Economic Research and Retail Shopping

Thursday, July 12, 2007 | 12:45 PM

Mrs. Big Picture is smart enough to know that when she wants to go shopping, she best not call it that if she wants me to come along. So the clever lass has taken to calling sport shopping "Economic Research."

I do this sort of "research" every week.

That's why I laughed on Tuesday night, when Noah Blackstein busted my chops for shopping at Sears (I've been a Land's End client for years). While I was there, I looked at appliances, lawn mowers, plasmas, and Levis. On a Saturday afternoon, tumbleweeds rolled by -- the store was totally empty.

I have the same routine every time I visit a store: I look at the merchandise, see how well the store is stocked, merchandised, organized, cleaned, etc. Typical Peter Lynch stuff. I lurk around, watching other customers interact with store employees. I often buy something, if only to return it and see how the process is. (A pair of Levis went back to Sears 3X -- they were defective and split in the wash).

Over the past month, I have been to the following stores:

Public
Target (TGT)
Home Depot (HD)
Lowes (LOW)
Best Buy (BBY)
Circuit City (CC)
Ralph Lauren Polo (RL)
Macys (M)
Apple (AAPL)
BJs (BJ)
Nordstrom (JWN)
Starbucks (SBUX)
Smith & Wollensky (SWRG)
Saks Fifth Avenue (SKS)
Pottery Barn (WSM)
Coach (COH)
Williams Sonoma (WSM)
Gap (GPS)
Sears (SHLD)
Blockbuster (BBI)

Online
Netflix (NFLX)
Amazon (AMZN)
EBay (EBAY)

Private:
Fortunoffs
Lord & Taylor
Century 21
Barneys (formerly BNNY)

Autos
Toyota
Acura
Chrysler
Nissan
BMW

That doesn't count all the small mom and pop stores and restaurants.

Over that period, I purchased items at Home Depot and Lowes (all sorts of stuff), Fortunoffs, Target, Polo, Century 21 (my Ted Baker ties come from there as well as Saks and Ebay), Lord & Taylor, Amazon (books and DVDs/CDs), and an auto dealer (I used Swapalease.com to replace the wifes RX8). Oh, and I got a new keyboard at Apple.

I avoid Wal-Mart (WMT) in NY, as the stores are these horrific garish fluorescent nightmares. In California, where they seem to be open til midnight or even 24 hours, I have made emergency/lost luggage purchases at the only slightly less ugly versions. I cannot recall the last time I was in a K-Mart (SHLD), but many years ago they wrere the only big box retailer in the Hamptons/Riverhead.


~~~

Sandy in comments asks: Aside from Sears, how does everything else look?

UPDATE: July 12, 2007 2:45pm

Sandy in comments asks: Aside from Sears, how does everything else look?

-Home Depot is mediocre, service is poor, sales staff hard to find -- but there are signs of improvement;

-Lowes is much better -- but not so much better that HD couldn't catch up quickly;

-The Apple store is a pleasure, except its usually so busy there is a crush at the Genius Bar, their tech support  (recall the dead iPod issue). I've gone at off hours, and its been fine.

-The Gap is usually a mess, but the Gap Outlet Center was totally jammed.

-Fortunoff's and Lord & Taylor are both terrific. anyone who doubts inflation hasn't stepped into a Coach recently.

-Nordstrom is sometimes wonderful and and sometimes haughty.

-Century 21 is the best Department store you will ever step foot into if you are remotely price sensitive. I am too much of a slob to pay $125 for a tie, but I am happy to spill soup on $30 ties all week long.

-Ralph Lauren has wonderful (if pricey) clothes; My wife the colorist (she teaches fashion illustration and design) says no one does colors better than him;

-All the car dealers were kinda pathetic -- they were hungry for sales, and I met some very nice car salesman, but none of whom had much room on prices.(Hence, swapalease). I could spend hours critiquing the various car designs, but thats another blog entirely;

BTW, first time I ever mentioned Smith & Wollensky at the blog -- and the first time they ever over cook my rare/med-rare steak.

Thursday, July 12, 2007 | 12:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (31) | TrackBack (0)
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So, you've done all this research, don't leave us hanging. Aside from Sears, how does everything else look?

Posted by: Sandy | Jul 12, 2007 1:11:23 PM

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