit this week.

Longtime Wichita Realtor Jack Hunt, an avid fisherman who died Tuesday, was attempting to land the outdoors retailer in the weeks and months before his death, according to numerous reports this week. One source characterized the talks as “serious.”

The proposed location was some lakefront property Hunt owns just south of I-235, the site of a mobile home park destroyed by a tornado years ago.

But with Hunt gone and the fate of his real estate company up in the air, it’s unclear where those talks are headed. Bass Pro spokesman Brent Lawrence said the company doesn’t discuss new store deals until they are finalized.

Former Mayor Carlos Mayans reportedly led a city council drive five years ago to slash WaterWalk funding that drove Bass Pro from town. And now, the legendary outdoorsman after Bass Pro has died.

Perhaps Wichita and Bass Pro just weren’t meant to be.