For those who have been in the retail business for quite some time, you will remember the name Peter Glen. Not only that, I hope you remember the voice, and particularly the emotion and passion that emanated every time he spoke. I think it fitting that I dedicate my first entry to TheRetailTherapist’s Weblog to him and wonder “What Would Peter Glen Say” about retail today?

I will take a crack at answering that myself, but for those of you who remember him and care to comment, I would love to hear how you would answer that question.

I suspect Peter would be less than thrilled with the “sameness” factor walking the malls today. Amongst Abercrombie & Fitch, American Eagle, Aeropostale, Bluenotes and Campus Crew (in Canada), the merchandise all seems the same and not very original to be sure in that category as an example. Would he be thrilled with Abercrombie’s reincarnation and sense of theatre? Absolutely. But their product innovation even in their other lifestyle brands Hollister and Ruehl, leaves something to be desired. Maybe new brand Gilly Hicks, Sydney will offer something unique.

He would shake his head at the demise of Gap Inc.’s mall dominance. He will say they lost their “specialness” and merchandising edge. They forgot who they were and their stores became too cavernous, too boring and didn’t lead their customers any longer. He would still be a fan of Banana Republic and babygap because they have never lost sight of who they are and keep creating freshness and excitement within their brand guardrails.

I think he would rave about Tory Burch in Soho for being original and unique in every way. He would say she smacks of self confidence and whimsy yet, at the same time, knows her customer intimately. Judging from the size and placement of her presentation at Neiman Marcus I observed this past weekend, I would say she certainly is doing something right.

He would admire Lucky Brand stores for their visual presentation energy and focused assortment. They have taken a middle of the road brand and given it life through their own interpretation of how it should be presented and sold rather than leaving it to the department stores to figure out: Smart move.

He would also have predicted Buckle’s recent success, based on store visits over the past 9 months and their unique approach to denim presentation and customer focus. Their price points, their visual merchandising and their assortments (increasingly private label as a balance to their traditional branded assortments) are evolving in breadth and depth.

As we head into an economic storm, Peter would tell the retail community that it is a simple equation: If you offer a stunning store design, exciting visual merchandising, and an unflinching understanding of your customer from a product and service level standpoint, you will be just fine.

I can hear him now, and I certainly miss him.

TheRetailTherapist 🙂