No one really wants to be called cheap. Price savvy, yes. Frugal, maybe. We'd like to think we possess the taste if not always the money for the finer things in life.
So how do we explain the shrinking pool of large format luxury retailing in the Twin Cities, a region that actually enjoys good incomes along with affection for art museums, concert halls, and theater?
Dave Brennan, a professor of marketing and co-director of the Institute for Retail Excellence at the University of St. Thomas, described Twin Cities shoppers "falling back" from upscale stores.
Case in point: Bloomingdale's is leaving the Mall of America after 20 years. Saks Fifth Avenue converted its downtown Minneapolis location into a lower priced Off 5th Ave format. Neiman Marcus has also struggled in downtown Minneapolis.
Brennan thinks two factors are in play, both cultural.
1. Twin Cities shoppers are not as fashion forward as their counterparts on the coasts.
Nothing new with this theory. Fashion trends seem to take their time spreading from the coasts to the Midwest though social media seems to have shorten the trip. Take Missoni. Target Corp. introduced Missoni before New York's Fashion Week in September and the collection subsequently sold out the first day it was introduced to the Twin Cities the following week.
2. Twin Cities don't spend as much on expensive items.
A little bit of that Lutheran frugality, eh? Perhaps.
There are some reasonable explanations why Bloomingdale's didn't succeed at the Mall of America. The store was much too big. Even the best retailers would find it challenging to squeeze enough sales out of a three level, 210,000 square foot store.
As for Saks and Neiman Marcus, retailing has always been problematic in downtown Minneapolis.
But Brennan may be onto something. Luxury retailing as whole enjoyed a strong 2011, which makes Bloomingdale's struggles in Minnesota all the more atypical.
The MOA has also been generating record sales and traffic, mostly due to its Nickelodeon theme park and upper income shoppers.
"If [Bloomingdale's] couldn't make it at the Mall of America, I don't think they can make it anywhere in the Twin Cities," Brennan said.
Even Sears, which announced recently it will close over 120 stores because of poor sales, decided to keep its Minnesota stores, including the one at MOA, open. Sears!!!
Struggling women's apparel chain Christopher & Banks is closing 100 stores by the end of the month but only one in Minnesota.
Bon-Ton Stores, another struggling department store chain, is looking to open more Herberger's in the metro area.
Here's another theory. Minnesota fueled the dominance of the discount format with Target. More specifically, the Minneapolis-based retail giant pioneered the concept of "cheap chic," the idea that shoppers can buy trendy, fashion forward merchandise like Missoni at prices considerably lower than a luxury department store.
In fact, "Chez Tarjay" did it so job so well that local shoppers have fully embraced Target's mantra: "Expect More. Pay Less."
Perhaps we should adopt that phrase as our new state motto.
Macy's Inc. said Tuesday that it will close four Bloomingdale's stores, including the Mall of America location, beginning in early spring. The closings will take place over a period of ten weeks.
The retailer will also shutter Bloomingdale's stores in Atlanta, Oak Brook, IL, and North Bethesda, MD.
The Mall of America location will close in mid March. About 127 full time and part time workers will lose their jobs. The mall said it would add at least four fashion retailers to fill the space.
In a statement, CEO Terry Lundgren said stores slated to close "did not meet performance requirements."
"We continue to be committed to maintaing a healthy portfolio of stores that allow us to focus on growth from our best and most productive locations," Lundgren said. "This requires us to make some difficult decisions to close stores that no longer meet our performance requirements, as well as to open stores where we opportunities."
The company also said it would close five Macy's stores, though none in Minnesota.
Macy's plans to open five new Macy's stores, one new Bloomingdale's store, and one smaller replacement Bloomingdale's store.
The MOA store is Minnesota's only Bloomingdale's location. The closing comes as a bit of a surprise given the high traffic of the mall and strength of luxury shoppers last year.
What were the most popular gifts this past holiday season?
All worthy entries. But I'd like to make one more suggestion: a home soda machine called SodaStream.
Made by an Israeli company called SodaStream International (NASDAQ:SODA), the device turns ordinary home tap water into tasty carbonated beverages. The company also sells syrups with flavors like cola, lemon-lime and pink grapefruit, along with energy drinks, iced tea and cocktail mixers.
SodaStream first debuted in the United States through Costco but is now available through a hodgepodge of retailers including J.C. Penney, Macy's, and Staples.
The device is apparently a huge hit. In an research note, Monness Crespi analyst Jim Chartier surveyed more than 1,500 stores and reported "widespread stockouts" at retailers like Target and Best Buy. SodaStream shares promptly jumped nearly seven percent to close Tuesday at $34.86.
Is SodaStream just a fad? Perhaps. But it has at least two things going for it.
One: Its distribution system in the United States is quite impressive. When formats as divergent as supermarkets, department stores, discounters, gas stations and electronics retailers are selling the same product, you know you got something big.
Two: SodaStream is marketing its machine as earth friendly. Using ordinary tap water at home precludes the need for plastic bottles. Cities like New York and San Francisco have been trying to curtail the use of bottled water.
Best Buy, in particular, has been trying to position itself as retailer that believes in sustainability. The retailer has increased purchase locations for SodaStream from 700 stores to all 1000.
I suddenly crave soda.
With the exception of additional security guards and police officers, the Mall of America was relatively quiet Tuesday, a day after a group of teenagers rampaged through the retail center.
Things are calm,” Mall of America spokesman Dan Jasper said Tuesday.
Several shoppers and workers, interviewed by Star Tribune reporter Wendy Lee, said the incident would not deter them from their usual business.
Rachel Mitchell, a server at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., acknowledged that the mall could be a prime target for an attack, but she's still coming into work. The fact that incidents like Monday's are rare in the mall's history, indicates it is safe, she added.
Mitchell recalls seeing a group of "scary looking people" going down the escalator as she was leaving work at 5:15 p.m. on Monday. They were wearing low pants and baseball caps, she said.
"You're always vulnerable wherever you are," Mitchell said. "This is just a couple of stupid thugs that just want to throw chaos and one day."
Shereese Loyd, a 33-year-old Burnsville resident, said the news of yesterday's mob wouldn't stop her from visiting the megamall. Loyd brought her six-year-old son Micah and five-year-old nephew Elijah to watch a dance performance.
"It wouldn't deter me from coming out, because something like that could happen anywhere," Loyd said.
Loyd said she felt secure at the mall.
"You see security guards standing around," Loyd said. "It seems like they have enough people walking around."
Larry Wood, a Cambridge resident, was surprised when he read on Tuesday morning about the mob at the mall. He told his family, including his 11-year-old granddaughter Noelle, who was visiting from North Carolina and wanted to go to the megamall.
"I showed it to everybody," Wood said. "Look at what we have to look forward to."
But his family came to the mall anyway, with 30 stores they wanted to visit, listed out based on their location.
"We're from North Carolina and we're determined to still come," said Jennifer Bushinski, Wood's 35-year-old daughter and Noelle's mother.
"It's an unfortunate incident and it doesn't seem like a recurring event."
The Mall of America and Bloomington police have indefinitely boosted security at the mall after a large crowd of teenagers rampaged through the mall Monday, fighting with each other and assaulting shoppers.
The mall is also investigating suspicions that the violence was organized through social media, in particular through Facebook chatter, Executive Vice President of Operations Maureen Bausch told the Star Tribune.
A fight that started in the food court around 4:20 p.m. Monday quickly escalated into a group of 200 kids, ages 10 to 16, racing throughout the mall throwing punches, shoving shoppers, and hurling chairs, incidents that were captured on cell phones and posted to YouTube.
Monday was the most serious incident at the mall since 1995, when crowds of young people also brawled. The violence prompted the Mall of America to ban people under 16 from entering the mall on Friday and Saturday without an escort from parents and guardians.
Bausch said the mall would conduct a top to bottom review of security and mall procedures.
About 5 percent to 10 percent of stores shut their doors by 7:15 p.m., more than two hours before the mall closed, Bausch said.
Bausch said she did not know what kind of impact the incident had on business. The day after Christmas is one of the busiest shopping days of the year.
By now, it has become fairly obvious that Christopher & Banks Corp. needs something different. Anything different.
The Plymouth-based retailer plans to close nearly 100 stores by the end of next month and suspend its dividend. The sudden need to preserve cash stems from its merchandising failures in which consumers were not willing to pay higher prices for the new clothing lines Christopher & Banks wanted them to pay.
At the risk of alienating any Christopher & Banks fans out there, the company doesn't exactly come to mind when one thinks about a fashion forward women's apparel chain. Instead, words like "stuffy" and "dowdy" seem more appropriate.
So to reverse its fashion missteps, Christopher & Banks recently announced it hired a turnaround guy, a fixer if you will, to serve as president for a year. And that knight in shining armor is...Joel Waller?
Waller, if you remember, was CEO of the now defunct Wilsons the Leather Experts chain, which filed for bankruptcy in 2008 and eventually sold its assets to G-III Apparel Group Ltd. of New York for $22.3 million in cash.
So this is the man Christopher & Banks entrusted to revitalize its fortunes?
To be fair, Waller has had a long career in retail.
Waller brings to the job many "years of experience," senior vice president Monica Dahl said.
He was CEO of teen apparel chain Wet Seal and then served as a consultant to several retailers, including Christopher & Banks.
But that's the problem. The company is turning to someone it already knows, someone CEO Larry Barenbaum is presumably comfortable working with.
Perhaps comfort and familiarity is not what Christopher & Banks needs but rather fresh energy that only true outsider can bring.
But Christopher & Banks does not seem to be a company that instinctively embraces outsiders or risk for that matter. The company recently recruited Morris Goldfarb, CEO of G-lll Apparel to join its board, the same company that purchased Wilsons Leather.
It also brought back Joules Rouse, who launched the CJ Banks brand back in 2001, as senior vice president and general merchandise manager.
If Christopher & Banks ever wants to break out of its funk, then perhaps it should cast its recruiting net beyond its insular circle of executives and consultants.