Belk Department Stores Advertising

Belk Department Stores — Modern. Southern. Style.

Belk Department Stores LogoThis brand theme(s) is supposed to get you (are you listening shoppers?) to skip other retail stores and online shops and to spend your time and money at Belk department stores. Wait a second while I gag.

I guess the marketers at Belk believe that three mediocre ideas are better than a single great one. This is a perfect example of a ship with no rudder.

Belk Department Stores
The obligatory shot of women in gowns catching footballs

It really pisses me off that Belk went through a supposed rebranding a few years back.

Like most of the rebranding garbage out there, Belk ended up with a new logo and color palette and not much more (smells like politics to me).

Navel gazing has never helped anyone and it has not surly not helped Belk either.

Great branding has a clear and emotionaly important single idea. Obviously, Belk could not decide what that was so it settled for three ideas.

Here is what Belk Department Stores has to say about themselves:

Belk, Inc., a private department store company based in Charlotte, N.C., is the home of Modern. Southern. Style. with 293 Belk stores located in 16 Southern states and a growing digital presence.

Belk Department Stores are owned by Sycamore partnersBelk is a portfolio company of Sycamore Partners (So much for Southern Roots. Last I checked, Sycamore Partners are in NYC), a private equity firm based in New York. Belk and offer a wide assortment of national brands and private label fashion apparel, shoes and accessories for the entire family along with top name cosmetics, a wedding registry and a large selection of quality merchandise for the home.

Belk offers many ways to connect via digital and social media, including Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Google Plus, …”

Do I live in a imaginary world?

Belk Department Stores
Where fashion meets football. Good God. These writers actually got paid.

I live in the South (as I remember, North Carolina is south of the Mason-Dixon line).

The problem with Belk is not its origins or its Southern focus.

The problem is that it IS a department store.

Go back 30 years and that’s like being LIFE or LOOK Magazine.

Department Stores are generalist ships drowning in a sea of specialty boats.

The problem with Belk department stores is not that they are in the South or that their offerings are so yesterday or out of style (which the brand drivel passes off as a reason to choose).

The Belk department stores REAL problem

The problem is that all department stores are generalists (see Macys here). That means they do nothing exceptionally well but instead do everything just OKAY.

They need to remember that the enemy of great is not bad. The enemy of great is GOOD.

Belk Department StoresSo, what does a generalist do to save the sinking ship? I KNOW… advertise heavily on generalist media like TV!

This is nothing new, but it is so stupid that I have trouble even talking about it. But wait. It gets worse.

Belk actually advertises heavily on the ESPN SEC Network during football games. That’s because it is the main venue of all Southern women and the well heeled Southern guys.

Because, as guys, we all care and influence where our ladies shop. We all demand that our wives and girlfriends visit Belk because of the SEC connection.

Oh wait, I just remembered why I think it is such a stupid idea to me here in North Carolina.

We are an ACC state. Shit.

My Bad.

Oh, by the way… here is a REAL rebranding idea for department stores.

Retail advertising awareness drops

Tis the season where many retail advertising makes or breaks the retailers themselves. That’s why Stealing Share has been offering suggestions and criticisms for the industry lately.

retail advertising
With low awareness of all retail advertising, the future of those retailers is uncertain.

It’s a market that’s simply a mess. NBC News recently reported that a handful of retailers may announce closings unless this season’s sales drastically change things. Shoppers are increasingly shopping online. That’s a problem for retailers because Amazon owns that space.

The simply fact of the matter is that retailers are in this quandary because they thought they could exist on low prices and relative convenience. Turns out that shopping on Amazon is more convenient and offers the better deals. Who knew?

Shoppers also buy based on brand. And, right now, there is so little loyalty among consumers to those brands that the new parlor game is figuring out the order of retailers going belly up.

Most ignore retail advertising.

The news gets worse. The YouGov BrandIndex reported that almost half of all large retailers are seeing their retail advertising awareness drop from a year ago. Kmart and Best Buy suffered the biggest drops, but the whole slate of retailers have lower retail advertising awareness.

A bit of caution here. Awareness is one thing. I’m sure most people know of Kmart and Best Buy. What meaning they gather from those retailers is what creates preference, the more important factor.

But low advertising awareness means that those ads are not resonating with consumers. They are simply ignored. And they should be.

The one retailer whose retail advertising is resonating is, get this, Amazon. That’s partly because its new spot – A Priest and Imam meet for a cup of tea – is unlike anything else on the airwaves. It hits a political and social nerve that no other retailer would ever attempt.

But it’s also because Amazon means something to consumers. What does Macy’s mean? What does Old Navy mean? Bed, Bath & Beyond? Any of them?

We can help. Call us. But it means being honest in your own advertising and brand evaluation. Otherwise, the doom and gloom continues.

A case study in exclusivity & more: Costco

Costco might be my favorite place to shop, ever.

Sure, I’ve rattled on about Ikea, have praised the store concepts of Verizon and I believe retailers can copy the atmosphere of the Apple Store. But none of them hold a candle to Costco.

Please, tell me if I am alone with this. But I think not.

There is a rush with Costco like none other. The excitement comes with pulling out your membership card to be clicked into the warehouse, for instance. That rush, if you’re like me, is a little like the anticipation I had as a child Christmas morning. There is always something new (albeit, a lot of items I don’t really need) to pique my interest – and that thill of discovery is indeed just like getting a gift from Santa.

Costco and its model.

Costco membership has its advantages, both rational and emotional.

It begins with the membership. Actually, we should look at it differently than a membership. What we are really paying for is a kind of exclusivity. Membership can be a hurdle in some cases (like credit unions, but that’s because of other factors). Mostly, however, an emotional driver is being part of an exclusive club.

In this case, Costco promises lower prices (especially in bulk) but members have found that it offers loss leaders that give it some pizzaz.

Consider this from

“The biggest Costco loss leaders in America right now are rotisserie chicken, the hot dog & soda combo and gas. A Bloomberg article has calculated that Costco earns only $14 million in profit a year on its sale of 70 million chickens…These chickens, placed deep into the store along with the cheap fruits and vegetables, mean that customers have to walk through lots of merchandise to pick one up – and hopefully, along the way, they’ll grab some other products to make their trip to Costco worthwhile.”

It’s true. Every time I venture to Costco I normally have one product in mind that I need to pick-up. To find that in the warehouse takes time. In that time, there is much space to cover; space filled with unique goods and samples and odds and ends. Consequentially, by the time I hit the checkout line, I have a full cart. I’m also considering grabbing a slice of pizza or a hot dog on the way out.

Of course I go with the hot dog. I mean, who can beat a large soda and hot dog for a buck fifty?

Nike store showing retail how to look ahead

If you’ve been reading the new articles on this site (and blog), you’ll notice that we’ve been digging deep into the retailer industry. Stores are closing. Sales are dropping. And all retailers are looking for solutions.

You can find our recommendations here, along with a complete study here. But most brick and mortar stores are scrambling to find ways to transform their locations into destinations shoppers will actively seek out.

Nike store
A new Nike store in NYC is showing retailers how to join the technological age.

A new Nike store in downtown New York City is offering a template for just that future.

The shop is a complete interactive experience. Shoppers can try out new products in actual sports settings, such as on treadmills while sensors record the best fit. A personalization studio allows shoppers to laser engrave on their shoes and touch screens mimic the online experience of choosing product.

It’s not exactly what we’ve recommended, but it’s very close. We believe the in-store experience has to join the technological age, recommending digital measurements so shoppers can browse clothes that actually fit.

The Nike store overcomes many retail issues.

Right now, most brick and mortar retail stores feel and look like something from the Eisenhower era. The world has simply passed them by and few integrate their online experience with their in-store one.

That’s how you become irrelevant. (And watch Amazon eat your lunch.)

The Nike stores are a step in the right direction, with the right kind of thinking. There are land mines here, though. A Nike store like the one in NYC – a 55,000 square foot monstrosity – is costly to replicate. (Nike will replicate one in Miami soon.) But the thinking behind such improvements is exactly what retail needs.

There’s another reason why I think this will be a success for Nike. It has a meaningful brand, one of the most meaningful in the world, which says its customers “just do it.” That’s a leadership position.

Retailers must re-think what they do in stores, but they also need to ensure they have a differentiating brand that gives them permission to do all those things. And make them important.

Black Friday will not save retailers

The question of whether Black Friday is still a thing is moot at this point. There will always be shoppers who enjoy the experience of running through a department store door at 6 am because that’s what Black Friday is about. The experience.

Black Friday
Even Black Friday scenes like this won’t save retailers.

But any hang wringing on whether employees should work on Thanksgiving or how Black Friday’s sales results will be affected by early sales comes down to one thing. It’s still business.

Amazon has already started its Black Friday sales, and now comes word that JC Penney and Kohl’s are starting sales early too. Both retailers will open on Thanksgiving in an attempt to get a head start. They are just two of the multitudes of retailers who are hoping to make their years during this holiday season.

There are a couple of things to note here. Some are congratulating retailers for letting their employees have Thanksgiving off. That wasn’t done out of kindness. They’d be open too if Thanksgiving Day sales were successful for those retailers. It’s still business.

Black Friday is just a band-aid for retailers.

The early promotions will dilute Black Friday, but it doesn’t really matter. The revenue still goes into the same pot, so it doesn’t matter which day it falls on. Black Friday isn’t really about the sales. It’s about the experience for some shoppers.

Recently, I got into a minor Twitter spat with a retail organization over the importance of the holiday season to retailers. True, most retailers see 50% of their revenue from it so, as the organization reported, a good holiday season means a good year.

But it’s that kind of short-minded thinking that has put many retailers on the edge of irrelevancy and, in some cases, extinction. They are only looking ahead to the next quarter, not building any long-lasting preference that would keep them viable.

The retail industry has so many problems that it’s best for them to check out solutions here and here. As for starting Black Friday early, I say go ahead. You should gobble as much revenue as you can. Reality will set in once the holiday season is over and the lack of preference will continue to haunt.