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We had a story yesterday about how Sony and Nike are opening new stores in the Windy City region that cater expressly to female shoppers – considered unusual since the two companies traditionally have targeted male shoppers. The stores are designed to resemble boutiques, with color schemes, lighting and decor that feel intimate in a 5,000-square-foot space. The goal in each case is to demystify categories and provide more support and education than might ordinarily be offered.

One MNB user responded:

Maybe the direction that should be taken from Nike, Sony and Best Buy is exactly the opposite of the tact these companies are taking? The supermarket has typically been designed for, and the domain of, female shoppers. Maybe the cue that should be taken here is to create a shopping experience that caters to men who are increasingly more involved in getting the groceries and preparing the family's meals. Stores that "demystify categories and provide more support and education than might ordinarily be offered."

Actually, we think that food is a mystery to a lot of people these days, regardless of gender. We live in a fast food culture, and people just aren’t as educated as they used to be…which is why any educational, de-mystifying approach would seem to be a smart idea.

Another MNB user wrote:

On stores marketing to women...Gentlemen (because I don't believe that the big pushes to market to women are really being driven by women...sad, ain't it?), you're walking a very thin line here, and I think I speak for many women... I *do* want to feel welcome in a store, and I *don't* want to feel lost or confused in a store.

I also *don't* want to feel pandered to or patronized. Just like the rant published a few weeks ago about the "girlie" wine -- don't you DARE make me feel like you've dumbed down your sends the message that you don't think I'm smart enough to deal with the real deal...and will send me running to your competition every single time.

Spa services in Best Buy? Get real -- I go to BB to buy stuff – not for a manicure...DUMBED DOWN...(Keep in mind, too, that we are picky about who we'll let do manicures/facials/etc -- and don't switch easily.) Boutique feel for sneakers? Probably not -- I want to buy a pair of sneakers from someone who can answer my questions about fit and how they'll perform...period. I don't want to soak up the ambience, I'm there to buy a pair of sneakers. That's all. (Realizing, of course, that I must be really old to call them sneakers instead of running shoes/crosstrainers/walking shoes/etc etc etc -- but isn't that a point, too?)

Sony doing a better job of educating the consumer? GREAT! Tell me why yours is better than the competition, in intelligent language that gives me credit for having a normal IQ...That'll sell more product, regardless of the gender of the customer.

By marketing to women, you also have to be careful not to alienate the it's a dangerous path you choose -- not necessarily an unsuccessful or imprudent path, but one you have to tread carefully to succeed.

We referenced an old Buffalo Springfield lyric - There's something happening here…What it is ain't exactly clear… - in our commentary, which led MNB user Don Stuart to continue the metaphor:

The Sounds of Silence: That’s what more and more retailers will hear if they don’t get their Retail Marketing acts together. Retailers aren’t simply merchants anymore, they must be true marketers ---identifying customer needs and addressing them. Aspirational is just another way of viewing the evolution of consumer wants into needs.

At one point we may have wanted to go out for an occasional coffee; now we NEED to go to Starbucks every morning.

Retailers need to realize that “For What it’s Worth” was a protest song and their consumers are now protesting with their feet by exiting traditional channels in droves.

Retailers must address these concerns with clear, unequivocal communication and a shopping environment that delights. Marketing is too important to delegate in their stores.

As the song said: You better stop, hey, what’s that sound, everybody take a look around. It’s getting very quiet out there…

And, along those same lines, MNB user Mark Heckman observed:

Kevin, you may be on to something. Maybe an exclusive interview with Stephen Stills on the state of the grocery industry is in order! He couldn’t be any more clueless than those in the industry that continue to see cutting expenses and running “Super Double Coupons” as the answer to all their problems!

MNB user Jennie L. De Gaglia had the following observation:

I have to say I directly experienced a Retailers lack of "customer service" twice this Memorial Day weekend. I went to Best Buy to purchase a notebook computer, a new mobile battery along with a new ear piece. Well, not only did I get ignored (when I clearly had the "I'm going to buy" face on), but I spent 45 minutes in a store where no one even said "hello" to me. I gave up and went over to the CD's to find a new release and was also unsuccessful at that task. I entered a store expecting to spend about $1500 and walked out with NOTHING! I won't even speak of my other encounter at TARGET, but I once again walk-out without spending a dime. I have to say, both these stores are fighting the almighty "W" and although all people don't shop at stores just for price, they do expect some customer service. Many restaurants close for lack of good service versus lack of good food ….. Retailers need to spend time training their employees on what customer service means, after all that may be the only thing these stores have going for them that Wal Mart doesn't!

Regarding the debate between scientists over whether people who are a little overweight will live longer or not, MNB user Brendan Haslam wrote:

As a person with more than a couple of extra pounds, I’ve been feeling real good after I read what the CDC and CI said about weight and its effect on life expectancy! Alas, everything else I read says I’m more at risk and should expect my life expectancy to be shorter than those who are fit and in good shape. Selective reading usually will make me feel better, but this seems a bit irresponsible for such powerful organizations to make such claims, don’t you think?

MNB user Bob Vereen had a thought about a request by some shareholders that Wal-Mart change the way it compensates its senior executives:

As a longtime Wal-Mart stockholder, I've noticed that compensation for its top execs is well below that of many other retail (and non-retail) companies, especially when you take into account its sales size.

Compare Lee Scott's pay, for example, to that of Target's CEO, Depot's Nardelli and Lowe's CEO. By comparison, Scott is very much underpaid.

And, another MNB user weighed in on whether traditional stores should have dollar store-style sections:

The dollar aisles at Target -- ARE FUN! I only rarely buy something from the dollar aisle, but somehow I can't resist looking. And, unlike most of the dollar stores and dollar aisles at the competition, most of what's in Target's dollar bins are things that might actual get some use -- and while aren't high-quality, don't look as though they'll disintegrate before I get them home, either. (And I'm a faithful Target girl -- I'll drive past WM any time I can -- Target's just an overall better shopping experience....)

As for aspirational marketing, MNB user Al Kober wrote:

This is like what I use to promote Certified Angus Beef. The "average " person cannot afford to drive the rich man's BMW or live in the rich man's million $ house on the hill, but for just a dollar or two more, everyone can eat the very best, the same great steaks that the rich folks eat, Certified Angus Beef.

I know this is a commercial and cannot be printed as you do not do unpaid commercials, but I thought I would just pass this along as this is what came to mind as I read your story.

We don’t think of this as an unpaid commercial. Just a good example of what we were writing about yesterday.
KC's View: