retail

Barbie's one-time blue-eyed boyfriend is getting a makeover. Toymaker Mattel is giving its Ken doll a variety of new looks in hopes the makeovers will move the toys into the modern era.

On Tuesday, the company rolled out 15 new Ken dolls with three body types: "slim, broad and original." They have seven skin tones, nine hairstyles — including cornrows and "man buns" — and an array of sartorial styles from business casual to athletic-chic.

There's a good chance something you've bought online has been in the hands of a "picker" first. These are the workers in warehouses who pick, pack and ship all those things we're ordering.

Harry Friedman has run a consultancy training entry-level retail workers in customer service and other basics for 35 years. But in all his years, he has not retrained retail workers for new skills.

"Nope; we do none of it," he says. "I don't know that anybody does any of it."

With unemployment low and economic growth expected to bounce back from a slow first quarter, consumers are not in bad shape. But it has been an especially terrible year so far for retailers.

Nine U.S. chains have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Store closures are accelerating, and almost 90,000 retail workers have lost their jobs since October.

Experts say the industry's troubles are just beginning.

A century ago, it was one of the biggest names in retail. Now, even Sears officials say its future could be in doubt — though they say they have plans to make sure the retail icon survives.

Nancy Koehn with the Harvard Business School says that in its early days, Sears Roebuck and Co. was like Amazon is today — a retailer of great disruption.

For Sears, it meant a path-breaking strategy of offering all sorts of merchandise in catalogs and building department stores in remote places with ample parking.

As you walk into the Goodwill retail store on Gandy Boulevard in St. Petersburg, signs advertise 50 percent-off items with specific-colored tags. The tag sale started Sunday to try and raise falling profits at 18 local Goodwill stores.

Goodwill Industries Suncoast is nearly $1 million under budget this fiscal year, according to the Tampa Bay Times. The company has frozen employee wages and hiring for a year to lower expenses, and they're working to raise revenue in retail stores using tactics such as the tag sale.

Updated 7 p.m. ET June 29 with this clarification:

Initial reports on June 20, when Costco said it would switch the type of credit card it would accept, said the new cards would not have roadside assistance. But Citi spokeswoman Jennifer Bombardier now tells NPR that the Costco Visa cards "offer a comparable roadside assistance plan."

NerdWallet says overall the new Costco Visa card has better benefits than the old Costco American Express card.

Many things made with paper have become relics because of computers and the Internet: the Rolodex, multivolume encyclopedias, even physical maps.

Now take a look in your mailbox or somewhere around your house. There's a good chance you'll see a shopping catalog, maybe a few of them now that it's the holiday season.

"I ignore them," says Rick Narad, a professor at California State University, Chico. "I get them in the mail sometimes, and they don't make it into the house. I walk past the recycling bin, and they go right in."

The Reality Of Retail

Dec 23, 2013

This program originally aired on Aug. 26, 2013.  

If you've wandered the hallways of the Dadeland or Aventura Malls or walked down Lincoln Road in Miami Beach on a Sunday afternoon, you know shopping in South Florida can be a full contact sport.

South Florida is home to both the biggest outlet mall in the United States (Sawgrass Mills) and the shopping destination generating the highest sales per square foot in the world (Bal Harbour Shops.) The reality of retail is a reflection of two of our most important industries; real estate and tourism.

Tom Hudson

Late August 1992 was going to be a memorable time for Joanna Lederman, her husband Alan and sons John and Michael. They had spent the spring and summer getting ready to open a new independent grocery market.  After all the product testing, tastings, employee training, inventory stocking, marketing and other work to get a new business off the ground, they were all set.  

Joanna's Marketplace was going to open for the first time on South Dixie Highway in Miami on August 24, 1992. Then Hurricane Andrew hit South Florida.

Katia Savchuk

For five blocks along Interstate 95 on the western edge of Miami's Wynwood neighborhood, you can buy women's clothing, jewelry and handbags in practically every store.

Not everybody knows about Miami's "Fashion District." But 20 years ago, it existed almost exactly the same as it does today in the mind's eye of Korean entrepreneurs.

Woo Ho Lee walked the block on a recent weekday afternoon, pointing out landmarks and remembering one of his mentors, Mr. Park.

Wilson Sayre

A battle over plans to build a new Walmart in Midtown Miami continued Wednesday night before the city's Planning, Zoning and Appeals Board.

Although both sides of the issue attended the meeting, the focus instead was squarely on the numbers, two in particular: 21 and 27. These are the zoning ordinances that govern the use and design of land in midtown.                                                         

Tom Hudson

Jimmy Choo at Sawgrass Mills. Hermes in the Design District. Even Marky's Caviar in Miami Gardens. South Floridians are welcoming luxury retailers with open arms just like Britto's "Welcome" sculpture greets shoppers near Dadeland Station in the photo on the right.

Luxury retailing in South Florida is expanding beyond its traditional glitzy locations and stretching to include not just shoes and accessories, but also shoppers’ appetites.

RELATED: The Sunshine Economy: Retail

freedigitalphotos.net

Of course you shop online. You're a digital consumer. You're on the Internet right now. You are a savvy shopper, looking for the right product at the right price and you want it fast and easy. Point, click, buy.

But you're in the minority. The vast majority of retail sales across the nation take place at brick and mortar stores. While Americans spend about $1 trillion per quarter in the retail industry, only a nickel of every dollar is spent online. But in the fight between online and in-store retailing, online spending is growing faster, much faster.

Tom Hudson

One square foot is not a lot of space. You can fit a pair of shoes in one square foot. But, if you are a luxury retailer at Bal Harbour Shops in Bal Harbour, you sell $2,800 worth of merchandise per square every year. That's six times what the average shopping center generates in the same amount space.

RELATED: The Sunshine Economy: Retail

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