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.
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.
In a good sign for retailers, the National Retail Federation today now expects holiday retail sales to rise 3.8 percent to $469.1 billion, a full percentage point higher than its previous estimate of 2.8 percent.
The group cited a strong Black Friday weekend, led by midnight openings on the day after Thanksgiving, along with indications consumers still have plenty of gift buying to do as Christmas quickly approaches.
“Consumer spending this holiday season has surpassed expectations, though many shoppers continue to stick to their budgets and buy only what they need,” said NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz.
If the NRF's prediction holds true (the group's forecasts tend to lean a bit on the optimistic side), one wonders how retailers would've fared had there been no Internet or Black Friday midnight openings.
Just some food for thought.
As a rule, I generally don't like to work during vacation (not really a rule, more like a law). But earlier this week, I was walking through downtown San Francisco with a friend and saw this:
Yes folks, that's one of Target Corp.'s new CityTarget formats, set to open next year in San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle, and Los Angeles. The smaller stores, which focus more on everyday essentials, are about 60,000 to 100,000 square feet, compared to the usual 125,000 to 180,000 square foot big box locations.
CityTarget is one of the retailer's key strategies to boost growth, especially as online/mobile sales chip away at big box dominance. The smaller locations also allow retailers like Target and Wal-Mart to penetrate dense, urban markets where real estate is limited and local resistance to big boxes runs high.
In this particular case, Target chose its spot well. The store is located at 4th Street and Mission, near Union Square, a hot bed of retail and pedestrian traffic. Walk a few blocks and you'll find top tier retailers like Macy's, Nordstrom, Coach and Tiffany's.
I kind of wondered how Target managed to convince liberal San Francisco to approve its project.
Again, location matters. Target is building its store on the second floor of the Metreon complex, which has been hurting for tenants ever since Sony pulled out of the building five years ago.
Before Apple conquered retail, there was Sony's "Urban Entertainment Center," a massive real estate development dedicated to all things Sony. in 1999, the company opened such a concept in this location, a four story, 350,000 square building that offered dining, exhibitions, music, retail, and movies.
The concept failed to take off and Sony sold Metreon to mall developer Westfield Properties. Today, only an AMC IMAX movie theater and two restaurants remain at the location.
A shiny mutli-story Apple Store sits just a few blocks away, a reminder of how Apple succeeded where Sony failed. And just because we can't have enough irony in life, the Apple Store was led by Ron Johnson, who used to work at..you guessed it...Target.