Now 11 Signs that a Retailer is in Trouble

Omni Talk has expanded to 11 Its List of Signs that a Retailer is in Trouble.

To quote This is Spinal Tap, most “bloke’s” Top 10 Lists only go up to 10, but not Omni Talk.  At Omni Talk, we go up to 11.  We are “one louder.”

Yes, that’s right “one louder” — 11.  Stranger Things have happened to you I am sure.

Earlier this week we posted, 10 Signs from an Earnings Call that a Retailer is in Trouble, and for those of you that read the post or for those of you overworked, oversexed, overactive people of whom I am jealous and that have better things to do than to read the long-form version right now, here is quick recap.

If you see the following 10 Asinine Things You Don’t Want to Hear in a Retailer’s Earnings Call or Anywhere Else Too, you may want to get out while you still can and run like George Costanza trying to flee a dumpster fire at a Clown Party.


10 Asinine Things You Don’t Want to Hear in a Retailer’s Earnings Call or Anywhere Else Too

#1) Proprietary Product as Panacea

#2) The Phrase “Digital Strategy”

#3) Curation

#4) Confusing Prioritization with Narrow Scope

#5) Innovation from the Core

#6) New Tech Ideas Spring Up Out of Nowhere

#7) Traffic Measured as Transactions

#8) Loyalty Programs

#9) Red Herring Performance Statements

#10) The Word “Holistic”

Why is the list now in red?  Because the list is the retail industry’s equivalent of chum in the water.  As I alluded to in Are Retail CEOs Destined to Become Murray Hamilton?the sharks are circling and the items above are an indication that said sharks might be on their way “to swim up and bite us in the ass.”

But don’t fret.  Omni Talk is here to help make the picture even clearer, to help you discern just how bad your present situation may be so that you can fight to change it while there is still time.  Yes there is still time!

So, #11 on the list of the 10 Asinine Things You Don’t Want to Hear in a Retailer’s Earnings Call or Anywhere Else Too is a . . . (wait for it)

. . .TIE

#11 is a tie between Pushing Proprietary Credit Cards and Forecast Accuracy.  #11 is a tie between two items submitted this week by Omni Talk’s rabid fan base.

Now my high school basketball coach used to say, “A tie is like kissing your sister.”  But I won’t say that because, one, when he said it, it was the 1980’s, and times were different then.  Now the statement is just outdated and politically incorrect.  And, two, and perhaps more importantly, I really don’t want you to get the wrong idea about my family after all my banjo-playing Deliverance jokes early this week.  So I won’t say it.

Instead, consider a tie a gift, like kissing your cousin.

So without further ado . . .

Watch Out #11a — Pushing Proprietary Credit Cards

I am still amazed how many stores I go into and right as I am about ready to pay and leave I have to go through a song and dance of the cashier asking me if I want to sign up for a proprietary credit card to earn a discount on my purchases for the day.  Not only do I feel bad for the cashier doing his or her best high school improv class reinterpretation of the “corporate pitch script,” but I also feel awful for the company.

Asking me to sign up for a proprietary credit card is like asking me if I want to watch Mystic River tonight on VHS.  Both legitimately happened to me last week and both are just wrong.  But one is more wrong.  I would rather listen to Tim Robbins’ horrendous Northeast accent Howard Hughes style for days on end than have to go through the real psychological turmoil I feel when I am asked to apply for a credit card.


Most of the time, I only earn points on qualifying purchases on these cards in the said store of the card.  As mobile payments proliferate, I predict this will become a problem. New benefits of mobile payments whether ease, microfinancing, etc. will render these cards obsolete.  I literally find myself choosing which store to shop based on who has Apple Pay.  I have a 4 year old and a 2 year old.  Speed is important to me.   Soon, stretching payments on toothpaste to 12 easy monthly installments at the push of a button on my phone will be too.

Yet, I see it.  Store managers.  Store employees.  One of their main goals (because quite honestly it is hard for bricks-and-mortar stores to hit sales targets right now) is to get credit card signups.

But I will say it again.  Stop with this and rethink your Product with Experience Design as a guide.  Understand your Product, and design a payment experience that best complements it, not one that best solves your own retailer problems (loyalty, transaction fees, etc.).

Moore’s law is real.  It is changing us.  We have essentially paid for products in retail stores the same way for centuries.  Now things are going to transform.  Pushing proprietary credit cards will only make it harder to turn the ship around (if the iceberg hasn’t carved a hole in the side already).

Watch Out #11b — Forecast Accuracy

This one is another one of my personal favorites, which I have seen all the way back to the very start of my career.  Leaders, speakers at conferences, pundits will literally pound their fists on the table and say, “We have to forecast better!”  Similar to my thoughts on curation — NO FUCKING SHIT.  YOU ARE A RETAILER.

Forecast Accuracy is important.  But right now, it is not something to hang your hat on.  I would love to see a study the proves me wrong, but my gut tells me forecast accuracy does not separate the “have’s” from the “have not’s” in retail.  What separates them is the size of their P — their Product, their Brand, etc.

Improving forecast accuracy sure will help on the margins but let’s play it out.  You are a struggling bricks-and-mortar retailer, your sales are declining every year due to traffic loss to e-commerce, and so, if you improve your sales forecast accuracy, you essentially are getting better at forecasting a negative number.  Doesn’t seem sustainable.  At all.

It’s like bailing water out of a boat, but you can’t fill the bucket faster than the water is coming in.

In conclusion, no doubt Nigel would be proud of our new list of 11.

Hopefully, this week’s posts have given you food for thought to digest about how your company is positioned to handle what likely faces us all quite soon.

My intention with these posts is never to make light of anything, despite the attempts at comedy.  The situation we face is real.  It is easy for a blogger or a pundit to sit here and critique what he or she sees.  That is not my aim.  My aim is to start a continuous dialog with you the reader.   To be solution oriented.

As such, the past four weeks of this blog have been about exposition.  Next week, the blog will begin to pivot.  Regardless of how your company ranks on the list of 11 (or 10), there is a way out.  There is a way to think about things differently.  I look forward to sharing my further thoughts with you on this topic and hearing your feedback in the coming weeks.

Be careful out there,


P.S. Readership continues to accelerate off the charts.  It has all happened thus far organically too.  THANK YOU so much to everyone.  Please continue to share, like, and don’t forget to sign up for email notifications as well, so that as we produce new and different types of content you will have first access to it.

P.P.S.  If you don’t have Alexa at work or at home, I would highly recommed looking into getting one. It could change everything.  Demand for Alexa was incredibly high on Prime Day.  Not knowing what Alexa is or how it works could soon be a separator for all of us.

Amazon Echo – Black

P.P.P.S. My content is intended to be used for informational purposes only. It is very important to do your own analysis before making any investment based on your own personal circumstances. You should take independent financial advice from a professional in connection with, or independently research and verify, any information that you find on this blog or any other website for that manner, and wish to rely upon, whether for the purpose of making an investment decision or otherwise.

Chris Walton is an accomplished Senior Executive with nearly 20 years of success within the retail and retail technology industries. He is well-versed in merchandising, store operations, inventory management, product design, forecasting, e-commerce, pricing and promotions, and tech product development.

Chris was most recently a Vice President with Target, where he led the retailer’s Store of the Future project and also ran the Target’s home furnishing division for e-commerce. He previously worked for GAP, Inc., as a Distribution Analyst and Manager.

Chris holds a BA in Economics and History from Stanford University, and a MBA from Harvard Business School.

He likes to dress as Darth Vader for Halloween, and his wife also frequently asks him to ask Alexa, "to turn off the music."

  • Steffen
    July 14, 2017 at 2:51 am

    Love it! … I’d propose a #11: weather, as in “sales were bad because of the [warm/ cold] weather.” (Notice, it’s rarely “sales were good because of weather, not our strategy.”)
    1. If it’s true, then it’s also obvious: e.g. Yes, if Hurricane Katrina just happened, then sales may be down
    2. If you have many/ diverse product lines, its effect likely wash out, especially on a year over year basis
    3. If you have few/ similar product lines, then it’s still super-hard to isolate weather effects from other effects like seasonal shifts. Real-life data is just messy

    • Chris Walton
      July 14, 2017 at 11:54 am

      That is a good one. Though I do think it is a real excuse for seasonal categories and apparel when temperatures year over year are significantly different statistically (though this is rarely clicked into). We should chat more about it. What are you doing for breakfast?

Leave a Reply

Subscribe to OmniTalk

Subscribe today for unlimited access to all of our videos, podcasts, interviews and behind-the-scenes content.

Thanks for subscribing!