The media loves a horse race.

There may be no industry more aligned with that analogy than retail. There's a seemingly unbeatable frontrunner who looks like it could complete a Triple Crown (we'll call that horse Amazon), and then there's a pack of long shots with little chance of winning (we can call them big box stores). And in the thick of it, are a mixture of competitive horses (we can call these our big established players like Walmart, Target, and Costco) and a smattering of horses filled with tremendous upside (we can call these some of the successful digital retailers like Outdoor Voices, Warby Parker, and Casper).

If retail is a horse race, it feels like we're not even done with the first quarter mile. There's a tremendous amount of racing left. There's too much of a story to unfold to call the race now.

Which makes it tiresome to see the worlds "retail" and "apocalypse" covered in so many headlines. We know the media enjoys stirring debate and making waves with these sorts of headlines, but we believe that it does the retail industry a bit of a disservice.

While we're not buying all the end of days chatter, we tend to think it's more about differentiation and the point in the race we're at. Different stages bring up distinct qualities that help snag victory. So, while one long shot horse can lead the pack for a majority of the race, another more disciplined horse can leverage power and angles to catapult to a win.

It's not about how the whole retail world as we know it will be ending, but a more definitive and distinct difference between the leaders/winners and those floating at the back of the pack. Now, this is a debate worth having because then we can talk about how some retailers have made great investments in their business and are now reaping the rewards (Target from last week's Shiftonomics, is a perfect contemporary example) versus other legacy big-box retailers who have failed to make changes to their business as the world has changed greatly around them.

Anne D'Innocenzio, national retail writer for the AP sums it up pretty succinctly:

Let's dive into the top stories we're reading this week about the ever-changing world of retail, work, and technology:

🏁Gap Between Retail Winners & Losers Growing
🤝In Retail, Common Currency is Trust
🗽Neiman Marcus Opens First NYC Flagship
💻Running Online Retail Business In Rural America
🚗Tesla Taps Brakes On Store Closures, Raises Prices
🚚Can Uber Become A Major Retail Outlet?
📣10 Retail Execs On State Of The Industry
🤠Retailers Make Splash At SXSW
💰Can A Fair Workweek Change Lives Of L.A. Retail Workers?

The gap between retail 'winners' and 'losers' is growing: Former Toys R Us CEO | Via:

The latest figures on retail sales don't necessarily paint a complete picture of what's happening in the retail sector, according to two former CEOs.
Steve Sadove, former CEO of Saks Fifth Avenue, thinks overall retail is healthy. "The consumer was incredibly strong last year. There’s no doubt there’s been some weakening but she’s still there and she’s still shopping,” he said.

For Jerry Storch, former CEO of Toys R Us, it illustrates the divergence in the industry. While a number of companies have gone out of business or closed stores, results from big retailers like Walmart, Target, Costco and Amazon have been “superb.”

In Retail, The Common Currency Is Trust | Via:

Heading into 2019, some retailers delivered strong 2018 holiday sales while others struggled as highlighted in the Wall Street Journal.

Consumers are increasingly being offered individualized experiences by e-commerce companies on digital channels.

Trust helps establish a common purpose of greater good for society between a consumer and a retailer with a shared set of values and brand identity.
Many retailers have made significant strides in understanding their consumers’ needs and building and improving upon digital transformation.

Neiman Marcus Plays Up 'Retail Theater' In Its First New York City Store At Hudson Yards | Via:

Neiman Marcus is set to open its first NYC flagship at Hudson Yards on Friday.

Neiman Marcus is set to open its first-ever namesake flagship in the city on Manhattan’s West Side Friday as the anchor tenant at Hudson Yards, the largest U.S. private real estate development described as “a billionaire’s fantasy city."

In a world where brick-and-mortar retailers, including Neiman Marcus’s upscale rivals Saks, Nordstrom and Macy's Bloomingdale's are all upping their experience game to hook today’s customers, the new Neiman Marcus store hopes its array of offerings will set it apart.

"The store opening is a manifestation of our customer-centric platform,” said Geoffroy Van Raemdonck, the 13-month CEO of the luxury department store chain’s parent Neiman Marcus Group, which also owns the Bergdorf Goodman high-end emporium located on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue and Munich-based online fashion retailer

One of them overlooks New York's 10th Avenue with a glimpse of the Statute of Liberty in the distance while the other overlooks Hudson Yards' centerpiece and spiral staircase called the Vessel.

Running an online retail business in rural America | Via:

The 2010 census put the population of New Plymouth, Idaho — a small town about an hour from Boise — at 1,538.

New Plymouth, and rural towns like it, are not places you normally hear about as prime locations for new businesses.

In New Plymouth, in 2011, Jessi Roberts founded online apparel and accessories brand Cheekys.

Tesla hits brakes on retail store closures, will raise prices instead - Roadshow | Via:

The price hike won't apply to the new $35,000 Model 3 (getting this to market was the reason for the original closure plan) and won't come into effect until March 18 so you still have a week to get your order in if you've been mulling it over.

A couple of closed stores in "high visibility locations" will reopen with smaller crews, and stores will carry a reduced inventory for people who can't wait to get their cars.

Will Uber Become A Major Retail Outlet? Exploring Cargo's Business Model | Via:

Uber has hit on a win-win concept in that drivers can gain much needed additional income (Cargo sales have generated over $5 million in earnings for drivers) while consumers are offered products that match their needs at a specific place and point in time.

Cargo grad was quick to see broader implications of spending more time in rideshares.

By using data to understand what is working in what markets and with what drivers, Cargo effectively targets the product offering to the rider.
It was via tracking sales data and offering it more widely that Olay beauty bundles became one of Cargo’s bestsellers – an opportunity that may not have been obvious without the company’s use of analytics.

10 top retail executives on the state of the industry | Via:

Art Peck, CEO of Gap -- "The historical model was: build a mall, tons of traffic, expensive rent and make it up in low conversion but highly productive traffic. The secret in the industry today is that traffic in many of these malls is not nearly as productive as it once was. The formula doesn't work."

Paula Price, CFO of Macy's -- "Sales per square foot is a historically traditional measure for evaluating store productivity, and it's still relevant today. But … you may have heard [CEO] Jeff [Gennette] say 'When we close a store, we fire a customer.' What he means by that is when we close a store we see our online sales in that particular market decrease. … So we have to expand the productivity metric of a store to include online sales."
Erik Nordstrom, co-president of Nordstrom -- "Our stores are long-term investments. Inevitably there are external forces in the environment that we can't control."

Matt Alexander, CEO and co-founder of Neighborhood Goods -- "We describe ourselves as a department store, but it's really quite inaccurate. We're really not much of a department store. But it's a useful sort of organizational principal for how you might think about that experience inside that space. You can come in for a coffee, you can come in for a meal, you can come in and shop. It has all the hallmarks of a traditional department store experience, but certainly deviates quite significantly in terms of the financial mode behind it. We're not purchasing product at wholesale, we're not featuring products in the seasonal and more traditional basis. It's an ever-changing landscape of more interesting and relevant brands."

Victor Luis, CEO of Tapestry -- "Too many companies, especially when it comes to creativity and innovation in the fashion world, everyone has an opinion about what beauty is. Putting the consumer at the center can help us solve a lot of that, obviously with testing and pilots, which we try to leverage. Culturally it’s really about a relentless drive."

Moiz Ali, CEO and founder of Native -- "DTC – the feedback is instantaneous, you can communicate with every single one of your customers, you understand your marketing spend and customer acquisition costs, you understand what your customers want you to make next … With any brick-and-mortar store, you lose a lot of that. You lose the direct connection with your customers, you lose understanding repeat purchase rates, you lose the ability to have an immediate impact the day that you decide to have that impact. But what you gain is also something monumental: incredible distribution, incredible branding."

Michelle Cordeiro Grant, founder and CEO of Lively -- "Today we may sell bras, tomorrow we may sell concert tickets. We don't know, but our community's going to tell us."

Amy Shecter, CEO of Glamsquad -- "You can't help it. The experience is so holistic, and you get such great tips about the product, it made so much sense for us to take our services business into selling the products that we use as opposed to doing it for everybody else."

Micky Onvural, CEO of Bonobos -- "Bonobos was founded by a man who believed the world would be a better place if it were run by women and then he handed his baby, Bonobos, to a woman. He often says the success we've seen in the last year or so actually couldn't have been achieved by a man."

Marvin Ellison, CEO of Lowe's -- "Just be the best you, be your most authentic self. Embrace it. And whatever you do don't blend in because you'll always commoditize yourself, and no one wants a commodity because it's low price and easily accessible."

South by Southwest isn't just big for tech, film and music. Retailers make a splash at SXSW | Via:

Companies like Walmart, Nordstrom, Macy's, Nike and Lululemon have a presence at South by Southwest.

Digital brands like Away, Rent the Runway and StockX also will be there.

In addition, some retailers that started out and still mostly sell online will be at this year’s SXSW, which starts Friday and runs through March 17. Among them are luggage maker Away, clothing rental service Rent The Runway, apparel companies Revolve and Outdoor Voices and online marketplace StockX.

“There’s been so much change in the industry in the last few years and a lot of people who have said that retail is dying,” said Away’s Will Williams, who is speaking on a panel. But, he added, “there’s still appetite for interacting in real life ... I’m excited that [SXSW] gives us a platform to share with other industry peers and thought leaders why physical retail still matters.”

How a Fair Workweek Could Change the Lives of L.A.'s Retail Workers | Via:

The ordinance would require large retailers in the city of L.A. to provide workers with two weeks’ advance notice of what days and hours they’re scheduled to work, while allowing employees to request changes and decline shifts without threat of retaliation.

The new measure would also do away with “clopening” shifts, dreaded situations that require employees to work an opening shift shortly after a closing one, by mandating a ten-hour break between scheduled shifts.