#retail

Samit Sarkar:

Sony is planning to close 20 of the 31 extant Sony Store locations in the U.S. by the end of the year, the company announced today.

Wait, there are still Sony Stores? 31 of them?!

But seriously, how crazy is it that in an age where Apple Stores are thriving more than any other consumer retail stores — period — Sony, which was the frontrunner in this regard, has totally failed.

It just shows once again that the only thing that matters is the product. Sony used to make great products, and the stores thrived. Lately, it has largely been stuff no one wants and well…

Matthew Yglesias recently visited a local mall in Arlington, Virginia. There, he found a jam-packed Apple Store and an empty Microsoft Store. His conclusion:

Of course Microsoft operated for many years as a fantastic company without any retail stores at all, so it’s not as if the failure to build successful stores is the problem per se. The real issue is that there’s nothing wrong with the store. It’s a great place to shop. Much better than the Apple Store, really, because the Apple Store is crowded, and it’s a little hard to get an employee’s attention. At the Microsoft Store you get a very pleasant physical environment and a helpful staff. It’s just that nobody wants to buy their stuff.

It’s still a very profitable company thanks to its enormous strengths in the enterprise market. But enterprises are made of people. If nobody wants to buy Microsoft’s stuff, that will trickle up into the enterprise.

I’m sure the diehards are already attacking Yglesias and explaining the fallacy of his logic here. I’m sure those people think they’re right. The only problem: they’re not, Yglesias is. Time will prove it.

[via John Gruber]

Larry Dignan:

The advantages to the store-as-fulfillment center plan are that Best Buy can deliver products faster and cheaply. The downside to that strategy is that Best Buy’s in-store inventory visibility isn’t good and the staff may not be as efficient as people in a distribution center.

The conventional wisdom would say that Best Buy’s stores are an albatross around their neck — much like they were for Blockbuster. But what if they can shift them into being more along the lines of warehouses — much like the ones Amazon is trying to build as quickly as possible — for fast local delivery? And what if only a small area of those warehouses were actually a storefront to show off their goods?

This would all take a lot of logistics (and possibly some re-zoning?) but it doesn’t sound like the craziest idea in the world. Again, what if your weakness is actually your strength?

Erica Ogg for GigaOm:

Ron Johnson is out as CEO of J.C. Penney. After less than two years on the job, it’s not quite clear what the next step would be for him. Luckily for him, it just so happens that Johnson’s former employer, Apple, has an opening for someone with his qualifications: SVP of Retail.

Yes, that’s Johnson’s old job, the one that he held for more than 10 years. And he was really, really good at it. 

Sometimes you can go home again. This should probably be one of those times.

Jeffrey Trachtenberg for WSJ:

"In 10 years we’ll have 450 to 500 stores," said Mitchell Klipper, chief executive of Barnes & Noble’s retail group, in an interview last week. The company operated 689 retail stores as of Jan. 23, along with a separate chain of 674 college stores.

It’s sort of crazy how poorly many once-powerful retail chains are doing — while Apple can’t build their stores fast enough. Just look at that chart in the story.