The Most Wonderful Time of Year?

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Note:  This week’s post is being presented in both blogs as I feel it is important to interest all my audiences.

 

This SHOULD be the most wonderful time of year for retailers as many of them bask in the profits of all their hard work leading up to this time of year.

 

However, that idea of SHOULD for many is more like NEVER.

 

Just ask employees at the 13 Tim Horton’s locations that suddenly closed up here in Maine a couple of weeks ago.  No warning just closed down all from Waterville down to Kittery, Maine including two here in the South Portland area.

 

Or you could ask those people who work at the Gap stores in the Bangor Mall or Maine Mall about their future as these stores will be closing in mid-January.  I know that closing the one at the Maine Mall will leave a huge GAP (pardon the pun) in one whole section of the mall.  I doubt that will be filled anytime soon.

 

Speaking of vacancies, the Friday before the Black Friday, our family decided to take our annual trip to 3 New Hampshire malls in one day.  It seems that every year this trip gets shorter and shorter because the stores just keep getting worse and worse as I will explain.

 

The day started heading to the furthest location first of the Pheasant Lane Mall in Nashua NH.  This mall usually takes a little time to get through as it is a 2 story mall and doing 2 levels take a little time.  This mall has changed very little from last year’s visit and it is the only mall on my trip that still had an open RadioShack store, although there were no customers in the store at the time nor could I find an employee in the store as I walked by it.  The store appeared well stocked given that this is one of about a third of its remaining stores.  Most all of the stores in this mall were of national names with only a couple of local shops within it.  This mall also appeared mostly occupied by stores with only a couple of small vacancies, including a couple of vacancies in the food court.  Overall, I spent about 2 hours in total at this mall.

 

We then headed to the Mall of New Hampshire in Manchester.  This mall takes almost as long to get through even though it is a single story mall because it is so large.  No sign of RadioShack could be found where it used to be, but the area is now occupied by a women’s clothing store.  The area near the center court, which last year had a then-vacant Disney Store now has been completely remodeled and now houses a shiny Apple Store.  A section just to the right of that location is vacant, which along with a couple of others are the only vacancies in this mall.  Most of the stores in this mall were of name brand national stores with only a couple local retailers in there.  All together probably spent about an hour and half at this mall, which is about average for a mall of this size and stores that I really wanted to visit.  However, one store missing in this mall that was in the other 2 malls I visited was a FYE store.  Apparently if you were looking for videos then Best Buy is your only choice at this mall.

 

Finally, we headed back to the Portsmouth area to wind up our shopping trip.  Before arriving in the Portsmouth area, we stopped at the Target in Greenland, which is about 5 miles or so from the rest of the Portsmouth shopping area.  Certainly not what I would call close at least not as close as what I am used to around where I live in Maine.

 

When we arrived in Portsmouth (actually Newington area), I noticed that the Kmart in one the plazas, which was vacant last year, still has not seen a new occupant since.  Our first stop was the Fox Run Crossing shopping area.  This area, which years ago was known as the Newington Mall, is lined with stores like Best Buy, Barnes & Noble, Staples, and Kohl’s.  I visited the first 3 stores but didn’t walk all the way down to Kohl’s, even the distance is no further from one end to the other as when it used to be a full indoor mall.  Maybe I am just getting way too old to walk that far anymore.

 

I purchased my annual diary and calendar at Staples down there, my only purchase that I ever make with that company anymore only because they are the only store that carries it, otherwise I would never do any business with them.  Overall, I spent about an hour shopping at all 3 stores that I wished to visit in this plaza.

 

It was then off around the block to the Fox Run Mall.  Needless to say that this mall created the most shock of any mall I visited on my trip.  Gone from this mall was one of the few CVS stores located in malls that I ever visit.  This store was always busy and surprised to see it gone.  In its place was a boarded up area with an indication that H&M store would be coming soon in the “Fall 2015”.  If my indication is right, they probably missed that date and possibly not even coming to the mall at all.  Unfortunately, for this mall, there are several boarded up vacancies with no indication of any new tenants coming in.  The only place not boarded up is the spot where RadioShack was, just a curtain covering the opening of the store with a bench sitting in front of it.  A couple of other late stores in this mall still look like their past tenants, but have new tenants.  One which is a sport memorabilia store occupies the old Suncoast Motion Picture Company store that vacated about 5 years ago and it has never been remodeled.  Walking by this store reminds me of just how much money I used to spend in this video store over the years…oh the memories there.  The other non-remodeled store is the now vacant GM Pollack jewelry store now occupied by a local store selling cellphone accessories.   Overall, this mall is about 1/3 local stores, 1/3 national stores, and 1/3 approximately vacant.  This sort of split is reminiscent of how the Newington Mall was before it died and was eventually razed.  If the Fox Run Mall doesn’t get more national retailers, I see it getting the same fate.  Overall, I spent a mind-numbing 20 minutes in this mall as it offered nothing to really shop in except a lot of disappointment.

 

So overall, the trip saw a lot of changes but to the average shopper would also present a lot of disappointment in some of the shopping areas.

 

This leads me to the next idea of what happened on Black Friday.  Word is that nationally retail sales were down about 11% from the previous year (or for those keeping track about 25% over the last 3 years total).  It is understandable why this is happening:  no good places to shop and those that are good just didn’t have in stock what people want.

 

From my own experience over the 3 day shopping weekend, I found no problems parking at the local Target, Walmart, and at the Maine Mall nor did I find any of the 3 places overly busy when I arrived to each in the early afternoon.  Walmart was the least busy even to the point that I was able to park about 10 rows up from the entrance.  Of course, the couple of things that I wanted to buy was readily available for purchase in substantial quantities even though they were advertised specials.  So either, the stores didn’t sell that much or had more inventory than they expected to.

 

This leads to the question of what happened this year.  Of course most people are shopping online and buying in store as a last resort.  This could spell curtains for struggling retailers who need to do well this year or will end up in the history books.

 

However, there are some signs of stores that won’t make it another year.  For example, JCPenney, which for years, have advertised free Disney snow globes to their early customers announced this year would be the last year of that program.  Apparently they may be thinking that this will be their final holiday season.  Other stores at risk include the previously mentioned Gap, which may close even more stores, Sears/Kmart (closing more stores), and Staples, which continues to shed stores to save themselves and prepare for a possible merger with OfficeMax/OfficeDepot.

 

Finally, I would like to mention that I really have not missed leaving retail 6 years ago.  After spending nearly 25 years in retail, I am seeing that retail as we know it is quickly falling apart and as I have written in the past malls are becoming a thing of the past.  It would be sad for people of today to tell their grandchildren of how retail of today becomes obsolete tomorrow just like downtown retail of 40 years ago no longer exists.

 

For everyone, what used to be the most wonderful time of year is no longer as such anymore?

 

But the real question is:  Is it too late to get back to old-fashioned retail again?

 

I believe it is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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New Year, Old Problems?

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Well, here we are at 2015.

 

Did you notice any REAL differences from the year that past?

 

If you answered no, then you came to the right place.

 

If you answered yes, then you really came to the right place.

 

First off, let me say that this post is being placed into both of my blogs as I am only writing one year-end summary this year instead of two.

 

For those of you who read the annual report that I posted last week while I was off, let me say that I am more than disappointed by the results.

 

On the “Staples” and “Rants” blog, it seemed that more people were interested in my relationship with Tanya going south rather than most everything else.  It was sad that she decided to block me from all social media after her marriage.  Apparently, she never really cared about me whatsoever.  I am not the least bit surprised by that at all.

 

Both blogs also saw a lackluster number of comments to each.  Even though I limited the period for comments to 30 days after a post has been made, it still seems that I should have received more comments than I did.  Maybe it was because some people decided not to post rude comments as they knew they would be deleted anyway.

 

For all the bad things that my report stated, I am proud that the blogs continue to gain followers.  Granted the numbers are not huge yet, but I really would like to see the number close to 100 followers by this time next year.

 

Now onto the breakdown of each blog:

 

First we have the “Staples” blog.

 

The biggest topic of the year without a doubt was hacking.  I predicted the Staples hack about a year ago and by year’s end, Staples finally admitted that it was indeed hacked into.  However, their claim is that only about 115 stores were affected and a little over a million customers were affected.  I believe that Staples will eventually come clean with the real numbers as I believe that this was indeed a full company wide hack job.

 

I expect that hacking will continue to be a major topic in 2015 as companies will continue to do stupid things that will allow hackers to do their dirty duty.  With hacks such as the celebrity hacks and the Sony hack is only the beginning of something much bigger that will happen.  I really hate the idea of having to report this stuff as it just gets to be monotonous and just gets to be downright boring.

 

Besides the ongoing hacking scandals, I plan on discussing other topics as well.  My upcoming calendar includes (subject to change):

  • The continued decline of RadioShack.
  • The Night That Changed Everything.
  • org – Good Idea or Agenda driven.
  • Charity begins at home.

 

Along with these topics, I plan to continue my own story of my decline with the Staples Company.  After all, that was what this blog was originally set up as.  I don’t think I have actually strayed from my original goal, I just have taken many detours along the way and made several stops through this journey.  I am a long way from the end as if to say that there will actually be an end.

 

Now onto the “Rants” blog:

 

The major part of the blog this last year was dedicated to the continued decline of the Time Warner Cable service and how their so-called upgrades have caused more harm than good.

 

Certainly the political scene is scarred nationally and here in Maine by the onslaught of the republicans winning both the governorship again and taking control of the US Senate and the US House.

 

Probably the most popular topic of the year was my discussion of why I didn’t attend my high school reunion.  My belief is that some people can relate to what I am talking about and therefore I am continuing my story with a few more parts this year.

 

Television also was a topic of interest as well.  Some shows were complete failures while others have shined brightly.  Amongst my favorites are “Gotham”, the pre-Batman series and as I have mentioned before my absolute favorite show “Girl Meets World”.  This show blew me away with the Christmas episode reunion.  This is the way to do a reunion show and if you liked the older “Boy Meets World” series, the Christmas episode is a definite must-see.

 

I am less excited for the series “The Flash” as this show seems like it hasn’t completely broken away from the shadow of its birthmother of “Arrow”.  The crossover episodes were fun but the Flash may become a flash in the pan if the show doesn’t get more interesting.  They certainly have the villains from the comic books, but this show reminds me of the campy 1960’s Batman series.

 

Speaking of that series, it finally got its video release in 2014 in somewhat of grand style.  While this nearly $200 Blu-ray box set contains all 120 episodes and other special treats, it still is missing some episode content.  I still recommend this limited edition set despite its flaws.  A cheaper DVD box set also exists without all the extra products, but I still would ante for the better set while it is available.

 

So what is in store for 2015?  Here is a brief rundown of my possible topics:

 

  • The continuing story of why I didn’t attend my high school reunion.
  • TV Hits and Misses of the Season.
  • The biggest obituary of 2014 that was not reported.
  • Tag, Like, Share: A Dumb User’s Guide to Facebook failures.

 

Overall, 2014 saw its share of hatred against me.  From one person who wrote that I was a bad person and then stupidly liking that statement to the people who decided to unfriend me on Facebook and then not even having a logical reason why, this last year was a year of idiots showing their true colors.

 

I expect a better reception this year as things should get clearer in some aspects of my continuing drama and the drama of the rest of the world.

 

Speaking of getting clearer, next post will have my annual predictions as I once again bring out the crystal ball and look back on how I did last year and make new predictions for the year.  After that, the two blogs will hopefully separate into their own stories for most of the year.  I continue to plan on writing each blog on alternating weeks with the next post to be next week to both blogs.

 

Until next time, enjoy 2015.