Archive for March, 2010

Saks plans to close two stores and increase gross profit margin in the others

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

If ever there was a plan devised to fail, the Saks concept to ride the poor economic trend seems doomed. Mass retailers can play with gross profit margin because their price driven customers will tolerate the end results. How is Saks going to get higher gross out of designer brands?


 Convince the Designers to sell it to them for less? Don’t think so.

 Invent their own private label with price points equal to current designer names? That’s one way if they have a design staff to create the line, and that cost is not cheap.

 Cut the quality of the manufacturing to insure higher GPM? Not going to get away with that because their customers will not tolerate it and will see it coming from a mile away.


I just hope that Saks, which has always been a retailer to respect and emulate, can focus on the business and cut overhead, hire superior staff who can drive sales, redo the stores so they are energy efficient  and realize the solution is not in the product. Their product is not broken, so why fix it.


They are playing in the highest level of retail and need to find a way that the customer cannot see the cost savings while walking the sales floor. We need Saks and I hope they see they might have taken the wrong turn in the road.


Jerry Birnbach F.I.S.P.

Partner RDD Associates Inc. Store Designer NYC

Retailers for a better tomorrow blog

KMART Looks to build Fashion Cred

Friday, March 26th, 2010

I have been following the progress of KMART since 1980 and they have never gotten it right in all these years. During hard times for KMart there was no money to revamp the stores and bring them up to par with Target or Walmart. Unfortunately, they do not have a model in Sears as to how ready-to- wear should be presented as “the other side of Sears” has not gained traction in ten years.The answer is either bite the bullet and believe that a REAL Change will make a significant difference in the all so important category to the bottom line.. Apparel.The answer is simple. As Store Planner for over thirty years I have looked to exclusive solutions to secure brand recognition. KMart needs to invest in unique display systems, stay away from stock solutions and create a look that is right for them. The formula is not difficult but it is very hard to accomplish from the inside as politics often cramps the creative process. Dollars will always play a factor but you do not have to spend a lot to look new and fresh. My intuition tells me that KMart has used up at least seven lives and running out of chances to finally do it right and build customer CRED.Jerry Birnbach F.I.S.P.Partner RDD Associates Inc Store Designer NYCRetailers for a better tomorrow blogger

Madonna new Hits will be on the Runway not Billboard’s Chart

Thursday, March 25th, 2010


If ever there was a brand that was meant to be, this is it! Madonna has consistently maintained who she is and what she stands for. Her success to have withstood the test of time is a testimonial to an industry comprised of fickled fans.As a retail consultant for retailers and brands my advice is simple. Pay attention to detail and have a clear vision of what you want to look like at the store level. I have seen too many retailers kill a celeb brand by not taking the extra step to do it right. This is not about throw it at the wall and watch it stick. Even Madonna needs to follow the basic rules of retailing in order to guarantee success.The first of many right moves was to join forces with Iconix. They certainly have a track record for successful launches but Beware of Macy’s. Having experienced personally the XOXO brand at Macy’s Herald Square I can only say their intentions were good, but their execution was just that.I for one would like to see a red thread sawn into the wrist of every item if possible. You would be doing many a favor.

Jerry Birnbach F.I.S.P

Partner RDD Associates NYC Store Designers

Retailers for a Better Tomorrow Blogger


RDD Associates providing pro bono services to retailers in need

Thursday, March 18th, 2010



Retailer Rescue Analysis Kit Provides Strategic Solutions

to Regain Footing in a Weak Economy

Aug 10, 2009 —  RDD Associates Inc., — a nationally recognized leader in Retail Design, Merchandising, Branding and Business plans — relaunches its Retail Rescue Analysis Kit to aid struggling New York Retailers. As sales continue to see a steady decrease, New York City’s “Main Street” retailers are acting now by bringing in RDD Associates Inc.

Retail Rescue Analysis Kit is a disaster recovery program engineered to enable the small retailer to take advantage of the same consulting services provided to big names like WalMart, Crayola and Children’s Place. It was born immediately after the tragedies of September 11, 2001 as an answer to Mayor Bloomberg and the NYC Economic Development Corp and Mayor Bloomberg concept of “Adopt-a-Company.”

RDD Associates Inc. was one of the first New York City Design firms to be called into action to provide Pro Bono services to the lower Manhattan retailers that were deeply impacted by the unthinkable.  Since then, many businesses did regain their footing and are continuing to succeed despite the odds that were against them.


RDD Associates Inc.’s president, Michelle Birnbach, remembers the retailers had no where to turn when it came to evaluating the store design, merchandising strategy, determining the best store layout for, maximizing the sales per square foot. “ Most retailers learn through example, and are self taught through the school of hard knocks,” says Birnbach.  “RDD Associates Inc. took the guesswork out of design with highly sophisticated computer analysis so that the retailer could see the vision without putting a nail in the wall.


Not only was the design defined in renderings but the entire productivity of the sales, product assortment, and seasonal inventory levels were planned far in advance. Three retailers were able to reopen in record time with a better store then before and are still operating successfully today.

Birnbach stated, “RDD Associates Inc. is proud of its prior involvement to help retailers and would like to see more Top 50 industry-rated design firms assist with this call to save the New York City Main Street retailer.”


Retail Rescue Analysis Kit comprises of an ala carte menu to feed the small “Main Street New York” retailer: traffic flow, packaging, business branding, lighting, layout, displays, merchandising, inventory control, show windows, interactive in-store signage, interior design, public relations, and marketing plans to inject life back into the retailer.


“We are at a cross road where hard working, innovative retailers once found ways to stay afloat,” said Birnbach. “Current circumstances call for global tactics, resourceful solutions and a budget that many would have walked away from.  The opportunity is there for every small retailer to turn lemons into lemonade by rethinking their current store dynamics and unique qualities and our Retail Rescue Analysis Kit will be in place as long as it takes to get stability back in the retail sector.”


Retail Brand leader goes to Target with Walmart number two

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

I recently did a review for a vendor of the number one and number two retailer referenced in this article. Based on my review of Walmart verses Target the order of best was reversed. Target should be number one, not based on volume but on the shopping experience.Having a long relationship with both retailers and experienced the evolution of their store presentation and product offering I think Target has been proactive in their thinking and Walmart reactive.Target has been a sea of red when you entered their store. In concert with their advertising they consistently have a brand recognition without the name even visible. The interior of Target is upscale, they used slat wire units before Walmart. Their graphics are well defined, depict the lifestyle they stand for and have expressed their message to the consumers for years. When Isaac Mizrahi was introduced to Target, it changed the world of Branding in Mass retail. Walmart looking for an answer to Target’s Isaac over a year later landed on George by Me, created by a top designer Mark Eisen. Although the product was innovative, the line was hindered by a reorganization at Walmart which led to the brands demise.Walmart has now introduced a more upscale flooring material. Walmart has become a sea of blue obviously to compete against the color red. Walmart have gone to yet another department sign system which has a very “cheap” look to it. Creativity lacks in a Walmart Store while it reeks in a Target Store. I understand that cost is a major consideration is Walmart, but Target works under the same restraints and pays attention to detail in their display presentation. Walmart uses extrusions, molded clips, mass produced display elements which are very constructional in nature. I think their customer is sophisticated enough to recognize mediocre design solutions. Sure it keeps product pricing down and perhaps that is acceptable to their consumers.One could never take away the success Walmart has enjoyed over many years and certainly they are a power to reckon with. I lived Walmart in the 70;s and 80’s when Mr. Sam was taking hold of the industry. He was innovative, he was a people person and he had relationships with vendors which led to their overwhelming success.What Target has done in my mind was to reach out to the Department store customer who felt the pinch of the economy and make them feel that shopping at Target was not a radical step down from Macy’s.Walmart’s message, in my eye, is they are representing a step up from Family Dollar. As the two approach the middle of the off price retail spectrum it will be interesting to see who leads the way and wins those customers. Will price prevail or will style win over.Jerry Birnbach F.I.S.P.Partner rddassociatesinc Store Planners NYC

Crain’s NY 3-14, New wave of foreign retailers invades NY

Monday, March 15th, 2010

I do believe, as an industry consultant for Store Design and Display, that there is much more to the explanation why foreign retailers are gaining market share from the American retailers.To me it is a multitude of factors that make up the success of a product line, but at the end of the day it is style and quality. To satisfy all the customers all of the time is an unrealistic objective for retailers. To satisfy most of the consumers most of the time is more likely to be achieved.What has made apparel retailers successful is understanding their brand’s point of difference, knowing what their customer wants and delivering quality goods.To say a foreign influence is the main cause for the change in consumers attitude is a stretch. To say it is style, design, price, ease of shopping, better instore visual presentation, quality and advertising is closer to the truth.H&M delivered an upscale looking store priced like Old Navy to be disposable clothing year after year.The H&M and Old Navy approach is right for many shoppers but is of little interest to the department store customer that wants a unique offering.Therefore, set your sights on keeping your customer base with a line that meets their needs and wants which are constantly subject to change. Whether it is a poor economy forcing price to dictate, or a green movement to define a person as a caring, retailers need to go with the flow in order to just be able to stay in place.Unfortunately, to clothing brands, safe has only one advantage to them. Safe reduces their risk with the wrong style, or color, or size offering. Safe however increases the potential of customers turning to a retailer that has provided the right product for the times.The Gap’s former success was based on less is more and America bought into it. Change is the backbone of the American economy and as American brands took the safe road from change to no change, the path became wide open for the foreign brand to infiltrate the American market .Is it too late for American retailers to do something about the current trend? No if they want to be around in five years.You’ve heard of Ford and GM, remember when they owned the automobile industry? Foreign alternatives came in and knew the American publics needs better than the American companies. American retailers better spend more time asking their customers what they want as well as trying new things to test the next trend.Their is no room for complacency in retail and the retail store brands as we know it today  go the way of the typewriter if they continue to sit on their hands.Jerry Birnbach F.I.S.P.Partner RDD Associates Inc. Store Planners