Retailer H&M got considerable bang for its buck with this video—in fact, there was probably no buck involved at all. Yet the clip, shot in San Francisco's Union Square, has gotten more than 28,000 views in the space of about two days. Apparently, few can resist the charms of 55 break-dancing youngsters clad in the latest Euro fast-fashion clothes. Though some bloggers have moaned that flash mobs are oh so 2008, this San Francisco stunt, engineered by Mr. Youth, at least has the virtue of showing off some new product. And at least they're not singing the "I'm a Pepper" song.
There comes a time when a phrase or expression officially becomes intolerable. The list is long and ranges from people who think "out of the box" and see "paradigm shifts" as a "win-win." You get my point. Well, I'm officially adding anything that that ends in "-ista" to that list. "Fashionista" was irritating enough, though mostly harmless. Merriam-Webster added it to the dictionary in 1993, defined as a designer, promoter or follower of the latest fashions. But now, there are also "frugalistas." A frugalista, according to Target's new ads, is a person who's all about affordable chic. Target.com even now offers a section called "Frugalista Finds," including the Merona Collection Printed Cardigan in Zebra and the Women's Mossimo Kalyssa Ankle Boots in cognac, each for just 29.99! But there is more. Today, Velveeta announced that its "kitchenistas" can help you create affordable meals for less at VelveetaKitchenistas.com. As the dictionary points out, the word "fashionista" (as well as all of the annoying copycat names) is derived from the term Sandinista. Which is really bizarre if you think about it, as a Sandinista is a Nicaraguan revolutionary. I wonder what the Sandinistas, whose beliefs were rooted in Marxism, would have thought about their name being co-opted by big-box retailers and brands of processed cheese. UPDATE: An etymologically minded reader points out in comments that the Sandinistas didn't start this whole thing. Hmm. Perhaps they can help end it, though.
Christmas in July isn't just for Crazy Eddie anymore. Hoping to get a jump on all the other retailers, Sears has opened a Christmas store online and Christmas boutiques at hundreds of physical stores nationwide. The effort, which includes a Christmas Lane site that cranks out holiday tunes, may set a record for early Christmas shilling and could be a harbinger of an even earlier season than last year. Christmas ads began showing up in September magazines (which hit in August) last year. The reason? Retailers feared a dismal holiday season, and for good reason. As Stuart Elliott noted in The New York Times last September, Radio City Music Hall began advertising its Christmas show on Sept. 7. Traditionally, most retailers have waited until Nov. 1 to start decking their halls with Christmas paraphernalia.
Why are department stores so fixated on hippie nostalgia? First, Barneys dipped its toe in the acid-tinged waters with its "Peace and Love" Christmas campaign. Now, Macy's is pushing the "Summer of Love" with newspaper ads showing similarly hippiefied young women. How did this come about? Let's consult Macy's East fashion director Nicole Fischells, who describes the genesis of the line on the company's Web site thusly: "The daughter of a rock icon and a fairy, tough and ethereal meet to evoke the spirit of enchantment this spring. ... The free-spirited attitude illustrates a fairy tale story filled with light and airy textiles, and washed and distressed tones. Bright touches mixed with pales, ranging from caramel cream and subtle lemon grass yellow, to hints of dusty smoke grey, and sea fog purple, whisper their heady melody." Hmm. Sounds like someone's been hitting the lemon grass indeed.
Wal-Mart, prepare for a fang-girl onslaught. The retailer has sealed a deal with Summit Entertainment to be the home of all things Twilight: the upcoming DVD, the posters of dreamy vamp Robert Pattinson, the goth-inspired jewelry and clothes, the best-selling teen-targeted book series and other tchotchkes. Wal-Mart plans dedicated Twilight stores-within-stores, and has set up a Web site to take pre-orders on the DVD (check out the countdown clock ticking down to March 21) and let fans chat and see behind-the-scenes footage of the film. Stephenie Meyer's four Twilight books have collectively sold more than 40 million copies. The movie was a sleeper hit last fall for new Hollywood mini-studio Summit. Its $70 million opening weekend was the highest ever recorded for a female director (Catherine Hardwicke), and the regular-girl-falls-for-smoking-hot-vampire tale has collected a staggering $357 million worldwide. A sequel, based on the second book, New Moon, will hit multiplexes in the fall. In the meantime, Wal-Mart stands to benefit from all that hormone-charged energy. It has to go somewhere.
One upside to this disastrous meltdown: If you have a few bucks lying around, you can snap up some formerly well-respected brand names. A venture called Hilco-Gordon Brothers has been doing just that. It recently bought the rights to the Bombay Co. furniture name and the Sharper Image moniker. And it just added the Linens 'n Things name to its portfolio with a $1 million bid at a bankruptcy auction. That's a pretty good price. As The Wall Street Journal points out, private-equity investors bought Linens 'N Things for $1.3 billion (with a b) in 2006. Yes, much of that value has evaporated. But surely the name—which can live, and even thrive, going forward—is worth more than 1/1,300th of the sale price of just three years ago. Bradley Snyder of Gordon Brothers tells the Journal: "This is a unique time and we intend in six months to a year to have a number of brand names. We see it as a completely opportunistic time. If not now, then when? We have virtually unlimited capital for this project." At least someone's doing well.
Best Buy's Barry Judge still wants to know what you think of his ads. Back in October, as AdFreak reported, the retailer's CMO was posting rough cuts of Best Buy's holiday ads on his blog, and asking for feedback. Now that the holidays are over, he's continuing to post new spots before they air—a highly unusual move all in the name of transparency. "If we can eliminate this barrier between customer and us, they're going to start trusting us more, and what we say they'll believe," Judge tells BrandFreak. "I'm trying to live that value." Judge says he hasn't got a huge amount of traffic, but has drawn early adopters whom he hopes to make brand advocates. And their opinion on the spots? "I get good feedback," he says. "I don't always like it, but it's real feedback about what they're thinking." Judge also uses his blog to sound off about marketing in a tough economy ("Seek out pockets of demand, and invest," he advises) and the recent "voluntary separation" packages the company offered to its 4,000 or so corporate employees. Wrote Judge: "The day was a very, very sad day for me."
Sears is about to try out a concept more traditionally associated with double cheeseburgers and medication prescriptions: drive-through pick-up. The retailer is launching MyGopher, a new site that will allow shoppers to make their purchases online, which they can then pick up at a drive-thru warehouse store. The concept will be tested this summer in Joliet, Ill. (the former home of Joliet Jake and Adrianne Curry) at the site of a soon-to-be-shuttered Kmart store. By lowering the overhead costs associated with running mall anchor stores, Sears is hoping this is a model that could help it weather the current economic climate.